Jean-Claude Juncker has stunned Britain by thrusting the olive branch of peace firmly in our faces. In a surprise move, the incoming EU Commission President has appointed a British peer as the commissioner responsible for the EU’s financial services sector.
If he survives the often aggressive European Parliament hearing for new appointees, Tory Lord Hill will take the helm on issues ranging from bankers’ pay and regulation to developing Europe’s ‘capital markets union’ to reduce dependency on banks.
The appointment will be welcomed in Westminster, where there has been concern over the EU’s expansion into financial regulation, particularly the issue of the bankers’ pay cap. The British government has previously clashed with Europe over financial issues, as it seeks to protect London’s position as one of the world’s great financial centres (aw, isn’t that nice?).
The choice of Hill is clearly intended to placate David Cameron, who’s had a beef with Juncker ever since the latter’s campaign for the Commission Presidency. The obscure peer is a long-standing ally of the Prime Minister and shares is background in PR. He has promised to renegotiate Britain’s EU membership and hold an in-out referendum on the matter if the Conservatives win next year’s election.
It’s possible, though, that Juncker’s efforts to woo the Conservatives away from a European exit have been prompted by another referendum altogether. If the left-leaning Scots leave the UK, what’s left will be a far more Eurosceptic nation. Juncker would do well to watch the Scottish independence campaigns more closely, however. Attempts to buy off voters with political concessions don’t appear to be working all that well.