David Cameron

With Jean-Claude Juncker leading the election for the European Commission’s new President, why is David Cameron campaigning against him?

The latest congregation of the European Union’s (EU) member leaders have nominated Jean-Claude Juncker to become the new president of the European Commission. The appointment, pending further voting by members of the European Parliament, has withstood a barrage of condemnation throughout previous weeks by Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron; Cameron’s campaign against Juncker has been in opposition to the nominee’s approach and political beliefs of a closely integrated Union and greater clout of European Parliament.

Cameron, solely supported by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, argues that Juncker’s vision for the EU shall primarily conflict with the UK’s economic interests and may potentially harm a widely expected EU reform. The European Commission engages a substantial range of EU directives, responsible for developing laws for countries to abide by, instigate and maintain international trade partnerships, and enforces EU treaties. Thus the new President of the Commission shall possess significant powers in influencing the direction of the EU, where the veteran of EU politics favours a trend of policies: political and monetary union; the funding of poorer member nations from the pocket of larger European economies; and enforcing and enhancing the political powers of Brussels from the individual parliaments of its members.

Should the EU’s future be heavily influenced by Juncker, Cameron’s arguments suggest that the economic stability of individual countries and ultimately the businesses operating within them may face significant harm. Juncker’s political position may result in future attempts to design a banking union and a fiscal union, transferring national powers into the hands of Brussels and the European Parliament. Where a banking union would consequently tighten the regulation of Europe’s financial sector, the impacts upon the UK’s world-leading finance industries may cause a loss of competitiveness for its financial institutions. Furthermore a fiscal union would significantly bind the members of the EU closer together, by harmonising the taxation structures and government spending measures of individual economies to politically integrate the EU. Such a scenario would detriment the sovereignty of national governments, since banking and fiscal unions enforced by Brussels would centralise power and disallow member states to implement certain laws and policies. Said political ideology mirrors the structure of the USA’s federal and state laws, where perhaps it may not be inconceivable to foresee a future EU operating a similar rule of law. However an increasingly integrated EU characterised by a harmonised power structure starkly contrasts the vision of leaders such as David Cameron, and to an extent Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel.

In the context of domestic businesses, arguably Cameron’s contestations are justified, since an individual European government being unable to entirely design its own tax policy could deter investment. As of late, recent business media has been fuelled by reports of buy-outs, takeovers and private mergers for the primary purpose of mitigating tax bills. For EU members such as the UK, one of their unique selling points to secure foreign direct investment are its relatively competitive corporation tax rates. Therefore should Juncker’s closely integrated EU result in Brussels guiding the business competitiveness of European nations, arguably the economic environment of particular EU members shall suffer the consequences.

Despite Cameron’s failed march against the appointment of Juncker, the election for a new European Commission President is yet to visit European Parliament voting and a rigorous interviewing stage by each member state. Furthermore with the recent sweeping European Parliament elections featuring significant votes for euro-sceptic political parties, Cameron’s calls for EU reforms do not stand solitary. Thus perhaps Juncker’s vision for Europe is rather unlikely to entirely prosper, however it remains to be seen whether the future of the EU shall adversely impact the economic and business environment of its members.

Image Courtesy: Valsts kanceleja/ State Chancellery, Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic | Wikimedia Commons