Britain’s one Brexit regret should be that it won’t be there to stop Juncker’s mad integrationist plans

Britain’s one Brexit regret should be that it won’t be there to stop Juncker’s mad integrationist plans

A fully-fledged European Defence Union. A Banking Union. A common Labour Authority. A European Minister of Economy and Finance. A Social Standards Union. A permanent Eurozone qualified majority overruling non-Euro states. Pressure on all member states to join Schengen and the Euro by 2019. Eurozone bailouts funded by a European Monetary Fund.

There comes a point when claims that these are all fantastical conspiracies dreamed up by Brexiteers wear thin to the point of collapse. We have come some way past that point when they are coming directly from the mouth of the European Commission President.

Jean Claude Juncker’s ‘State of the European Union’ speech was not surprising in its content – these are all longstanding EU ambitions – but was surprising in its tone-deafness towards other European leaders and, more importantly, the wider European public.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has already ridiculed Juncker’s vision, saying that he needed an “eye doctor”, while Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen rejected Juncker’s calls to unify the Commission and Council President roles into a single super-presidency. Meanwhile, two thirds of Europeans are dissatisfied with the direction of the EU, with only 28% of Germans and a mere 17% of Italians approving of it, according to a recent pan-European study.

With the inevitable defeat of an unpleasant and unelectable borderline fascist in France, Juncker has somehow convinced himself that he has weathered the many crises which continue to unfold under his leadership. With the main impediment to full EU integration – the UK – to be shortly out of the picture, Juncker has clearly decided that the moment has now arrived for a new EU push towards the full trappings of statehood. “We must complete the job now that the sun is shining”, he says. Meanwhile, Macron’s approval ratings are lower than Trump’s.

The proposals put forward by Juncker make the accusations of “power grabs” levelled towards the UK Government over the EU Withdrawal Bill look positively risible. His call to merge the role of European Council President into the Commission Presidency would severely dilute the influence of member states and place extraordinary and unprecedented power into the hands of the unaccountable Commission.

Also on his agenda is the use of ‘passerelle clauses’ to remove vital checks and balances in EU lawmaking procedures. These highly controversial clauses were inserted into the Lisbon Treaty to allow EU legislative procedures to be altered without any formal treaty change, effectively turning it into a self-amending Treaty and hence sidestepping any need for national ratification to approve the changes. Keir Starmer’s views on these would no doubt be enlightening.

Juncker’s proposals would use passerelle clauses to strip the requirement for unanimous agreement in the EU Council of Ministers on laws on pan-EU taxation, reducing the requirement to Qualified Majority Voting, with the Eurozone having a permanent qualified majority. Ireland’s enthusiasm for the EU may well be diminished if the EU uses this to force through a common corporation tax against its protestations.

More sinister are the proposals for new rules on the financing of political parties and foundations, with the EU vowing to stop “filling the coffers” of parties deemed to be “anti-European extremists”. If the Commission is allowed to be judge, jury and executioner over which parties it deems to be “anti-European extremists”, this opens the door to the very worrying situation of the Commission being able to strangle the funding of its critics. Would UKIP be considered “extremists”? Would even the Conservatives be deemed too “anti-European”? There are indeed extremists across Europe who need to be challenged and have their ideologies debunked, but this is no way for an executive to operate in a supposedly democratic system.

Juncker calls for the EU to take a “democratic leap forward”, but there will be precious little democracy involved in the implementation of these proposals if he gets his way. As is the EU modus operandi, agreements will be hammered out via back-room deals and horse trading before being waved through by the overwhelmingly integrationist European Parliament.

Naturally, the only part of Juncker’s speech which garnered any real attention in the UK was his two lines on Brexit, which he described as a “very sad and tragic moment” that the EU would always regret, before an unscripted line (supposedly aimed at Nigel Farage seated in the front row) that Britain would soon come to regret it as well.

If anything, Juncker’s speech today simply served to underline that the most regrettable aspect of Britain’s departure is that it will no longer be there to act as a counterweight to the relentless ideological drive to centralise as much power in the upper reaches of the EU institutions as possible.

Brits left in Brussels, including the excellent Syed Kamall, continue to make the case for an EU that does less and does it more effectively. There are others around Europe who are also making the case for the EU to be slimmed down, not fattened up, but their voices will be that much weaker once the UK’s is gone.

Britain’s moment of departure has rightly come, but if Juncker and his cadre of federalist zealots seize this opportunity to pursue this misguided drive towards EU statehood for its own sake, and to the exclusion of sensible policy decisions which actually work in the best interests of European citizens, sadly it will be the people of Europe who ultimately end up paying the price.