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The Great Brussels Steeplechase: runners and riders to be Britain’s next European Commissioner

10 July 2014

2:11 PM

10 July 2014

2:11 PM

Next week, EU leaders will meet to parcel out the top jobs in the next European Commission. So David Cameron doesn’t have long to decide who he is going to nominate—and Berlin is already bugging him for his pick. Here’s The Spectator‘s run down of the runners and riders.

Queen Elizabeth II Attends The State Opening Of Parliament

Andrew Lansley: Until recently the firm favourite. But in recent weeks support for him has fallen away. No. 10 has been irritated by the hints he has dropped about having been offered the job. It has also grasped that nominating someone as compensation for dropping them from the Cabinet is a recipe for getting a second-tier job.

(Image: ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/Getty Images)

(Image: ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/Getty Images)

David Willetts: The science and universities minister is keen to be sent to the Commission. He knows how to play the Brussels game: Britain has become the biggest beneficiary of EU research funds on his watch. He’s well known on the European circuit, too, an attendee at the Franco-British Colloque and has deep links with the Konrad Adenauer foundation. He is fluent in German, which is a major plus given how dominant Germany now is in the EU. He is also a sociable cove. But I detect surprisingly little enthusiasm in No. 10 for the idea of Commissioner Willetts. One longstanding friend of the Prime Minister tells me that Cameron hasn’t really forgiven him for backing David Davis in the 2005 leadership contest.

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Michael Fallon: Normally, when Downing Street has a problem it can’t solve, it sends for Fallon — which is why he currently has three ministerial jobs. As a business and energy minister, Fallon spends an inordinate amount of time in Brussels and ran the PM’s European regulation taskforce. But his great skill is putting out fires, so he’d be missed in Whitehall. He is also not a Cabinet minister, which could count against his getting the kind of senior post that Britain wants.

(Image: CLEMENS BILAN/AFP/Getty Images)

(Image: CLEMENS BILAN/AFP/Getty Images)

David Lidington: The Europe Minister is well known in Brussels and every other EU capital, having been Europe minister for four years. Cameron is an admirer: when one visitor to No. 10 urged him to replace Lidington with someone more Eurosceptic, he angrily responded that Lidington was the most effective junior minister he had. But to send someone who isn’t a Cabinet minister is to accept that Britain will take up one of the lower-ranking positions in Brussels: the digital agenda, regional policy or inter-institutional relations and administration.

Ministers Attend The Government's Weekly Cabinet

Owen Paterson: The Environment Secretary is probably the closest there is to a Eurosceptic Clegg. He speaks both French and German well enough to do business in them and as DEFRA Secretary is in charge of a department whose main job is dealing with EU rules. But it’s unclear whether Cameron would feel comfortable sending such a committed Eurosceptic to Brussels. Nick Clegg certainly wouldn’t — he would blow a fuse if Cameron made such a choice. The European parliament, which vets all such appointments, might see it as an act of aggression and respond accordingly.

(Image: ANDREW YATES/AFP/Getty Images)

(Image: ANDREW YATES/AFP/Getty Images)

Theresa Villiers: With Jean-Claude Juncker having promised that his Commission will have more women in senior positions than Barroso’s did, there’s much to recommend selecting a female nominee. But Downing Street’s scramble to find a suitable woman has run up against its own scepticism of several of its female Cabinet ministers. The Northern Ireland Secretary, Theresa Villiers, is a former MEP who knows her way round Brussels. She is also a staunch Eurosceptic. But she is not well regarded in No. 10.

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Michael Howard: Those who have discussed the appointment with senior No. 10 figures in recent days believe that there is momentum building behind Cameron’s predecessor as Tory leader. As a former Home Secretary, he has enough heft to command a senior position in the commission. His appointment would delight Tory Eurosceptics. But his public pronouncements on the EU are not so incendiary as to justify the European Parliament trying to block him. Then again, he is 73 and hasn’t been involved in frontline politics since he handed over to Cameron nine years ago. But his proximity to Cameron may well make up for his recent absence from the political scene. Those who have worked with him say that Howard won’t tout himself for the role but that he is open to the prospect of doing one last big job.


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Show comments
  • gerronwithit

    Obvious to see why so many MPs want us to stay in. It’s the most luxurious carriage on the gravy train.

  • Makroon

    Redwood.

    • Tim Baker

      deadwood

    • Denis_Cooper

      Do you think he’d be prepared to swear an oath to serve the EU?

      And do you think MEPs would be prepared to believe him if he did?

      Because thanks to the Maastricht Treaty MEPs have a veto over the composition of the Commission, not just over the appointment of the President but over the whole list of proposed Commissioners.

      • Mynydd

        I seem to remember that the Maastricht Treaty was signed by the then Conservative Prime Minister Mr John Major, or was it Mrs Thatcher. Now however the present Conservative Prime Minister Mr Cameron doesn’t agree that MEP’s have a veto over the composition of the Commission and the appointment of its President. He wants it to be in the gift of the leaders club.

        • Inverted Meniscus

          But then you are a stooge for the Fascist Labour Party and incapable of objectivity.

