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Cameron's 'victory' on new EU boss

David Cameron appeared to win the first skirmish in the battle to pick the leader who will shape Europe's future.

During late night talks in Brussels, the Prime Minister made clear he would not back the front runner vying to take the European Union's top job and other leaders agreed they should look around for more candidates.

Jean-Claude Juncker, an EU veteran with federalist ambitions, had arrived in Brussels signalling he wanted immediate official backing to succeed Jose Manuel Barroso as European Commission president later this year.

But the PM indicated he was opposed to the move and sources said there was 'willingness and encouragement' for rivals be found.

A defiant Mr Cameron issued a stark warning to EU counterparts that Brussels is "too big, too bossy, too interfering".

In a thinly-veiled swipe at Mr Juncker, who has been nominated as the candidate of the European People's Party grouping - the block the PM previously pulled the Tories out of over its federalist sympathies - the premier stressed the importance of securing a presidency contender focused on openness and flexibility instead of one bound up in the union's past.

Although Mr Cameron cannot formally veto Mr Juncker it is unlikely that the European Council, made up of the EU's 28 national heads of government, would force through a new president without unanimous backing.

Mr Cameron told reporters: "Europe cannot shrug off theses results. We need an approach that recognises that Europe should concentrate on what matters, on growth and jobs and not try and do so much.

"We need an approach that recognises that Brussels has got too big, too bossy, too interfering. We need more for nation states. It should be nation states wherever possible and Europe only where necessary.

"Of course we need people running these organisations that really understand that and can build a Europe that is about openness, competitiveness and flexibility, not about the past."

Ukip leader Nigel Farage earlier claimed there was "nobody more fanatical about building the United States of Europe" than Mr Juncker and insisted his candidacy has come "just at the moment that the European electors have made it clear they are going in the wrong direction".

The gathering of 28 leaders also focused on the political earthquake which saw Ukip top the polls in Britain, the far-right Front National come first in France and the extreme-left Syriza movement take top spot in Greece.

The Eurosceptic Five Star movement came second in Italy and the anti-euro Alternatives won seven seats in Germany - although broadly pro-European parties still dominate the parliament.

A No 10 source said: "Clearly the leaders around the table want to take the time to ensure they find the right people to drive the change that's needed over the next five years so they've agreed that Van Rompuy should hold further consultations with heads of government."

Herman Van Rompuy is President of the European Council.

Greek commissioner Maria Damanaki said the EU needed the UK to remain a member.

She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We need the UK. We cannot afford for the United Kingdom to go away. Because this can be the start of a process that can end up with the dilution of the whole EU.

"Free movement of people is a milestone in European ideas. I don't think we can change the principle but in this framework there is a big margin for national governments to take the proper measures.

"The time is absolutely critical. Nobody here thinks we can go on with business as usual. So the message is received by everybody."

She called for a "better Europe, closer to its citizens" by finding solutions to the real problems of unemployment, poverty and social cohesion.

"These are the issues that led to this eurosceptic, sometimes europhobic, vote so we need an action plan here. This is what we have to focus on," she added.

"We need to find common ground."

Frank Field, who chairs the cross-party group on balanced migration, called for an end to the free movement of people and insisted there needed to be limits.

He said it was not necessarily a case of leaving the EU but negotiating on key issues for reform ahead of a referendum.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "What we ought to be drawing up in this country is what I would call the red and blue lines - the minimum negotiations that we want.

"Certainly the free movement of labour is part of that but also how law is interpreted and developed by judges way beyond what was originally envisaged.

"There are a whole range of issues I think we need to get clear for serious negotiation... Then those negotiations do need to be put to people in a referendum.

"If those negotiations go well, I think people will vote to stay. If they look as though the skirmishes were not serious at all in these renegotiations, then there is a possibility we might actually look for a much looser association.

"I'm not arguing there should be no movement... but when we signed up to this it was a treaty between countries with a very similar standard of living. Therefore there wasn't much movement because there wasn't much point.

"If you then extend that to countries which may have only a sixth of the value of the standard of living we have in this country, you risk huge movements of labour.

"If you look at what has happened since 1997, we have had something like four million people come, a million in London. That is the equivalent of the whole of Birmingham without any attempts to build the roads, the schools and so on.

"It is not about it's too late to close the door, people are actually concerned about this, do want a say in this and do want their politicians to reflect their views."

The Labour MP for Birkenhead also said it was not simply a British issue but one common to a number of other European states he hoped the UK would work alongside.

But Petros Fassoulas, chairman of European Movement UK, said attempts to end free movement should be rejected.

Also speaking on the programme, he said: "The free movement of people produces benefits for this country.

"If we stopped immigration tomorrow, our national debt would go through the roof. Twenty-five billion pounds per year are contributed to our economy because of all the EU citizens who come here, work and pay taxes."

He added that he thought the existing limits were strong enough, adding: "The right to move freely is dependent on your ability to go and find a job... EU law allows member states to limit the numbers... They are not loose, they are quite stringent.

"Most of the people coming to Britain, it is short-term immigration. They come in, they do their job and they go back home again."

He also warned against entering into an era of "politics of blame" and said there would be shortages of schools and pressures on the health service regardless of immigrants.

He said there are around two million British citizens living around the EU.


From Belfast Telegraph