Call for Juncker to quit af­ter Bri­tish re­jec­tion

Smaller coun­tries blame ‘neg­a­tive’ pres­i­dent’s plan for more EU fed­er­al­ism for Bri­tish vote to leave

The Daily Telegraph - - Front Page - By Peter Fos­ter EUROPE ED­I­TOR and Matthew Hole­house in Brus­sels

Jean-Claude Juncker, should re­sign as a re­sult of the Brexit vote, a Czech min­is­ter claimed yes­ter­day. He said the pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, who has re­peat­edly called for “more Europe”, was a “neg­a­tive sym­bol” of the fed­eral Europe that Bri­tish vot­ers had re­jected.

JEAN-CLAUDE Juncker, should re­sign as a re­sult of the Brexit vote, the Czech for­eign min­is­ter said yes­ter­day, as di­vi­sions over the di­rec­tion of Europe emerged in the re­main­ing 27 EU states.

The pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, who has re­peat­edly called for “more Europe” to fix the bloc’s mount­ing crises, was a “neg­a­tive sym­bol” of the fed­eral Europe that Bri­tish vot­ers had re­jected, Lubomír Zaorálek said.

“He is not the right per­son for that po­si­tion,” he told Czech tele­vi­sion, voic­ing the fears of smaller states that Bri­tain’s de­par­ture could leave them at the mercy of more EU in­te­gra­tion. “We have to ask who is re­spon­si­ble for the re­sult of the ref­er­en­dum in Bri­tain.”

As Brus­sels di­gests the loss of one of the world’s largest economies and the risk that pop­ulist anti-EU par­ties will de­mand ref­er­en­dums, of­fi­cials from the 27 states met in the Bel­gian cap­i­tal yes­ter­day to dis­cuss how to put up a united front at this week’s EU sum­mit.

The UK will be point­edly left out­side the room on Wed­nes­day as “the 27” con­sider mea­sures in­clud­ing deeper se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion and anti-ter­ror­ism plans, to show they are “deter­mined” to stay to­gether, EU of­fi­cials said. How­ever as the Czechs and small coun­tries warned against “in­te­gra­tion ini­tia­tives” and called for so­lu­tions to prac­ti­cal prob­lems, France and Ger­many dis­cussed plans for se­cu­rity struc­tures which crit­ics call an “EU army”.

They are likely to be seized on by anti-EU par­ties, with Aus­tria’s far-Right Free­dom Party yes­ter­day warn­ing an EU cen­tral­i­sa­tion agenda would trig­ger de­mands for more polls.

“If a course is set within a year fur­ther to­wards cen­tral­i­sa­tion in­stead of tak­ing [the EU’s] core val­ues into ac­count, then we must ask Aus­tri­ans whether they want to be mem­bers,” said Nor­bert Hofer, its can­di­date who missed be­com­ing Aus­tria’s pres­i­dent by less than one per cent last month.

There is also grow­ing aware­ness that grand projects are be­ing re­jected by anti-EU par­ties across Europe, such as France’s Na­tional Front whose leader Ma­rine Le Pen is ex­pected to play a ma­jor role in next year’s pres­i­den­tial poll.

Try­ing to put a less in­tru­sive face on the EU, main­stream French politi­cians have called for a re­duc­tion of Mr Juncker’s “big Europe” agenda. “We must put an end to this sad and finicky Europe,” said Manuel Valls, France’s prime min­is­ter. “Too of­ten it is in­tru­sive on de­tails and des­per­ately absent on what’s es­sen­tial. We must break away from the dogma of ever more Europe.”

Such re­form calls have not been able to con­ceal deep splits in Europe on eco­nomic pol­icy, with debt-rid­den south­ern states, in­clud­ing Italy, de­mand­ing an end to Ger­man-backed aus­ter­ity.

Italy’s prime min­is­ter Mat­teo Renzi used the Brexit vote yes­ter­day to de­mand more bud­get flex­i­bil­ity to stim­u­late growth. “Aus­ter­ity poli­cies are cloud­ing the hori­zon. They have turned the fu­ture into a threat. They have given fear a push,” Mr Renzi wrote in an Ital­ian news­pa­per, ar­gu­ing that Brexit had been born in part out of a col­lapse in UK man­u­fac­tur­ing.

“With­out growth, there are no jobs. With­out in­vest­ment, there is no to­mor­row. With­out (bud­get) flex­i­bil­ity, there is no com­mu­nity. Europe is not fin­ished. It only needs to be lib­er­ated from re­sent­ment, bu­reau­cracy and my­opia.”

Ger­many has in­di­cated it will not let Italy or France use the Brexit vote to make it al­ter eco­nomic pol­icy, opt­ing in­stead to fo­cus on the far less con­tentious com­mon se­cu­rity agenda.

Mr Renzi is due in Ber­lin to­day to dis­cuss how the EU re­acts to Brexit, putting on a united front with Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel and French Pres­i­dent François Hol­lande. EU of­fi­cials said there was at least agree­ment among the 27 that Bri­tain, in its cur­rent po­lit­i­cal cri­sis, was in no po­si­tion to in­voke Ar­ti­cle 50 and trig­ger exit talks.

De­spite Mrs Merkel hint­ing there was no hurry, sources in Ber­lin and Brus­sels said this did not im­ply a “way out” for the UK. “Politi­cians in Lon­don should take the time to re­con­sider the con­se­quences [of Brexit],” said Peter Alt­maier, her chief of staff. ”I em­phat­i­cally do not mean Brexit it­self.”

Jean-Claude Juncker ‘not right for the job’

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