Oh, this is good. If Boris wins, will the EU even have anyone for him to negotiate with?
EU in deadlock as a quagmire of Juncker replacement process deepens’
Yesterday lame duck PM Theresa May attended an emergency session of the EU Council, officially called “the European Council”. This meeting of the EU28 leaders once again failed to come to an agreement on who should be the next EU Commission President to replace Herr Juncker, nor even how he or she should be chosen.
At the time of writing, it seems that this emergency session will now run over into breakfast today and that the entire process could still take many weeks or months.
“Who cares about Brussels politics? We’re leaving anyway.”
Readers might wonder why they should care about any of this. The answer to this is simple. The EU — in all its various guises of Councils, Parliament, Central Bank, and overriding Court of Justice — must have some form of leadership.
If not, Boris (or Jeremy Hunt) will have no-one to negotiate Brexit with. It is also axiomatic that even if the UK does actually leave the EU on 31 October as promised by Boris, there will be a myriad of agreements to be negotiated with the EU over the coming months and years.
Who chooses who should run the EU institutions?
- EU Commission President (currently Juncker) chosen by a qualified majority vote of EU28 leaders, with only one candidate given to the EU Parliament to ratify
2. EU Council President (currently Tusk) appointed by a qualified majority vote of EU28 leaders
3. EU Foreign and Defence Secretary (currently Mogherini) appointed by a qualified majority vote of EU28 leaders, with the agreement of new EU Commission President
4. ECB President (currently Draghi) and ECB Board appointed by a qualified majority vote of EU28 leaders
5. EU Parliament President elected by a majority vote of the MEPs of the EU Parliament, but with EU Council trade-offs
EU28 leaders in deadlock
In a repeat performance of 2014, when the EU last had to choose people for the top jobs in Brussels, the EU28 leaders are in deadlock.
In 2014 a bizarre set of circumstances led to Jean-Claude Juncker being chosen as EU Commission President. He was wanted by very few but came through as the alternatives provoked too many political disputes. In the end, two countries were vehemently against his appointment and voted accordingly — the UK and Hungary. They were overruled by use of the majority voting system and Juncker was appointed.
Today, the key EU leaders — Merkel and Macron — are at loggerheads. Merkel’s preferred candidate was Manfred Weber, leader of the EPP group in the EU Parliament. As the EPP is the largest group, Weber’s appointment should have followed the new ‘spitzenkandidat’ (lead candidate) policy put forward last time. This, however, is not what the EU Treaty says (see below).
Monsieur Macron has rejected the ‘lead candidate’ principle. With all the contradictory comments coming out from all sides, it is anyone’s guess who might succeed to the top job in the EU Commission. Once again it looks likely that a ‘fudge’ candidate will be chosen, as in 2014.
The EU treaties are no guide to practice
There are two basic systems involved in running the EU — what the Treaties say, and what politics dictates. Where these do not coincide, it is rarely the law as set out in the Treaties which decides, particularly if one of the major players such as Germany or France are involved.
Before I continue, it helps to understand what ‘qualified majority voting’ means. A qualified majority is defined as at least 72% of the EU Council members, (currently a minimum of 20 out of the 28) representing at least 65% of the population of the EU.
Here is what the official version from the Treaties say about three of the key appointments
President of the European Council
According to the Treaties (Article 15.5), the European Council elects its President by a qualified majority. The president holds the post for a 2.5-year term, renewable once.
President of the European Commission
The procedure for nominating the President of the Commission for the next five years is laid down in the Treaty on European Union Art. 17.7: “Taking into account the elections to the European Parliament and after having held the appropriate consultations, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall propose to the European Parliament a candidate for President of the Commission. This candidate shall be elected by the European Parliament by a majority of its component members. If he does not obtain the required majority, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall within one month propose a new candidate who shall be elected by the European Parliament following the same procedure.”
In other words, the EU Council nominates just one candidate to vote on. This would not be considered to be an ‘election’ in most people’s understanding of the word.
The Treaty is clear that it is the autonomous competence of the EU Council to nominate the candidate while taking into account the European elections, and having held appropriate consultations.
Vice-President and de facto Foreign and Defence Secretary
The European Council is responsible for appointing the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for a period of five years. The decision on the proposed candidate requires a qualified majority from the EU28 leaders. This procedure is set out in article 18 of the TEU.
The role of EU Commission President is enormously powerful.
This is true in fact, even if not always necessarily in law. The same is true of the President of the European Central Bank (ECB) and, critically, of the de facto Foreign and Defence Secretary who has the absurdly long-winded title of “High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission”.
Tomorrow, Tues 02 July, the new EU Parliament will convene, along with its invasion force of new, Brexit Party MEPs. On Thursday they are supposed to be hearing the outcome of the EU Council’s meeting to propose the name of a new EU Commission President.
I doubt that any decision will have been made for the Parliament to debate.
My and your overriding concern is that there seems to be little in this entire mess which resembles true democracy and accountability. Right now it seems that no-one can agree on anything. Even when they do eventually decide on who is going to rule the EU in practical terms (and that person will be the leader of the only organisation able to put forward new laws), there is no way of citizens removing that person from office.
Is the EU democratic?
We have read all the media articles over the years from the Remain media about how the EU is in fact democratic. Spurious comparisons are drawn with the way in which countries such as the United States elect or select candidates for top jobs, whilst conveniently forgetting that the US is a country whereas the EU consists of 28 countries supposedly acting as a friendly trading bloc.
Finally, what is Theresa doing there?
Each time we see Theresa May — in Osaka for the G20 summit on Friday/Saturday, at the emergency EU summit yesterday — we all must wonder what on earth this failed, lame-duck Prime Minister is doing. When she also imposes radical and expensive new decisions for the British people we are even more appalled. A case in point is the £1 TRILLION ‘zero emissions’ policy she imposed by statutory instrument last week. No debate, no detailed cost/benefit analysis, just a desperate attempt by the worst Prime Minister in living memory to deliver ‘a legacy’.
In my view, she has already inflicted enough damage to the United Kingdom and her hands should now be firmly tied.