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How the Right and British Eurosceptics have responded to last night's new EU appointments

Picture 24 In what is a most rare occurrence, the Daily Mail and the Guardian agree on a headline to cover the story of the appointment of the EU's new President and High Representative - "The Great EU Stitch-Up".

So how have the appointments of Herman Van Rompuy and Baroness Ashton been received by the Right and the wider Eurosceptic Movement?

Last night I noted the reaction of Shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague:

William Hague happy "We congratulate Herman van Rompuy and Cathy Ashton on their appointments. We wish them well. We will work with them in the British national interest. We did not agree with the Lisbon Treaty’s establishment of these posts but they are now a fact. We look to the President of the Council and the High Representative to ensure that the EU’s business as an association of nation states is conducted efficiently.

“So I am very pleased that those of us across Europe who said that the President should be a chairman, not a chief, have won the argument. Gordon Brown spent a great deal of energy and political capital trying to secure the presidency for Tony Blair. The summit’s result is a defeat for him. Now that Britain will no longer have an EU Commissioner with a major economic brief it will be vital that the British Government, whichever party is in power, engages closely with the EU Commission to ensure that it keeps to a pro-growth agenda.”

Timothy Kirkhope Timothy Kirkhope, Leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament, questioned Baroness Ashton's legitmacy, according to the BBC:

"We now have someone who has never faced the British electorate in a post created by a treaty that also never faced the British electorate."

And speaking to the Daily Express, he says:

“Most Belgian politicians seem to love high taxes even more than chocolate, beer and frites so it is no surprise Mr Van Rompuy wants new EU-wide taxes set by Brussels. If the EU were allowed to raise its own taxes it would be the master of the national governments, rather than ­servant. I want the EU to go cap in hand to national governments every few years for its money so ­individual member states can better control the process of funding.”

Conservative MP and Better Off Out supporter, Philip Davies, was singularly unimpressed at the appointment of Mr Van Rompuy:

“Do Gordon Brown and the Labour ­Government have such little regard for our great country that they think we are only worthy of being governed by a Belgian autocrat? Had anyone at the time of Churchill or Thatcher advanced that theory, people would have laughed in their faces.”

John Redwood 2 John Redwood wrote on his blog:

"We are now told that a Mr Van Rompuy is to be President of the EU and a Baroness Ashton to be the first EU foreign Minister. We, the electorate paying their salaries, did not even know Lady Ashton was a candidate. We had no chance to cross examine Mr Van Rompuy on his shrill federalism. It is a rare sign of political skill by the EU over this whole ghastly Lisbon process that they are underselling these people and these roles, realising how incensed the UK – and many Eurosceptics elsewhere in Europe – are about this whole development. The words coming out of Brussels tried to play it all down, saying Mr Van Rompuy will be a chairman and administrator, not a proper President. However, at the news conference they could not keep it up when there were questions. The answer to who should the USA ring when it wants to rign Europe was answered by saying that they should ring Lady Ashton, the “EU’s foreign Minister”. So there we have it. The federalists rule."

Lorraine Mullally Lorraine Mullally, Director of Open Europe, issued the following reaction:

"This whole process has been a stitch-up and a perfect illustration of just how out of touch and anti-democratic the EU now is.  27 EU leaders met behind closed doors over a cosy dinner in Brussels to thrash out who will represent Europe's 500 million citizens on the world stage, without so much as a wink to voters as to what on earth was going on. After years of insisting that the Lisbon Treaty would bring the EU closer to citizens, how sad and ironic that the very first big decision was made after a secretive backroom deal which should have no place in a 21st century democracy. This has been EU politics at its very worst."

