Ursula von der Leyen – Poor UnfortEUnate Souls

With Ursula von der Leyen about to be confirmed as Junker’s successor by yet another EU stitch-up, Guido brings you a musical combination with her namesake. Surprisingly similar characters…

EU Commissioner Hints Withdrawal Agreement Could Be Changed

Speaking to Nick Robinson on The Today Programme this morning, EU Commissioner Věra Jourová gave a strong hint that the Withdrawal Agreement could be altered in the future. Saying she would be “very careful” in her answer, she said the decision whether or not to alter the deal in order to avoid a ‘No Deal’ scenario that would hurt both sides would be for the next EU Commission president. She would only commit to the Withdrawal Agreement being the only deal on the table “for the moment”. Given a credible threat of No Deal, the EU is looking like it could move…

European Presidential Debate Highlights

Last night Maastricht played host to this year’s first Spitzenkandidaten presidential debate between the leaders of the pan-European parties vying to win the most European Parliamentary seats next month and become President of the European Commission, succeeding Jean-Claude Juncker. Naturally the person almost certain to be installed as the next president of the Commission, Manfred Weber, declined the invitation to the debate and another candidate, Oriol Junqueras missed out because he’s in prison in Spain…

Despite the UK leaving the rapidly federalising bloc, the entire debate was conducted in English. The language of Brexit…

Strangely, none of the pro-EU parties in the UK were getting involved in this seismic political event that will determine who holds supreme executive power over the United Kingdom for as long as we are members of the European Union. No tweets from the Tiggers, the Green Party, or the Liberal Democrats. Lord Adonis was seemingly too busy tweeting political cartoons to get involved. Why are the Remainers so keen to hide away the reality of the European Project..?

Those household names vying to become your next president are:

  • Manfred Weber – EPP (Christian Democrats)
  • Frans Timmermans – S&D (Socialists)
  • Jan Zahradil – ECR (Conservatives)
  • Guy Verhofstadt – ALDE (Liberal Democrats)
  • Violeta Tomic – GUE-NGL (Hard Left)
  • Bas Eickhout – Greens (Greens)
  • Oriol Junqueras – European Free Alliance (Pro-EU Separatists)

It’s almost as if the Remain parties think that highlighting the centralising realities and foreign voices of the EU might not be all that popular…

EU Broke “Letter and Spirit” of Law in Scandalous Appointment of Juncker’s Monster to Top Job

The EU Ombudsman has delivered their final verdict on the utterly scandalous appointment of Juncker’s “monster” Martin Selmayr to the top job in the European Commission, concluding that “Selmayr’s appointment did not follow EU law, in letter or spirit, and did not follow the Commission’s own rules”. So much for the EU’s “sacred legal order”…

The Ombudsman “identified four instances of maladministration” in the handling of Selmayr’s appointment as Secretary-General and described the Juncker Commission’s failure to follow official recommendations on opening up the appointment process as “highly regrettable”, adding that “the Ombudsman looks forward to its implementation by the next Commission”. Barely a tickle on the wrist, let alone a slap.

Last December the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for him to quit. Naturally Selmayr has no desire to give up his corruptly obtained post and has ignored them. If a scandal of this magnitude had happened in a functioning democracy Selmayr would have been forced to resign in disgrace. Instead he is still the top dog in the EU’s most powerful institution…

UPDATE: The European Commission have put out a statement in response saying they “take note” of the Ombudsman’s verdict and that Selmayr “fully meets all the demanding requirements for the job” and is going nowhere. Rotten to the core…

US Ambassador to the EU Calls EU ‘Utterly Obstructionist’

American Ambassador to the European Union and former businessman and financier Gordon Sondland has told Politico that he finds the EU to be ‘utterly obstructionist’ on negotiating freer trade between the two blocs. Accusing the EU of deliberately stalling trade negotiations, Sondland said that his joke today is “if I ask someone at the EU what time it is, the answer is ‘no’.”

Having dealt with the EU now for more than half a year, his verdict is cutting…

“The Commission in particular is out of touch with reality. They are off in a cloud, regulating to the heart’s content — and regulating some things that don’t even need to be regulated, because they haven’t even occurred yet — while stifling growth and innovation.”

