Cameron defied as leaders give nod to Juncker

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DAVID Cameron has failed in his attempt to block the nomination of arch-federalist Jean-Claude Juncker as the next president of the European Commission, as he was outvoted by fellow EU leaders at a Brussels summit.

The vote came after the Prime Minister made a last-ditch bid to persuade the leaders of the other 27 member states to think again, warning them that they would “live to regret” the way in which the former Luxembourg PM has secured the EU’s top job.

Mr Juncker’s nomination – which must be confirmed by a vote in the European Parliament – was announced by European Council president Herman van Rompuy in a message on his official Twitter feed.

“Decision made. The European Council proposes Jean-Claude Juncker as the next President of the European Commission,” wrote Mr van Rompuy.

Mr Juncker’s nomination was approved by 26-2, with only Mr Cameron and Hungarian PM Viktor Orban opposed, said British officials.

The vote represented a departure from the decades-old tradition that Commission presidents are chosen by consensus of national heads of government.

The PM insisted on a vote being taken in order to force fellow leaders to put their cards on the table.

In an address to his continental counterparts moments before the vote, Mr Cameron warned that the installation of the long-time Brussels insider at the head of the Commission – which has powers to initiate legislation affecting all EU states and police the single market – would be “a sad moment for Europe”.

He warned it would have an impact on the debate in Britain over the UK’s future in Europe, leaving no doubt he believes it will make voters more likely to opt to quit the EU in the referendum he intends to call in 2017.

Mr Cameron has argued over recent weeks that Mr Juncker is “the wrong person” to lead the Commission, and told the 27 other leaders he was “disappointed” they had reached the point where he was set to take up the post without securing the unanimous support of all EU states.

Backing the candidate put forward by the largest political grouping in the European Parliament risked setting a precedent under which the EU’s top job could in future be in the hands of MEPs making backroom deals, rather than democratically-elected national leaders, he warned.

As he awaited the vote, Mr Cameron sent a message on Twitter: “I’ve told EU leaders they could live to regret the new process for choosing the Commission president. I’ll always stand up for UK interests.”

In his address in Brussels, Mr Cameron said voters across the continent had expressed a desire for the kind of reform which was unlikely to be delivered by the “ultimate Brussels insider”.

Finland’s prime minister Alexander Stubb said British voters should recognise the benefits of EU membership. “The EU is a very good thing for the UK. Over 50 per cent of the trade of the UK goes to the EU.”