Let it not be said that we don’t live in a Democracy. The people have spoken in all parts of the United Kingdom, and it almost seems like the grand men and women of Westminster are listening. Politicians of all stripes who had previously given the impression of being cut-and-dried Europhiles are suddenly discovering a great thirst for reform of Europe.
In a miraculous near diluvial moment, the success of UKIP has heralded near-consensus on the topic, with even the Liberal Democrats accepting the need for change. Miliband is increasingly talking about his enthusiasm for controlling immigration, to the horror of some Labour grandees. Cameron, although sticking to his original position of ‘reform and remain’ is, to his credit being more belligerent than ever.
Far from pandering to UKIP, as some have suggested, it appears that the established parties ‘listening exercise’ post-election has brought them only as far as David Cameron’s position, not Nigel Farage’s. Despite this, it is remarkable what effect one election can have on the national political discourse, and this is to be welcomed. Eurosceptic feeling continues to grow in the United Kingdom, and one can only wonder on what further concessions could be extracted from David Cameron, Ed Miliband, or Nick Clegg given another electoral surprise.
Although much maligned, the agility and ability of British domestic politics to respond to public feeling stands in stark contrast to the glacial nature of change in Europe. The commission itself is possibly the very apogee of elite disinterest in the desires of ordinary people, and decisions surrounding the selection of its next president continue unabated by the election. Jean-Claude Juncker stands for the old, pre-crisis idea of Europe; ever closer union and business as usual.
With Cameron’s renegotiation, Brexit remains a strong possibility. Without it (as Juncker would prefer), it is a certainty. Ironically installing the strong pro-EU candidate at the head of the European Commission could sign its death warrant, as a British exit could very well lead the stampede. Could it be that the selection of Juncker, an eventuality that is not immediately in the British interest, could actually expedite getting Britain out?
Oliver Lane, Researcher