Better off out.

EPP Delegates Ignore Barnier

The centre-right EPP group are meeting in Helsinki to, among other things, select their lead candidate for Commission President who will be a shoe-in to replace Juncker next year. British Conservatives can chuckle that despite having left the group some years ago, proceedings are still conducted in English, the world’s global language…

Despite Barnier being almost deified by pro-EU politicians in Britiain, he was largely ignored by his fellow professional politicians. Darren MacCaffrey is live tweeting from the conference hall:

Brexit Chief Negotiator says he doesn’t have time for a joke or a long speech – as clock is ticking on Brexit. Wide ranging speech on future of EU which suggests he may will still have hopes of getting Juncker’s job… The most extraordinary thing about Barnier’s speech, literally NO-ONE is listening, I mean NO-ONE!!! Most people talking amongst themselves or went off to vote. Actually felt very disrespectful… He did not hold the room… And look at this… Manfred Weber having his picture taken right in front of Barnier – as he talks, as he struggles to hold the room

Merkel walked off halfway through to talk to @ManfredWeber and @alexstubb. The MC had to plead with delegates to sit down and listen to speeches after Barnier came off stage.

Ignored by allies from across the EU, no-one listening to him, disrespected, Manfred Weber and Merkel doing their own thing. Now Barnier knows what it feels like to be British…

EU Deletes Footage of Juncker Insulting Italians and Denies He Said It

The European Commission attempted to delete footage of Jean-Claude Juncker insulting Italians from its video service and his spokesman has tried to deny he called the country workshy and corrupt. Speaking at a Q&A yesterday, Juncker said:

“Italians must take care of the poor regions of Italy, which means more work, less corruption, seriousness. We will help them as we have always done, but do not face the game of discharging responsibility with the EU: a country is a country, a nation is a nation, countries first, Europe second.”

He also called for an end to “Russia-bashing”. When the Guardian reported Juncker’s words, his spokesman lied: “I do not understand that the president has used those words on Italy”, claiming they had been taken “out of context”. Full context here. The video of Juncker speaking was then removed from the European Commission audiovisual services website. It was later restored and Juncker’s comments were condemned as “unacceptable” by the Italian president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani. 

This comes a day after German MEP Markus Ferber sparked outcry after threatening that the Troika could “march into Rome and take over the finance ministry”.

Which in turn came a day after the EU Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger was forced to apologise after suggesting that the financial markets would show Italians they cannot vote for 5Star and League.

You can see why Remainers have been so quiet about how the EU has been behaving towards Italy over the last few days…

EU Escalates Probe into Juncker-Selmayr Cronyism Scandal

The EU standards watchdog is escalating its investigation into the scandal-hit rise of Jean-Claude Juncker’s loathed sidekick Martin Selmayr, who was this year made Europe’s top civil servant. Juncker sparked outrage in Feburary when he parachuted his political Chief of Staff into the hugely powerful role as Secretary General of the European Commission. There were rumours that commissioners’ support was bought. EU civil servants revolted over Selmayr’s lack of experience – the German lawyer, who has never worked in even the most junior official role, is now in charge of 33,000 non-political staff. Concerns were also voiced that Selmayr’s appointment entrenched German bias at the top of the EU. Moreover, it was another predictable appointment in the pale, male and stale world of EU bureaucracy… 

In dramatic developments, the EU Ombudsman has now ordered Juncker’s office to disclose documents relating to the appointment of Selmayr, as well as answer questions over the appointment. A letter from the Ombudsman to Juncker states:

“All documents, whether in electronic or paper format, including correspondence, notes, memos, emails, and all legal advice, from 1 September 2017 until 18 April 2018, relating to the appointment of the new Secretary-General. This should include documents sent from Commissioners to their cabinets, documents within and between cabinets, as well as documents between Commissioners/cabinets and the Commission services.”

