Monday, 30 June 2014

The Curious Case of Mr Juncker & Mr Cameron

On Friday, Scotland had another right wing leader imposed on it that we did not vote for.  Yet the SNP lead Scottish Government and supporters of Independence were relaxed about this turn of events.  So what’s the script?

Current Commission President Barrosso with his sucessor elect Juncker
On the one hand the anointment of Jean-Claude Junker to become the President elect of the European Commission has put the cause of the EU back 20 years.  One reading of the European Elections – elections which were not about directly voting for a European Commission President as some people claimed –was that there is rising discomfort at the direction of travel of the EU.  The French National Front won in France, UKIP won here and there was a rise in the support for Eurosceptic parties on both sides of the political spectrum across Europe.  Except the pro-Independence movement chose to side with the Eurocrats and look at the headline figure  - that the centre right EPP group won outright – and chose to back their preferred candidate.

Of course, what Junker’s main Scottish cheerleader on Friday’s Good Morning Scotland programme, the SNP MSP Alyn Smith, failed to notice was that Junker’s own past is not encouraging for those of us looking for a more accountable & transparent EU.  The Finance & Tax commentator Richard Murphy has already raised concerns regarding Junker’s silence on the issue of transparency & accountability in business.  Murphy and also Private Eye have also highlighted Junker’s own actions as Prime Minister of Luxembourg.  As the Eye put it “Supporters of (Junker) should perhaps pause to examine the great man’s (sic) record of wreaking fiscal havoc across the continent  

The Eye identified companies such as Vodaphone, Glaxo, Tesco and Pearson as companies that route funds through Luxembourg as a means to…  er…  maximising their profits…  er…   Indeed Junker’s policy of financial deregulation has been coupled with an intention to resist transparency initiatives from the EU.  It was only since Junker left his post as Prime Minister that Luxembourg has signed transparency treaties with EU countries such as the EU, while ironically enough the European Commission has announced an investigation into the various tax deals offered by Luxembourg.  What is worrying is the trust the SNP and pro-Independence commentators like Iain McWhirter have put in Junker.  His opinion that the referendum is a matter for Scot’s coupled with his supposed willingness to not interfere has apparently been enough for pro-Independence supporters to forget that Junker is the wrong candidate at the wrong time and that there is something of a conflict of interest here.

So just why did the leaders of the 28 member countries go for a man who’s record goes against what is needed for the European Commission?  David Cameron.

I’ve blogged before about Cameron’s poor negotiating skills when it comes to European summits.  He memorably flounced out of a conference in 2011 when it was clear that the other 27 EU member countries were going to ignore his veto.  This time, he has been actively campaigning against Junker from the off with very little in the way of a plan or a “stop Juncker” alternative candidate.  Remember as well that pretty much any goodwill towards Cameron from other EU leaders will have been spent in December 2011.  What makes Cameron think that his fellow EU leaders would be disposed to listen to anything Cameron has to argue?

Cameron’s voice was not a lone voice on the British political landscape either.  Both Clegg & Milliband were against the appointment of Juncker.  If anything, it’s the SNP who are the lone voices here, in support of the self styled Eurocrat.  But its Cameron’s negotiating and campaigning that has isolated the UK, while his reaction to this outcome hasn’t endeared him to his detractors in Brussels.  For the next EU summit, it may well be preferable to send a 7 year old child in Cameron’s place for all the good he does at these summits.  The child would be less petulant too.

Rather than an expression of the democratic wishes of the European people, the anointment of Jean Claude Juncker as President of the European Commission flies in the face of the democratic wishes of the people of Europe.  If anything, this is the one thing that Cameron gets out of the whole situation if nothing else.  Unfortunately once again we have seen a demonstration of how unfit for the office of Prime Minister Cameron is.  In the meantime, we have seen the SNP continue to shoot themselves in the foot regarding the acceptability of right wing policymaking.  The pro-Independence camp’s acceptance of Juncker adds to the sense that as far as the SNP are concerned, EU initiated pro-Thatcherite policies are good while Westminster initiated pro-Thatcherite policies are bad.  The electorate look from the Westminster politicians to the Eurocrats and cannot distinguish between the two.

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