Politics

‘You shouldn’t have treated UK like that!’ Viktor Orban blames EU and Juncker for Brexit

Jean-Claude Juncker reflects on EU’s Maastricht Treaty

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The firebrand prime minister questioned the decision to appoint Jean-Claude Juncker as the European Commission’s president in 2014 despite protests from London. Mr Orban suggested it was a big mistake to treat a member state – that is also a nuclear power and one of the bloc’s previous security guarantors – with that much contempt. Asked how Brexit should have been avoided in a radio interview, the Hungarian replied: “I’ll give an example: when the British prime minister wanted someone other than Jean-Claude Juncker to be the President of the European Commission, the majority voted against that wish.

“You can’t behave like that with one of the world’s largest economies, a nuclear power and a member of the Security Council.

“Was it worth it?”

Mr Juncker, a former Luxembourg prime minister, became the bloc’s top official in 2014 despite opposition from David Cameron.

The then prime minister was strongly opposed to Mr Juncker’s belief in ever closer political union between EU member states.

He believed the Luxembourger was “too federalist, too old school and not the sort of person to deliver reform in Europe”.

Mr Cameron held talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to attempt to scupper the appointment.

He also spoke with then Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, EU Council president Herman Van Rompuy and outgoing Commission boss Jose Manuel Barroso on the issue.

Despite the former British PM’s attempts to block Mr Juncker’s appointment, the Luxembourger was eventually handed the EU’s most powerful role.

Of the EU’s then 28 leaders, only Mr Cameron and Mr Orban voted against Mr Juncker.

In his personal memoirs, Mr Cameron recounted how the stitch-up had help fuel euroscepticism in Britain.

He wrote: “Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg, was particularly dismissive of British concerns.

“As a finance minister, he’d been there at Maastricht when the journey to monetary union began.

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“He’d been there when we refused to join the euro.

“He always pushed and pushed for more powers for the EU.

“Often the smallest nations get the biggest hearing, and here was the proof: the leader of a tiny country, with a population the size of Manchester’s, trying to sideline the interests of the biggest financial services exporter in the world.”

Mr Cameron eventually held the historic in-out referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.

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After that historic vote, there was no love lost between Mr Cameron and Mr Juncker.

The Luxembourger branded the Briton “one of the greatest destroyers of modern times” and said the former prime minister had banned the EU from playing any role in the Brexit referendum campaign.

“We were forbidden from being present in any way in the referendum by Mr Cameron, who is one of the great destroyers of modern times,” Mr Juncker said in 2019.

“Because he said the Commission is even less popular in the UK than it is in other EU member states.

“If we had been able to take part in this campaign, we could have asked – and also answered – many questions that are only being asked now.”

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