Newspapers warned Saturday the country had edged closer to leaving the EU after Prime Minister David Cameron’s “crushing” failure to block Jean-Claude Juncker becoming president of the European Commission.
But they were divided on whether it was Cameron or Brussels who was most to blame for making it harder to convince Britons to vote to stay in the European Union in a 2017 referendum.
“One step closer to quitting Europe,” the Daily Telegraph said in its main front page headline, while Rupert Murdoch’s The Times said: “Britain nears EU exit.”
The Guardian ran with the almost identical “Britain closer to EU exit after Juncker vote”, and the Independent said: “Cameron Crushed – and UK edges closer to an EU exit.”
The Sun took a more predictably patriotic line with the headline: “Cam: We’re at war with EU.”
Some newspapers were heavily critical of Cameron’s handling of the Juncker battle, which was widely viewed as making it harder for him to win the renegotiation of Britain’s terms of membership that he has promised before the referendum.
“Loser Cameron branded the Rooney of Europe,” the Daily Mail said.
In an editorial, the Independent called it “a defeat — and a disaster.”
“Splendid isolation is not the way to win arguments in the EU,” it said.
Cameron “could become the accidental hero of the eurosceptics, the man who leads the UK into an accidental exit from the EU,” it added.
The Financial Times said it was a “historic shift of power in the EU” as well as being a “dangerous moment for Britain?s relations with Europe.”
But The Times said that Britain was better off in “splendid isolation”.
“The appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker is bad for the EU. David Cameron was right to oppose it to the bitter end,” it said in its leader column.
It added that Cameron had “strengthened Britain’s position with his robust opposition” and even his own chances in the UK’s general election next year.
The Telegraph laid the blame squarely with the EU, saying it was up to Brussels to make the argument for Britain remaining in the bloc.
“If Europe wanted to drive Britain away, then the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker was the way to go about it,” it said in a leading article.
“Mr. Cameron must now make his argument. But given that this latest insult — a blow to British ambitions — has come from within the EU, it is also up to the EU to make its own case as to why we should stay.”