The Weekly Vulcan View | Analysis of Latest EU Developments 17 – 21 June

Key Events This Week

Can Boris be hunted?
After five rounds of voting, multiple hustings and two televised tv debates, Conservative MPs have chosen Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt as the two candidates who will go before party members in a bid to become the new Leader and most likely, the next Prime Minister. The elimination of International Development Secretary Rory Stewart and Home Secretary Sajid Javid gave Jeremy Hunt a much-needed boost over Michael Gove with the Environment Secretary bowing out of the leadership contest in what was his second attempt at securing the top job in three years.

Both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt will now spend the next four weeks travelling throughout the UK in a bid to woo over 100,000 Conservative party members who will ultimately decide the fate of the next leader. The first of 16 formal hustings of the party’s membership will get underway tomorrow, Saturday. With four out of ten members over the age of 65 and a party membership that is overwhelmingly in favour of leaving the EU including in the event of no deal, Boris Johnson is the overwhelming favourite to be declared the victor with an official result expected on July 22nd.

However, while it will be all change at Conservative HQ and at No. 10 Downing Street, it’s unlikely that there will be any material changes in the Brexit negotiations. EU leaders have continuously reaffirmed their position throughout the leadership campaign that regardless of takes over from Theresa May, there will be no reopening of the Withdrawal Agreement. Everything has changed but nothing is different.

EU summit ends without agreement on top jobs
Leaders from the EU met in Brussels for a two-day summit in a bid to nominate the next president of the European Commission, as well as fill other key political posts. Negotiations over the top jobs have proved particularly complex in the aftermath of the recent European elections which resulted in the centrist coalition of the EPP and Socialists losing their majority for the first time since elections to the European Parliament were held. Tensions over the appointment of the next Commission president have been particularly evident between France and Germany with the former resisting the candidacy of EPP president Manfred Weber who is the preferred choice of Berlin. These concerns were echoed by the Renew Europe group on Thursday which highlights the difficulties facing the EPP nominee. With talks last night ending in disagreement, EU Council President Donald Tusk has reconvened a new summit for June 30th in a further attempt to break the impasse.

While an array of outcomes is still possible over the coming hours and days, the EPP may have no choice but to settle on controlling the Presidency of the European Council. Former leader of the German Social Democrats Sigmar Gabriel has come out in favour of Chancellor Angela Merkel succeeding Donald Tusk. While Merkel has so far muted such talk of taking up the role, at least publicly, momentum is growing behind her candidacy which would also likely be acceptable to Paris. Other candidates such as Michel Barnier, Frans Timmermans and Margrethe Vestager are seen as the front runners to replace Jean-Claude Juncker in the Commission.

The summit, which concluded earlier today, also involved discussions on the EU’s strategic agenda for the next five years, the forthcoming EU budget, climate action as well as broader international affairs.

Speaking after a meeting in Brussels with the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar noted that there was “enormous hostility” among his fellow leaders when it came to the question of a further extension to Article 50.

Renew Europe and Socialists select new leaders
Renew Europe, the new name for the liberal group in the European Parliament, elected former Romanian Prime Minister and EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Cioloș as its leader. Cioloș had won the endorsement of French President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance delegation along with Ciudadanos, the Spanish liberal party. He was elected with 64 votes against the 42 votes cast for Dutch MEP Sophie in’t Veld, who had the endorsement of Britain’s Liberal Democrats. Swedish MEP Frederick Federley dropped out of the race to lead Renew Europe after it was clear Cioloș had the support necessary to win.

Renew Europe is a joint venture of French President Emmanuel Macron, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the leader of Ciudadanos, Albert Rivera as well as former members of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), including the current group leader, Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt. The Belgian, who had been the longtime leader of the group up until this week’s election, has his eyes on the bigger prize of President of the European Parliament.

Meanwhile, the Socialists elected Spanish MEP Iratxe García as their new leader, a day after Udo Bullman, the incumbent and her only rival for the job, quit the race. With 20 seats, her Spanish Workers’ Party (PSOE) is the largest national delegation in the S&D. García has been an MEP since 2004 and has said she would support Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans’ bid for the Commission presidency. García has called for a ‘feminist, diverse and democratic Europe’, and urged Socialists to speak with one voice.

DATES AHEAD
Tuesday 25 June – General Affairs Council (Luxembourg)
Tuesday 25 June – Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council (Luxembourg)
Wednesday 26 June – Environment Council (Luxembourg)
Friday – Saturday 28-29 June – G20 Summit (Osaka)
Sunday 30 June – Meeting of European Council (Brussels)

Compliments of Vulcan Consulting, a member of the EACCNY