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18th Feb 2019

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Cameron defiant following Juncker defeat

UK Prime Minister David Cameron insisted that he had no regrets and would "do it all again," despite being soundly defeated in his bid to prevent Jean Claude Juncker becoming the next President of the European Commission.

"I feel totally comfortable with how I handled this," he told a news conference following the EU summit on Friday (27 June).

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"In a Europe crying out for reform we've chosen the ultimate Brussels insider who probably knows every furrow in this building," he said.

Earlier, Cameron warned fellow EU leaders that they would "live to regret" choosing Juncker to lead the EU executive for the next five years.

But despite demanding a formal vote, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban was the only leader to join Cameron as the bloc's 26 other leaders swung behind the Spitzenkandidat of the centre-right EPP political group.

Over lunch at Friday's summit, the UK prime minister had described the move as a "sad moment" for Europe.

"I am disappointed that we have reached this point," he told fellow leaders, warning them to "think very carefully about what they are setting for the future".

Speaking at a news conference following the summit, Cameron described it as "the wrong principle, the wrong procedure and the wrong person".

But he distanced himself from suggestions that the diplomatic defeat meant that Britain had moved closer to leaving the EU.

"Britain's national interest lies in reforming the EU then campaigning for us to stay in a reformed EU," he said, but conceded that "clearly this has got a lot tougher".

Last year Cameron pledged to renegotiate the UK's membership terms followed by an 'in/out' referendum in 2017 if his Conservative party wins next year's general election.

Although Cameron will return to London to face a hostile inquest after losing the diplomatic battle, he said he won some victories.

"For the first time all my 27 fellow heads of government have agreed explicitly that they will need to address Britain’s concerns about the EU," he said.

"The conclusions also state explicitly that ever closer union allows for different paths of integration for different countries and respects the wish of those – like Britain – who do not want deeper integration," he added.

"We've taken a big step back..but I took a small step forward," he said.

For her part, Germany's Angela Merkel told reporters that EU leaders had shown that they were "willing to take on board the serious concerns of the UK".

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