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Analysis

Farage as Commissioner? EU will really be quaking in its boots

by Hugo Dixon | 06.10.2019

The latest desperate idea to prevent a delay to Brexit is to threaten to sabotage the EU budget and make Nigel Farage a European Commissioner. It won’t work.

The Sunday Telegraph splashes with the story today. It says senior government figures are considering sabotaging the EU if Brexit is delayed. It quotes Steve Baker, the hardline Tory who runs the European Research Group. He says appointing Farage would be like shooting a “nuclear weapon into the heart of an asteroid”. It adds that Boris Johnson could veto the EU’s next budget.

If this really is the government’s plan, it is hopeless stuff. It would indicate that the Prime Minister has virtually given up his promise to be “dead in a ditch” rather than delay Brexit beyond the end of the month. Otherwise, why would the government be threatening all sorts of terrible things against our European friends? 

In fact, the threats are not credible.

The hardline Brexiters have latched onto the possibility that the European Commission would not be legally constituted unless it had 28 Commissioners. Normally, one is proposed by each member state. If Johnson imposed Farage, the EU would be quaking in its boots – or, at least, that is the theory.

The flaw is that the UK can only propose a Commissioner, not impose one. If Johnson suggested Farage, the prospective new European Commission President could say no. Even if she didn’t, the European Parliament might veto the appointment.

But there is an even better way of foiling such a plot. Our own Parliament could pass a law instructing Johnson whom to propose as a Commissioner. The easiest solution might be to suggest Julian King, the highly respected former diplomat who currently does the job.

What about Johnson vetoing the EU budget? Here, it is important to distinguish between the annual budget and the next seven-year one. The UK can’t veto the annual budget, because such matters are determined by qualified majority voting. 

In theory, we could block the next seven-year budget,. But this is not due to be agreed until next June. The “Benn Act” only requires Johnson to ask for a delay to Brexit until the end of January.  Are hardline Brexiters now contemplating staying in the EU until June? That would be quite a volte-face. We won’t need that long even to hold a new referendum.

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Edited by James Earley

Categories: Brexit, UK Politics

10 Responses to “Farage as Commissioner? EU will really be quaking in its boots”

  • Johnson and his equally odious cronies appear determined to make enemies of people who are our friends. We need to be rid of them ASAP.

  • Para 10 is indeed critical. Why should any member-state want the continued participation of another member who had little or no interest in upholding the smooth running and future development of the EU? Hungary apart, I can see others – France is just one – who will seriously question whether to do so would be worth the candle. Quite regardless of the Benn Act, all member states will be in no doubt that it is the policy of the UK government to leave with or without a deal. This should concentrate minds over the next ten days.

  • The idea of proposing Farage as a EU Commissioner seems hard to believe. After all it would be an act of war by the UK government on the EU, hardly a way to conclude negotiations on the Withdrawal agreement and prepare for future Free Trade negotiations with our ex-most important trading partner.
    But such stories just demonstrate the nonsense which is disseminated in the nationalist press ( Daily Telegraph ) and the tabloids( Sun, Daily Mail etc. ) on anything to do with the EU ( and on many other subjects as well.).

    After all, the object is to sell the newspapers, is it not ?

  • I’m afraid this complete farce has been created by an unrepresentative parliament. The only possible resolution is a general election but the ultra remainers are terrified of national accountability.

  • Peter,

    If parliament is unrepresentative it is because of our electoral system. Personally I would prefer a system of proportional representation. However, it is the one we elected two years ago, so we aren’t due for another one until 2022.

    True it’s often accused of being a ‘remain’ parliament, which seems odd given that it was elected in 2017 by the same people whose will is apparently to leave. However, ultra-remainers or not (and it’s the first time I’ve heard Jeremy Corbyn called that) the opposition is not obliged to grant an election to the PM because he thinks he can win a majority by rushing it through before the end of October. That was the reasoning behind the Fixed Term Parliament Act in the first place.

    Most ultra-remainers that I know do however want a referendum, which suggests they aren’t that afraid. Leavers on the other hand hate the very idea.

  • Correct. They do want a referendum as long as a no deal Brexit is not an option therefore millions will boycott any such vote – I don’t consider that to be democracy.
    And parliament is not representative as the majority ran on a leave manifesto in 2017. Now we know their true allegiance a general election now should return a representative parliament. As I have said before if that returns a remain majority then people like me will have to accept a revocation of A50.

  • Dear Peter, the UK parliament is not unrepresentative; the government executive is. That is because Johnson was shovelled in after May’s failure by a 0.25% heap of those odious Tory party Brexiteers. That the government executive is unrepresentative is also indicated by the fact that they’ll do anything to keep an affirmative referendum, for the UK population to agree or disagree with what’s on the table re Brexit, off limits. That is because they know very well what the likely outcome will be. Which, obviously, is what really would be representative. Like so many Brexiteers the use of big words without knowing what the definition is, is rather rampant in your little piece mate.

  • Article 17 of the TEU says that: “The members of the Commission shall be chosen on the ground of their general competence and European commitment from persons whose independence is beyond doubt.” Farage could not therefore be appointed since his lack of European commitment is beyond doubt. Unless of course the EU decided not to follow its own rules as in the case of France’s budget deficit. Something tells me that this would not happen in this case. Call it intuition if you wish.