The Ombudsman is investigating multiple complaints that the appointment “did not comply with the EU Staff Regulations and with principles of good administration.” Juncker will have to answer questions over the process and propriety of the appointment…

The European Parliament already conducted its own investigation which concluded the appointment: “could be viewed as a coup-like action which stretched and possibly even overstretched the limits of the law”. UKIP MEP Jonathan Bullock said: “Even die-hard Europhiles are waking up to the fact that there is something rotten at the heart of Brussels. Junckers answers will be interesting; and to think that remainiacs want us to cling to this devious, corrupt organisation.” Trouble ahead for Jean-Claude…

Commission Confirms ‘Legally Binding’ Row Confected

Once again it falls to Guido to point out the nonsense being pushed by Remainers today. The latest “row” confected by pro-Remain elements of the media claims David Davis committed some heinous gaffe by noting that last week’s deal is not strictly speaking legally binding. Today’s Times leader accuses DD of “undermining” the deal, taking the Guy Verhofstadt line that his comments “undermined trust”. Except, as with everything Verhofstadt says, this isn’t based in reality…

Yesterday a spokesman for the European Commission confirmed the deal is “formally speaking not legally binding”, and that it was merely an agreement “between gentlemen”. In other words Davis was right. Even the Remainers’ preferred legal expert Gina Miller agreed that it isn’t legally binding on Marr on Sunday. Davis and Verhofstadt have spoken this afternoon to agree to “get it converted into legal text as soon as possible”, something which has to be done because it isn’t binding in its current form. Guido is sure someone at the Commission could explain this slowly to the Times’ Brexit-hating leader writers…

Barnier Eats His Words

Monsieur Barnier was very catty and undiplomatic about David Davis and Britain’s negotiating team in new European Commission minutes released this morning. Barnier is quoted as “observing that the United Kingdom had not really engaged in the negotiations or spelled out its positions” (which is obviously untrue). He says DD “did not regard his direct involvement in these negotiations as his priority” (eh?). Juncker then “questions the stability and the accountability of the UK negotiation and his apparent lack of involvement”. More good-natured behaviour from Brussels…

Barnier seemed a bit embarrassed by all this in his press conference this lunchtime. In fact he (predictably) completely ate his words, praising Davis’ “professionalism” and “the competence of whole of the UK team”. He added a very different review of DD’s work: “I think his attitude is perfectly logical”. Make your mind up…

Juncker’s Junkets: Commissioners Spent €500,000 on Travel in Two Months

The eye-watering travel bill racked up by unelected European Commissioners was finally made public today after campaigners waged a three year battle to access their expenses claims. The hard-won disclosure reveals the 28 Commissioners spent almost half a million Euro on visits during the first two months of 2016 alone (the only period for which documents have been released). A dossier of claims submitted by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker includes an astonishing €27,000 bill for a two-day trip to Rome on a private jet. A good wine list no doubt…

Juncker, based in Brussels, also claimed nearly €2000 for a one night trip to Berlin (a single ticket on a budget airline costs around €25 Euro). He even claimed for minor excursions despite his €324,377 (£275,275) salary: he was paid €48 in ‘daily allowances’ to attend a meeting in Germany with Martin Schulz. Wonder what that went on…

The data, which can be viewed thanks to a campaign led by Access Info Europe, shows the Commissioners enjoyed 261 official trips in January and Feburary 2016. Britain’s former Commissioner Jonathan Hill spent €422 on food and drink and €1017 on hotels during a two day trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Tax-payer funded extravagances included splurging on ‘air taxis’ – chartered planes – by foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, who spent €75,000 in a single trip to Azerbaijan. Christos Stylianides, the commissioner for humanitarian aid, claimed €11,000 for a trip to Somalia and Turkey. Makes a change from using planes owned by lobbyists…

Despite the embarrassing release, the Commission still has the brass neck to resist further disclosures covering the remainder of 2016, saying this would impose an “excessive administrative burden”. For three years the EU has tried to block transparency on Commissioners’ expenses at every turn. Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe, said:

“Giving 120 requesters only two months’ worth of expenses data is a token gesture…The real cost here is not the cost of processing data, but rather it’s the cost to the credibility of and trust in the European Commission when it refuses to publish basic information about the spending of taxpayers’ funds.”

Thankfully the British taxpayer will no longer be funding Juncker’s junkets…

Juncker: European Parliament is “Ridiculous”

Guido could have told Jean-Claude that years ago…

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