London: June 28, 2014 – MIL/ NDTV - David Cameron’s failure to defeat naming Jean-Claude Juncker as the new European Commission president risks pushing Britain out of the EU unless he builds bridges to secure reforms before a 2017 referendum, experts say.
The British prime minister suffered a serious blow to his credibility by losing his fight against Juncker, a veteran EU insider, and Cameron admitted it made the job of keeping Britain in the European Union harder.
Many in Britain — where a long history of euroscepticism reached new heights with the victory of the anti-EU UK Independence Party in last month’s European Parliament elections — currently support his stance against Juncker, who is seen as too much of a federalist.
Some 43 percent of voters believe Cameron was right to try to block Juncker’s appointment, against 13 percent who said he was wrong in a Financial Times/Populus poll released this week.
And Cameron could still achieve the major EU reforms he wants, including repatriation of some powers, depending on how he reacts now, according to analysts.
“The Juncker episode is clearly a substantial defeat for David Cameron, and without remedy, increases the risk of Brexit (a British exit from the EU),” said Mats Persson, director of the London-based think-tank Open Europe.
“However, it is far from the end of the story for sweeping European reform.”
British newspapers were unanimous on Saturday that Cameron’s defeat had increased the risk of the country leaving the 28-nation bloc, with The Times warning on its front page, “Britain nears EU exit”.
But they were divided on whether Cameron or Brussels was to blame, with several saying he was right to stand in “splendid isolation” on a matter of principle.