"Neither Herman Van Rompuy nor Catherine Ashton has any democratic mandate to speak on behalf of Europe's citizens.  Most people were denied a say on the Lisbon Treaty which created these posts, and now the jobs themselves have been filled without the slightest input from voters, nor even national parliaments. Neither candidate has explained to the public why they should get these jobs. And most people in Europe have never even heard of Herman Van Rompuy or Catherine Ashton, yet here they are to represent us in the global arena.  Surely Europe can do better than this? As for the politicians themselves, Herman Van Rompuy is a classic EU federalist who can be relied upon to quietly move EU integration forward.  Likewise, Catherine Ashton was instrumental in pushing the Lisbon Treaty through the UK Parliament, which gives a strong indication of the direction she wants to take the EU."

James Forsyth, Political Editor of The Spectator observed:

"Thinking from a Tory perspective, Van Rompuy is both an opportunity and a problem. He is an opportunity in that he makes the case for renegotiation, if this is the direction Europe is going we need opt-outs and safeguards. He is a problem in that his actions and views are likely to make Europe an issue when the leadership would rather park it for a while".

One concern which I am picking up from Tories in Brussels is that with Baroness Ashton taking up the “High Representative” role (whilst remaining a member of the European Commission), the UK will no longer have a Commissioner with a specific portfolio. In the forthcoming reshuffle of Commission portfolios, I gather that the two key roles up for grabs will be covering “internal markets” and “financial services”. The new Commission will have a wide remit for financial services which could have to restructure not only banking but also pensions and financial markets in Europe, and there is increasing speculation that those two portfolios will go to the Commissioners from France and Germany (see this article in Le Monde). The fear of some Conservatives is that those carrying out these roles will have a huge - and potentially negative - impact on the UK (and the City of London in particular) and that Gordon Brown should have sought to get a British nominee appointed to one of those posts rather than going for the High Representative role.

Update: Any further noteworthy reactions will be added below during the course of the day

Michal Kaminski Michal Kamiński, Leader of the Conservatives and Reformists Group in Brussels released this statement on Friday morning:

"I congratulate Mr Van Rompuy and Commissioner Ashton on their appointments. We will work with them to deliver in the best interests of the voters. These roles require people who are capable of negotiating between large and often conflicting interests in order to reach consensus. I believe that Mr Van Rompuy's experience in Belgian politics and Lady Ashton's stint as trade commissioner will serve them well in these roles. Naturally we are not always going to agree but I believe we have a President and High Representative with whom we can do business."

Daniel Hannan Daniel Hannan MEP is scathing about Baroness Ashton's record (or lack thereof):

"Lady Ashton is a lifelong quangocrat who has never once been elected to anything. She went from running a health authority to working at the National Council for One Parent Families to being a Labour life peer, to leading the Lords, all without facing the voters. She steered the Lisbon Treaty through the House of Lords, cancelling the referendum on it that all three parties had promised. She was then appointed to the European Commission because Gordon Brown wanted to avoid a by-election. Now, she gets the top job as a kind of compensation to Labour over the rejection of Tony Blair. Every chapter in the story is a denial of the democratic principle.

"As for the idea that the appointment of a Briton is somehow in the interests of the United Kingdom: why? Name one thing - one thing - that Baroness Ashton achieved in her 13 months as trade commissioner that benefited British interests. And, in fairness to her, she was simply abiding by the oath she swore on her appointment: “I do solemnly undertake to be completely independent in the performance of my duties, in the general interest of the Communities; in the performance of these duties, neither to seek nor to take instructions from any government or from any other body”.

Matthew Elliott 2 Matthew Elliott, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, says:

"The EU has made ignoring the people into an art form, and this cosy deal is typical of the organisation. Yet again, power is handed to unrepresentative and unelected indiviuals who cannot be sacked by voters. People are sick of pouring billions of pounds into Brussels, but Mr van Rompuy and Baroness Ashton will only make that worse. The last thing British taxpayers need is an enthusiastic federalist and an anonymous Peer squandering yet more of our money."

The Times's Daniel Finkelstein blogs:

"What makes Cathy Ashton's appointment "surprising" as she noted herself, is that she has little background in foreign policy. She has, I suppose, been trade commissioner for a year. But aside from that, her one demonstration of interest in international affairs was as an employee and later Treasurer of CND. I don't regard that as reassuring."

Jonathan Isaby


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