The man Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, fought tooth and nail to prevent becoming European Commission president might yet turn out to be an ally of his government’s, argues one of the country’s Conservative Party lawmakers.
Writing in The Telegraph newspaper on Friday, Mark Field, who represents the Cities of London and Westminster in Parliament, points out that Jean-Claude Juncker, the former Luxembourg premier who was seen by many in the United Kingdom as an old-school European federalist, has committed himself to a program that “contains just the kind of language and proposals” Cameron seeks.
In its yearly plan, Juncker’s commission calls for less European Union involvement where member states are “better equipped to give the right response.”
To show it meant business, the commission announced it would abandon or rewrite over four hundred existing proposals. Its legislative agenda has been slimmed down to just 23 new initiatives under the influence of regulation commissioner Frans Timmermans.
As foreign minister of the Netherlands, it was Timmermans who authored a policy brief last year that called for an end to “creeping” European Union interference in the politics of member states and said, “the time of an ever-closer union in every possible policy area is behind us.”
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte has also joined Cameron in advocating for less regulation from Brussels and more emphasis on deepening the single market.
In this area too, Field argues, the Juncker Commission is meeting British demands.
The commission wishes to move toward an energy union and open up the opportunities of the digital single market, allowing consumers to enjoy cross-border access to digital services and creating a level playing field for companies in a vibrant digital economy.
Completing a trade agreement with the United States also remains high on the commission’s agenda. Cameron is among the most enthusiastic proponents of deepening transatlantic trade relations.
Finally, Juncker is putting forward an agenda on migration that could address “the concerns expressed by Cameron and others that the single market should mean free movement of workers, not people,” according to Field.
This should help the government in its mission to crack down on benefits tourism of the type that so incenses the British public.
Fields is not without caution. With little detail on the proposals made so far, there is plenty of room for the commission to slip in new rules that contract Britain’s interests, he warns.
Other countries also worry that the migration reforms Britain wants could undermine the free movement of people in Europe — which is a key pillar of the whole European integration process.
Leaders may also wonder why they should make concessions if Cameron will go ahead anyway with a referendum on Britain’s European Union membership. Polls suggest such a referendum, which would happen in 2017 if the Conservatives win the next election, could produce a majority in favor of withdrawing from the bloc.
Cameron says he will advocate for continued membership if the European Union reforms. In that, he might unexpectedly find an ally in Juncker.