As the world reels from the UK leaving the EU, commentators are looking around for someone to blame. Is it the Remain camps fault for having too much of a pessimistic message? Or the Leave side, for unashamedly lying to the public? Or can the blame be laid on the feet of the uneducated, who were so easily persuaded by the promises of hope and prosperity? As they do this, they are allowing the one man who presided over Brexit to abscond any blame. He refused to budge on the little promises that David Cameron demanded, allowing the Leave side an open goal. He refused to make any comprises on free movement of people, giving the Leave side a huge amount of momentum. And now, he refuses to quit the institution he has destroyed, clinging onto power like a dictator. Step forward the one-man band who has helped destroy the EU; Jean-Claude Juncker.
As David Cameron announced his planned renegotiation of the relationship between the UK and the EU in 2013, he set out five main goals. He wanted to make the EU more competitive, flexible, democratic, fair and restore some power to member states. In the long-awaited speech, Cameron declared that “free movement within Europe would need to be less free.” It was clear that our Prime Minister was ready to shake up the whole of the European Union, determined to reform the 20 year old institution. His masterplan seemed feasible and deliverable until the 2014 EU President of the Commission Elections. These elections delivered a nightmare result for David Cameron as arch-federalist Jean-Claude Juncker was elected, all but the UK and Hungary voting for him. This signalled a hardening of the EU’s negotiating position and it soon became clear that achieving concessions from the EU would be similar to extracting blood from a stone. What later followed would set the agenda for the referendum and highlighted how the EU really was unreformable.
In early 2016, the UK and EU completed renegotiation talks, after two days of thrashing out a deal. David Cameron went in with clear goals, determined to fight his corner and get a deal. The EU went in with clear stubbornness, determined to not reform and refuse a deal. Instead of cutting the EU budget like David Cameron demanded, the EU announced a 7% budget increase. The UK failed to even touch the Working Time Directive, which the Prime Minister sought to reform. And on the big beast of free movement there was no real reforms, to the despair of the Prime Minister. Even the concessions the UK did manage to reach were pitiful. A four-year brake on in-work benefits for migrants for a seven year period, despite Cameron demanding a thirteen-year period. A deal that meant child benefit would be paid in local rates if sent abroad, despite Cameron demanding payments stopped all together. A very vague promise surrounding ever closer union, despite Cameron asking for a clear change in direction.
Juncker and co dug their heels in and ensured no ground was given to the UK. Although they may have viewed this as a victory, it was their loss in the end. Such a poor deal for the UK sent the British press into overdrive, denouncing the renegotiation as a failure from the offset. This set the agenda for the whole referendum campaign and every time the renegotiation was discussed it was with a negative tone. Juncker may have though he was the victor from the renegotiations but ultimately only the Brexiteers could claim victory.
As the UK moved on from the renegotiation and towards the EU Referendum vote, Juncker remained stubborn and single-minded. Instead of portraying a positive message to sell to voters, he came out with outlandish and erratic comments which enabled the Leave side to paint the whole of the EU as the same. He claimed that Leave voters should visit the ‘military cemeteries in Europe’ before they cast their vote. Instead of realising that we were on the verge of a Brexit vote, he sneered and claimed, ‘Brexit will not happen.’ And then he rejected Cameron’s pleas to introduce an emergency brake on immigration, which could have quite possibly led to a Remain victory. Juncker dug his heels even deeper into the ground and as a result presided over the first ever nation to actually leave the EU.
Even when Brexit was confirmed, Juncker continued with the smugness that will characterise his premiership. He quickly announced that Britain would have to face the ‘consequences’ of leaving the EU, clearly oblivious to the consequences on his own legacy. In his next encounter with Nigel Farage he didn’t gracefully accept defeat but asked him, “Why are you still here?” And as low as it sounds, it has been revealed the President of the European Commission himself even put on a bet on Britain leaving the EU. It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic.
Those who agree with my stance will be glad to hear that Angela Merkel is demanding Juncker’s disposal. However, she will be aware that to achieve this, the man himself would actually have to resign. Fat chance of this stubborn and unshakeable leader doing that. No, instead he will cling onto power, destroying the organisation he controls in the process. As he pushes for even greater integration, the question must be asked; which domino will fall next? Here’s to Jean-Claude Juncker, the man who destroyed the EU.