To the delight of eurosceptics, UK prime minister David Cameron backed himself into a corner with no way out.
His campaign to deny Jean-Claude Juncker the European Commission presidency even though Juncker receives the most votes was doomed from the start.
On May 28, in a surprising move, German chancellor Angela Merkel made a statement that opened the door for other candidates. No doubt Cameron was pleased. That pleasure didn't last long.
Following a firestorm of German protests including charges that Merkel gave in to UK blackmail, she changed her colors as quickly as the best chameleon on the planet.
Cameron's Empty Threat Backfires
The Spiegel Online reports Cameron's Empty Threat: Britain Risks Losing an Ally in EU Feud.
In his 18 years as a participant at European Union summits, Jean-Claude Juncker has witnessed a battle or two. But never in his dreams would he become the focal point of a showdown between Germany and Britain.
British Prime Minister David Cameron is actively seeking supporters among the 28 leaders of the EU member states to block Juncker's appointment in the European Council. Last week, Cameron declared to fellow leaders that if Juncker, a federalist, is appointed Commission president, the chances would increase that the British people would vote to leave in a planned 2017 referendum on EU membership.
That is a common opinion in the United Kingdom, but it appears that Cameron has underestimated the effect his words would have. The threat could in fact ultimately cost him a decisive ally: Angela Merkel. For days now, furious politicians and the editorial pages of newspapers have called on Merkel to not put up with this "blackmail." Merkel feels forced to repeatedly ensure her support for Juncker, as she did again in parliament on Wednesday in an address in which she also reaffirmed her committment to Britain staying in the EU.
The German public's suddenly passionate enthusiasm for Juncker caught Cameron off guard. How, his strategists are asking, could the country Britain views as its most important partner when it comes to EU reforms, have fallen for this representative of the status quo?
The fact that even the tabloid Bild has thrown its impassioned support behind Juncker was a "real shock," said Mats Persson, the director of the Open Europe think tank. He says the debate in Germany has developed in ways that are very unfavorable to Cameron.
Merkel Wouldn't Risk Personal Defeat for Cameron
Merkel could tip the balance against Juncker, and in the immediate wake of the election, she seemed willing. But after the intense debate of recent days, ditching Juncker would now be seen as kowtowing to the Brits. As much as she would like to protect Cameron from a loss of face, she would probably not do so if it meant a personal defeat for her.
As such, it very much looks like Cameron has backed himself into a corner, left with no leverage to convince Merkel to change course. Tory members of the European Parliament have, to be sure, threatened to invite Germany's euro-skeptic AFD party to join their group in European Parliament should Merkel stick with Juncker. Cameron famously withdrew his party from the center-right European People's Party, of which Merkels Christian Democrats are members, five years ago to appease his Tories' EU-skeptic wing in a move that deeply angered the German chancellor.
"Those who are in favor of leaving the EU are praying that Juncker will be named," Charles Grant of the Centre for European Reform told the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Gideon Rachman, columnist for the Financial Times, wrote that the idea that the native of Luxembourg could become Commission president "evokes a strange, irrational rage in the British."
Amusingly, the second top vote getter in the European Parliamentary elections was Martin Schulz, a member of the left wing Progressive Alliance of Socialists.
Is that who Cameron really wanted to negotiate with?
Cameron's idea that he could get the EU to change direction regardless who hold the EC presidency is the height of arrogance in and of itself.
Divorce Made in Heaven
- Cameron wants less Brussels, but Brussels wants more Brussels
- Cameron is against financial transaction taxes, the majority of EU countries want them
- Cameron wants special rules that will favor London exchanges, the rest of the EU opposes London favoritism
- Cameron wants to reduce or end EU agricultural tariffs; France vehemently opposes such actions
- Cameron insists on a rebate in UK subsidies to the EU. That caused a firestorm of a spat in an EU summit in 2013 (See Cameron Hijacks Summit with Rebate Spat)
In short, the UK saying goodbye to the EU would be a divorce made in heaven. The UK does not need the EU nor does the EU need the UK.
Yet, Cameron arrogantly believes he can persuade the EU to change its stripes. He can't and only a fool could not recognize that simple fact.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock