Sunday

30th Apr 2017

Juncker wants 'fair deal' for Britain

  • I am no federalist, Juncker says. (Photo: European Peoples Party, EPP)

Future EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has denied being a federalist and said he wants a "fair deal" for Britain on the terms of its EU membership.

Speaking to the British Conservative-dominated ECR group in the European Parliament on Tuesday (8 July), Juncker said he is in favour of a "practical arrangement" with the UK that takes into account their demands.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"I wanted since the very beginning of my campaign to have a fair deal with Britain. Sometimes I'm reading that I was inventing after 25 May this idea of having a fair deal with Britain. I was announcing this on 23 April as one of my five priorities. I was the only candidate advocating for a fair deal with Britain, so don't tell me that I'm inventing this thing now," he said.

British politicians and media have portrayed Juncker as a rabid federalist, with The Sun, a tabloid, calling him the "most dangerous man in Europe."

But Juncker said he is no "arch-villain".

"You can't launch European ambitions without having member states on your side. Nations are not a temporary invention of history, they are forever. So I don't want to be described - as I was - as an arch-federalist. I don't know what this really means. As a representative of a very small nation, I know what nations are about and how important member states really are," Juncker explained.

He went on reassuring his audience that he wants Europe to be "big on big things and small on small," - a recurrent theme with British PM David Cameron, who wants to repatriate powers from Brussels before putting the EU membership to a referendum if he gets re-elected in 2017.

"Local authorities, regions, nations are often better placed in finding solutions to their problems," Juncker said.

Responding to accusations that he is an old face incapable of carrying out reforms, the 59-year old said it's true he has been around for a long time, but pointed out that it was his idea to give Britain an opt-out from the euro back in 1991 when the treaty of Maastricht was negotiated.

"To describe me as a guy who is fiercely anti-British is simply not reflecting the major part of my biography. I was always trying to have fair deals with Britain, I did it in the '90s and I will do it at the beginning of this century," he said.

Even though the ECR group is the third-largest in the European Parliament, Juncker is not relying on their votes next Tuesday when MEPs are set to approve his appointment as commission chief.

Speaking after the meeting, ECR leader Syed Kamall said that "there were many areas where we believe we can work with him if he is confirmed". But he added that because the group does not support the system of "Spitzenkandidaten" - the idea of giving top jobs to people whose pates win the EU elections - they will vote against him.

Taxation

One contentious issue around Juncker's appointment is his role in establishing Luxembourg as a tax haven for multinational corporations.

In his hearings with the Socialist, Green and ECR groups, Juncker tried to portray his experience as PM of Luxembourg as a good background for wanting to fight tax evasion.

"I will be among those who will fight against tax evasion. I know that having been the prime minister of Luxembourg, an overwhelming majority of you consider this not to be a guidebook. I want to tell you that progress made in Europe against tax evasion was always under Luxembourg's presidency," he said.

He noted that he is in favour of a corporate tax base, which "may not be good for some countries, but is good for Europe."

"We should introduce morality in the European tax landscape, so that governments are not victims of tax competition," he said.

For its part, the Financial Times on Wednesday reported that the EU commission has started an inquiry into Luxembourg's tax deals for multinational corporations, creating a potential conflict of interest once Juncker takes up the commission top job.

The probe also includes Ireland and the Netherlands for similar deals with companies of the likes of Apple and Google.

The Luxembourg case revolves around Italian carmaker Fiat and could expand to US online retailer Amazon.

Juncker: Economics commissioner will be a Socialist

Future EU commission chief Juncker has promised the economics commissioner post to a Socialist, as part of a grand coalition-type of deal between the centre-right and centre-left ahead of a European Parliament vote on Tuesday.

Focus

Cameron mends ties with Juncker

British PM Cameron has reached out to Juncker, after having failed to prevent his nomination as European Commission chief.

EPP group frustrated with Orban

Orban's ruling Fidesz party is getting too much to handle for the EPP group, as they are once again forced to defend the Hungarian premier's controversial actions.

Analysis

Orban set to face down EU threats

The European Commission and Parliament are to debate Hungary's slide into illiberal democracy. But the bloc continues to think that Hungarian leader Viktor Orban is not a systemic threat.

France still anxious over possibility of Le Pen win

Despite opinion polls that place centrist Macron well ahead of the far-right leader Le Pen in the 7 May presidential run-off, doubts are emerging about his capacity to unite the French people around his candidacy.

News in Brief

  1. Vote of no confidence prepared against Spanish PM
  2. Syria to buy Russian anti-missile system
  3. Germany seeks partial burka ban
  4. Libya has no plan to stop migration flows
  5. EU has no evidence of NGO-smuggler collusion in Libya
  6. Poland gets 'final warning' on logging in ancient forest
  7. Commission gives Italy final warning on air pollution
  8. Romania and Slovenia taken to court over environment policies

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCharlotte Hornets' Nicolas Batum Tells Kids to "Eat Well, Drink Well, Move!"
  2. ECR GroupSyed Kamall: We Need a New, More Honest Relationship With Turkey
  3. Counter BalanceParliament Sends Strong Signal to the EIB: Time to Act on Climate Change
  4. ACCARisks and Opportunities of Blockchain and Shared Ledgers Technologies in Financial Services
  5. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  7. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  8. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  9. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  10. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  11. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  12. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process

Latest News

  1. EU boasts unity on Brexit talks
  2. May’s election juggernaut
  3. EPP scolds Orban over university and NGO laws
  4. Oxford-Studie besorgt über 'Schrott' News in Frankreich
  5. Alte Freundschaft zwischen Le Pen und Putin
  6. EP chief faces questions after homophobic 'summit'
  7. EU signals Northern Ireland could join if united with Ireland
  8. One year later: EU right to open internet still virtual