Theresa May is facing a possible backlash over her Brexit deal as rebel MPs from both major parties could be poised to vote it down. Today, the Government published the full legal advice on the Withdrawal Agreement after two years of strenuous negotiations with Brussels. A key player in those negotiations was Jean-Claude Juncker who, according to Tim Shipman, was lucky to get the job in the first place.
In his 2016 book, “All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain’s Political Class”, Shipman recalls how Juncker almost failed in his run for the presidency.
On June 27, 2014, the European Council officially proposed Juncker as presidential candidate.
For the first time ever, the nomination was not by consensus as the European Council voted 26-2 in favour.
Voting against were then Prime Minister David Cameron and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
However, Shipman claims that Mr Cameron was betrayed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Mr Cameron had sought Angela Merkel’s backing when he blocked Juncker’s appointment and initially “he thought he had it”.
However, Shipman notes that Sir Ivan Rogers, then Britain’s Permanent Representative to the EU, warned Mr Cameron that Mrs Merkel “might betray him again”.
Sir Ivan added: “Even though you think Juncker is a clown, it could end up being him.”
Mrs Merkel had betrayed Mr Cameron over EU policy before, of course, and she was to do it again.
That evening, Peter Altmaier, her chief of staff at the German Chancellery, made a deal with Martin Selmayr, the German Commission insider who later became Juncker’s chief of staff, to ensure that Juncker got the job.
Shipman recalls that, while this was going on, Downing Street spin doctors “briefed stories about Juncker drinking whisky for breakfast” and when Mr Cameron demanded a show of dissenting hands the following day, just one rose alongside his own – that of Viktor Orban.
This was instrumental not only in its impact on Mr Cameron’s negotiating position at the summit but also in his referendum hopes later in the year.
As one aide told Shipman, the former Prime Minister’s team “suffered because they were seen to fail to prevent him [Juncker] from taking the role”.