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David Cameron loses Brussels vote as exit from EU looms closer

Britain took another step towards the EU exit door last night as David Cameron warned that Jean-Claude Juncker's appointment to the top job in Brussels would make it harder to persuade the public to remain in the 28-nation bloc.

Mr Cameron's warning came after he suffered a humiliating defeat in his lonely battle to stop the veteran federalist becoming President of the European Commission.

At a Brussels summit, EU leaders voted 26-2 to nominate Mr Juncker after Mr Cameron demanded an unprecedented formal vote on a post traditionally settled by consensus. Hungary's Viktor Orban was the only leader to back the Prime Minister.

Asked if the setback had taken the UK closer to an EU exit, Mr Cameron told a press conference: "The job has got harder of keeping Britain in a reformed Europe. The stakes are higher. Do I think it is an impossible job? No."

The Prime Minister insisted he still believed the British national interest would be served by him recommending an "in" vote in the in/out referendum he has promised in 2017.

But after his embarrassing diplomatic defeat, he is under mounting pressure from Eurosceptic Conservative MPs to say he is prepared to urge an "out" vote and moved one step closer to that yesterday.

Mr Cameron described Mr Juncker's appointment as a "serious mistake" and said it was a "bad day for Europe", which had taken a "big step backwards". But he argued: "This is going to be a long, tough fight and sometimes you have to be prepared to lose a battle in order to win a war."

He insisted the summit had taken some small steps in the right direction – by promising to address Britain's concerns about the need for reform and to review the guiding EU principle of "ever-closer union".

The 28 leaders also agreed to rethink the process for choosing the next European Commission head in five years' time amid concern about a "power grab" by the European Parliament.

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