        • Denis_Cooper

          Cameron knows perfectly well that MEPs were granted the power of veto over the composition of the Commission through the Maastricht Treaty, but rather than blaming his Tory predecessor Major for agreeing to that change he pretends it was Lisbon and Nice so he can blame Labour.

  • El_Sid

    So Willetts has been a highly successful negotiator in Europe but is being disregarded because he isn’t part of the Cameron clique?

    Isn’t that just the sort of thing that Cameron was meant to have recognised was a problem?

    • Makroon

      Willetts is highly likely to ‘go native’. He has become Cable’s poodle.

  • Tony_E

    Of all of these, Michael Howard would be the toughest negotiator and the most likely to be well across his brief s a commissioner.

    Willetts, (two brains) is plenty smart enough, but might go native very quickly. None of the others really fit the bill at all.

    • Mynydd

      Mr Howard is a failure, he failed to win a general election.

  • Conway

    Paterson is not EU sceptic, he only pretends to be. Let us not forget that any British EU Commissioner is required to take an oath to the EU and won’t be fighting Britain’s corner. Not only that, after their retirement on a generous pension, said pension depends entirely on their continuing to promote the EU.

    • Tim Baker

      i think politicians’ are all actors

      • global city

        Show business for ugly people…. Brussels is their Hollywood.

  • MirthaTidville

    Lets all be grateful that no one is touting`PantsDown` ….as yet

  • global city
  • Frank

    Not sure if the above list is the cream of the crop, or the scrapings of the barrel, in either case it is pretty depressing. It doesn’t matter of course, as with a little luck we shall be shot of the EU very soon.

    • Tim Baker

      Dont worry , Ukip won’t win a single seat in 2015.

      • FlippityGibbit

        The EU Legislation and agenda alone will ensure you are completely wrong! 2015 WILL be our In Out Referendum with a vote for LibLabCon for In and “ever closer Union” and the Euro and a vote for UKIP for FREEDOM!

  • Mynydd

    Yet again it seem Mr Cameron cannot make up his own mind. There again he could leave it until after the election, which is the answer to everything at the moment. Even Mrs May has caught the bug, I am setting up a panel to investigate child abuse to report its findings after the next election.

    • Smithersjones2013

      Would you have expected May to do the sort of slapdash superficial 5 minute assessments that clearly the last Labour government did that led to no action on the Expenses Scandal, Phone hacking and Police Corruption, Mid Staffs NHS outrage and or this latest possible Child Abuse scandal (and no doubt.many other things)?

      The systemic failure of the last Labour Government to do anything competently is a disgrace that has yet to be fully explained. Perhaps we should have a public inquiry about that?

      Personally, I would rather government take their time, deal with the issue in total and resolve such issues once and for all rather than see them self-servingly brush them under the carpet as Labour seem to have!

  • Denis_Cooper

    “… runners and riders to be Britain’s next European Commissioner …”, who will be required to take an oath of office that he will serve the EU as a whole, completely disregarding the fact that he was nominated by the British government; whoever he may be he will certainly not be “Britain’s” Commissioner, he will just be one of the EU’s Commissioners with sworn loyalty to the EU.

  • Smithersjones2013

    Seriously though would any of them really want to be the EU Commissioner for ‘Staplers and Office Supplies’ or somesuch. They are not going to give us anything influential. That’s all that will be left for l’il ole rebellious Britain largely thanks to Dave.

    • Conway

      They would only have given us that regardless of Dave’s posturing. I see that Juncker has stated immigration is non-negotiable. Better off out!

      • Smithersjones2013

        No we might have got ‘Commissioner for Furniture Supplies’ if Dave hadn’t of opened his big gob but otherwise I quite agree.

  • swatnan

    And the next Euro Commisioner will be …. Nigel Farage!
    Crikey who would have thought that Dave had the ingenuity to pull a rabbit from his hat. That should heal and seal the rift in the Right and deliver victory for the Tories in 2015! Failing that could be climate change denier flatearther badger culler and enemy of cuddly animals and general skeptik Owen Patterson. People like Villiers and Lansley will just have to go onto Big Business Boards in 2015 and make loads of money.

    • Conway

      Paterson is not a sceptic. Sceptics don’t vote for more EU and against affirming the sovereignty of Parliament.

    • FlippityGibbit

      At least with Mr. Farage the EU would understand and hear exactly what the majority of the British electorate really think of them!

  • dado_trunking

    Our favourite Andrew Mitchell is not on the list. A terrier is what is required in Brussels, not yet more nice people.

    • Tim Baker

      Pleb

  • global city

    Martin Callanan best fits the outlook UK commissioners SHOULD have.

    • Tim Baker

      a total non-entity

      • global city

        and?

        • Tim Baker

          You want a non-entity to represent the UK?

          • global city

            It’s rather a false prospect you’re demanding though.

            Who cares?

            we could send a big beast, but they’re all arselicking europhiles. Would you prefer Callanan or Clark?

            Callanan may well be a ‘nonentity’, but he has the right views on the EU as far as I’m concerned.

  • sfin

    I suppose this candidates list makes a change from choosing from amongst those who have either been rejected by the electorate, or resigned in disgrace.

    • Tim Baker

      Liam Fox

      • sfin

        Ah! – now THAT wouldn’t surprise me!

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