Monday

19th Aug 2019

EUobserved

When two worlds collide

Two worlds collided at the end of last week. The shrill, uncompromising one of British politics and the technocratic, dry, world of the European Commission.

From the get-go it was a vaguely ridiculous affair. There was the bill for €2.1bn for the UK only no-one (initially) knew how the figure was calculated.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

British PM David Cameron was confronted with news of the unwanted bill (via an FT scoop) on Thursday afternoon. Into the evening and well into Friday there were still no proper answers. All that was clear was that it must be paid on 1 December.

Asked about it on Thursday evening, commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, to all intents and purposes said: 'I have no idea what you're on about'.

Several British papers went into overdrive to the tune of the money-grabbing EU snatching coins out of British citizens' very purses.

So by Friday morning Cameron was in a state. He objected to the top-up demand, and the way it had been presented, during the summit with EU colleagues.

The discussion was lively but not unusually so. And Cameron, while clearly irritated, did not refuse to pay the bill.

The press conference afterwards was of a different order though. Once there, he delivered a puce-coloured podium-whacking performance and refused to pay it (at least not by 1 December).

With multiple references to "this organisation" aka the EU (to which UK has belonged for over 40 years now) he was magnificifiently dismissive (a "red herring") of the question of when British officials knew about the surcharge.

It turns out the treasury knew about it on Tuesday, while the UK's own national statistics office has for months been broadly aware of what was coming and UK officials had agreed all rules changes.

But no matter. This was no time for nuance. Asked about whether this would make it likelier that Britain would leave the EU, he opted for post-membership type language.

"I think there is a strong case for Britain being involved in the European Union".

It was rhetoric notched up to an unnecessary degree.

(Backing himself into a corner. Revving up the tabloids. It was remarkably similar to the veto-wielding opposition to Jean-Claude Juncker, the next commission president, he adopted in early summer).

Parallel world

A few hours later, in the same building, but apparently occupying a parallel world, it was Barroso's turn again.

By that time, in contrast to Thursday night, he had been briefed. When the inevitable question came, he was able to haul out a long piece of paper and read out the elaborate rules.

In almost farcical contrast to Cameron's overly politicised performance, Barroso was too technocratic.

The commission response lacked any political feeling. There was no friendly language explaining how the sum was arrived at. Or why it was so large. No overtures on the deadline and how it could be discussed. No language understanding how the timing was difficult.

And yet credit where credit is due.

It is not the surcharge or the blundering communications job that may have moved the UK closer to leaving the EU at the end of the last week as many newspapers are now speculating.

It was David Cameron's hardline response.

The more he opts for the fist-waving, "this-organisation"-bashing approach - the more difficult it is to roll back. And the more difficult it is for his EU colleagues to help elaborate the reformed EU he says he needs ahead of the country's membership referendum.

EUobserved

Death by 'hearings'

The hearings, the hearings. It's all about the hearings. Please make it stop. Or should that be start?

EUobserved

And then there was Frans

With all these co-ordinators around - and Juncker possibly about to be the most hands-off commission president ever - who will actually be taking the decisions?

EUobserved

Where is Juncker?

Our new 'political' commission arrived on Monday, wobbled into being on Tuesday; had its highpoint on Wednesday, and shut up shop on Thursday.

Feature

Greens yet to be convinced by von der Leyen nomination

After a inconclusive meeting with Ursula von der Leyen at the European Parliament on Monday, all Green MEPs will now get to meet her on Wednesday - ahead of the key vote on her nomination as EU Commission president.

Who is the new EU parliament president, David Sassoli?

The 63-year-old centre-left Italian MEP was elected president of the European Parliament, with 345 votes. A former journalist, Sassoli has experience as a vice-president of the parliament, but is little known.

Parliament outmanoeuvred in EU top-post game

The European Parliament on Tuesday lost a years-long power struggle, and gave up winning more influence on European politics via the so-called Spitzenkandidat process it had championed.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. EU ends silence on Hong Kong protests
  2. Is Salvini closing just harbours or also the rule of law?
  3. No-deal Brexit would seriously harm UK, leaked paper says
  4. Selmayr did not keep formal records of lobby meetings
  5. EU asked to solve migrant rescue deadlock
  6. Internal EU paper: Second Brexit vote was no longer 'distant dream'
  7. EU has 'zero incentive' to break open 'trilogue' deals
  8. Denmark plans import ban on EU-approved pesticide

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us