David Cameron is facing isolation in the European Union as he clashes with fellow leaders at a two-day summit to choose a new president for the European Commission.
Mr Cameron has said he will fight “until the end” in opposition to the nomination of former Luxembourg prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who he regards as an arch-federalist and a roadblock to reform of the EU.
But potential allies such as Sweden and the Netherlands have made clear they will not block Mr Juncker’s presidency, and Dutch PM Mark Rutte and German chancellor Angela Merkel have phoned the Prime Minister to insist they will accept his nomination by a qualified majority vote in the European Council, rather than sticking to the tradition that candidates for the EU’s top jobs are chosen by consensus, as Mr Cameron wishes.
The diplomatic row over today’s decision in Brussels looked set to overshadow a gathering of the EU’s 28 national leaders at the highly symbolic venue of Ypres to commemorate the military conflict which divided Europe 100 years ago in the First World War.
Differences over the Juncker nomination may flare up at a potentially awkward dinner in the Belgian city.
Mrs Merkel yesterday restated Germany’s support for Mr Juncker and made clear that she is ready to press ahead with his nomination even if consensus cannot be reached. “What we need for this in the council is a qualified eligible majority and once again I would like to point out that this is exactly the same as written down in the treaties,” she said.
“So it would not be a drama if we voted with a qualified majority only. But – and I have also stressed this again and again before – all consultations are carried out within a European spirit and the concerns of all member states taken seriously.”
And Sweden, which had initially expressed reservations about Mr Juncker’s candidacy, has now indicated it will not block his nomination.