POLITICS

David Cameron's EU Strategy In Tatters, Says Ed Miliband

30/06/2014 16:17 BST | Updated 30/06/2014 16:59 BST
PA/PA Wire
Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London.

David Cameron was "outwitted, outmanoeuvred and outvoted" in his failed attempt to block Jean-Claude Junker becoming the next president of the European Commission, Ed Miliband has said.

Last week the prime minister overwhelmingly lost a vote of fellow European leaders, 26-2, on the former Luxembourg prime minister's nomination for the top job in Brussels. In a statement to MPs on Monday afternoon, Cameron said he had no choice but to accept the appointment and blamed the last Labour government for giving away the UK's ability to veto Junker.

The Labour leader told the Commons today that Cameron's failure proved his hopes of renegotiating for Britain a looser relationship with the EU was doomed. "He couldn't get four countries to support him over Junker. And if he can't get four countries to block the appointment of a president, how on earth is he going to get 27 countries to support a new treaty?" he said. "His renegotiation strategy is in tatters."

In order for Britain to claw back powers from Brussels, it is likely that all other EU member states will need to unanimously agree to the UK's demands.

Labour had supported Cameron's opposition to Junker's appointment, as he was seen to be too keen on further EU political integration. Miliband told MPs that it would have been possible to block Junker from getting the job as initially other leaders, including the Swedish and Danish prime minister's had also expressed concerns.

"The problem for the anti-Junker cause as it had a toxic supporter, him" Miliband said pointing at the prime minister. "His combination of threats insults and disengagement turned out to be a master class in how to alienate your allies and lose the argument for Britain."

"He started with a divided Europe over the Junker candidacy and he ended with a united Europe against him," he said. "His party might think it represents splendid isolation, it isn't, it is utter humiliation."

In his statement, Cameron conceded that Junker's nomination has been made and must be accepted. But he said the process showed the danger of allowing the European Parliament, not the national leaders on the European Council, to have a role in choosing the president.

"It should not be for the European parliament to try and dictate that choice to the council," he said. This is the point of principle on which I was not prepared to budge."

"Europe has taken a big step backwards," he said: "This was a bad day for Europe, the decision of the Council risks undermining the position of national government risks undermining power of national parliaments."

Cameron admitted his failed attempt to block Junker made his goal of renegotiating of Britain's relationship with the EU before holding an in/out referendum in 2017 "harder".