A centrist politician who has repeatedly said it would be good if Brexit were blocked and vowed to fight populism is the bookies’ favourite to take over as President of the European Commission.
Former Finnish Prime Minister and Vice-President of the European Investment Bank Alexander Stubb announced Tuesday he was standing to replace Jean-Claude Juncker in the European Union’s (EU) top job, heading the bloc’s unelected executive branch.
He is standing for the EPP, a “centre-right” group in the European Parliament, but says he is on the “centre-left” of the party. His candidacy has already been compared to the centrist platform of French premier Emmanuel Macron.
If he is selected to stand for the group and they go on to win the most seats in the forthcoming European Parliament election, he is likely to take over from Mr Juncker.
Mr Stubb was quickly ranked as the 3/1 favourite by Ladbrokes, coming above German rivals like Manfred Weber, the EPP’s leader in the parliament, and the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.
On the day after the referendum, Mr Stubb described Brexit as a “bad nightmare” and has gone on to describe it as a “lose, lose” situation that will lead to “economic mayhem”.
He has also tweeted that “No Brexit” is a “possibility” and the “best outcome” of negotiations would be the “cancellation” of the largest ever democratic vote in British history.
Please tell me I'm still sleeping and this is all just a bad nightmare! #Brexit
— Alexander Stubb (@alexstubb) June 24, 2016
Brexit negs begin today. Worst outcome: no result. Possible outcome: soft Brexit. Likely outcome: hard #Brexit. Best outcome: cancellation.
— Alexander Stubb (@alexstubb) June 19, 2017
— Alexander Stubb (@alexstubb) July 4, 2017
“After a little reflection and encouragement, I decided to stand as a candidate to lead the list of the European People’s Party,” Mr Stubb told EURACTIV.
He continued: “I believe that European values are being attacked, in the EU and in our own party. Fundamental rights, freedom, liberal democracy, rule of law: if we don’t stick to these fundamental principles, we are left with nothing.”
He has also attacked populist Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, insisting he would never work in a political group with him and claiming his “values” are against his own.
“Regarding Fidesz, Orbán’s party, I think that values are the most important element. However, with values, it’s binary, either you’re with us, or you’re somewhere else,” he said this week.
Mr Barnier has said he will not begin a campaign for the presidency now so he can focus on Brexit.