How Juncker shines the light on Britain’s problematic, unitary pro-Europeanism

I am not a fan of Jean Claude Juncker, the person and the politician. I am a lefty, he is a christian democrat, and he – ideologically – stands for a future of the European Union that I, as an individual person, do not agree with. Yet I am also an advocate of EU-wide democracy, and as the European Peoples Party ended up as the largest after the European Parliament elections, Juncker ought to become President of the European Commission. In a democracy you sometimes end up on the losing side.

The problem is that the opposition to Juncker in the UK does not take this form.

The argument runs that Juncker is not in favour of British views of ‘reform’ of the EU (whatever that means), and hence should be opposed, and indeed the very future of the UK’s membership of the EU could be called into question were Juncker to succeed. This is the sort of argument, with no irony, that was defended by Adam Nathan on Twitter this afternoon and prompted this blog entry:

Essentially there is just one legitimate pro-Europeanism in the UK according to this line of argument. There is the “British national interest is in being in the EU” line, which is the very essence of the comms of British Influence, the organisation Nathan used to work for. This is also the reason why Labour’s opposition to Juncker sounds exactly the same as Cameron’s.

Basically there is only one way to be pro-EU in the UK at the moment. This is that the European Union is a battle of national interests (i.e. it is intergovernmental), and the reason to be in favour of the UK in the EU is that UK membership assists British business, and everyone ought to be in favour of that. This is the sort of line that every pro-EU British politician would make – from Chuka Umunna through the Liberal Democrats to Ken Clarke. Such a view of the European Union has no place for a difference of ideology within the European Union, and nor does it have any time or respect for the European Parliament, as that might actually take ideologically-driven rather than national-interest motivated decisions.

All of this worries me with a possible referendum on the horizon on the UK’s membership of the European Union. There must be multiple ways to be able to be a British pro-EU person – to be a social democratic European, a green European, a conservative European, a liberal European… and to be able to be a British passport holding European. To put it another way there are different, perhaps contradictory, ways to be in favour of the EU. It’s high time this was understood in the UK!

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5 comments

  1. Anthony Seymour

    I think it’s a good idea to have EU wide democracy but we need a treaty change and then we also need to strengthen the European political parties like the Socialists/Social Democrats, EPP, ALDE etc to give citizens the options of voting for European parties instead of only national ones. This would strengthen the democratic legitimacy of any EU executive if it was elected the same way as national governments with a governing coalition and a robust opposition in the European Parliament.

  2. Britische Interessen gibt es auch nicht (zweiter Nachtrag zur Wahl zum Europäischen Parlament)) | susanna14

    […] ich die Links mit Lesetipps über meinen ganzen Text hinweg verstreut. Der wichtigste ist dieser: How Juncker shines light on British pro-Europaneism Britische […]

  3. Locksmith Liverpool

    I think we should be able to vote for no one. And it should register as vote and it will clearly show the amount of people who dont agree with any of them because they are all together in everything anyway and it is one big lie. I hate the government!

  4. Ralf Grahn

    The United Kingdom, like every member of the EEC and later EU, signed up to the aim of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe.

    However, my study of the history of European integration regularly bumps into Britain having misunderstoodd the aim, and frequently acted through veto, block, red lines, opt-outs and rebate.

    The narrow scope of “EU reform” put forward by David Cameron – competitiveness, free trade and the single market – all ongoing, is astounding. Plus clawing back powers to national governments (parliaments).

    It resembles someone joining a football club, then loudly demanding that it should be content with selling pins and t-shirts to fans.

    Democratic reform seems to be quite beyond UK thinking, with UKIP wanting no EU and Ed Miliband, Cameron and Clegg resisting EU level democracy, on principle and regarding the next president of the Commission.

  5. Jeremy Hargreaves

    “Listen to what the public said” by ignoring the outcome of the election! 🙂