The results of last month’s European elections demonstrated an appetite for change in Europe among voters – all parties seem to agree on that. Which is why David Cameron went into the most recent set of EU Council negotiations with cross-party support to secure a candidate for Commission President that would make achieving that kind of change and reform easier, not harder.
Today there is a widespread and profound sense of disappointment at David Cameron’s apparent failure to build an alliance to secure an alternative candidate for the role. He weakened his own hand in these vital talks by seeming to choose public criticism at the expense of private influence – all of which feels like a worrying foretaste of his ability to deliver on any other promised EU priorities in the future.
As David Cameron’s stock in Europe seems to be slipping, the case for an increased role for the British Parliament in scrutinising the Government’s handling of European affairs strengthens. So whilst the Prime Minister’s negotiating approach to try and block Juncker fell well short, there are a number of reforms here at home that he could implement immediately to enhance the role of the UK Parliament on issues relating to Britain’s relationship with Europe.
MPs who served in Parliament before 2010 will remember that the House of Commons used to have the opportunity to debate upcoming EU Council meetings before they took place. Sadly the current Prime Minister scrapped this shortly after he took office, and UK parliamentary oversight of EU affairs risks slowly being weakened as a result.
By contrast, Ministers in the Netherlands appear before relevant select committees in advance of EU Council meetings to outline and explain the Dutch government’s policies on the items that feature on the upcoming EU Council agenda.