UK’s New Government Makes Brexit More Likely as Cameron Names Party Functionary as EU Commissioner
The UK’s new EU Commissioner, Jonathan Hill, is a Conservative Party fonctionnaire of long-standing. He worked for the Conservative Party in the early 1980s after getting a good degree in history at Cambridge. He speaks some French but says he prefers living in England. Three weeks ago he denied categorically that he was a candidate to be European Commissioner (http://bit.ly/1pQTrNy)
He was the special adviser to the ultra pro-European Tory politician and minister, Ken Clarke, during the Thatcher government and then went to work for John Major in 10 Downing Street. He described the difficulties Major had with his party over Europe as like ‘being in a medieval torture chamber.’
His background at the Conservative Party Research Department where he worked with David Cameron and with Cameron’s chief of staff, Ed Llewellyn, as well as working with Cameron and Llewellyn for the Party in the 1990s meant he had friends in high places.
Hill is a likeable go-along, get-along political bureaucrat who has never sought elected office. He spent his time in public relations working for Tory-linked public affairs consultancies after 1997. His friend, David Cameron, named him to the House of Lords in 2010, as a junior minister in the education department. Peers were surprised when Cameron promoted him to be Leader of the House of Lords, thus a member of the UK cabinet.
A senior peer said : ‘Jonathan Hill is very polite and friendly and goes out of his way to get on with everyone. Otherwise he is a bit of a nonentity with no sense of being a political executive who can get things done or take big decisions.’
It is hard to establish his exact ideological position and he has no strong known views on Europe. He comes from the same background of elite, private-school educated Conservatives as David Cameron and Ed Llewellyn. These are not hardline ideologues but want to keep the Conservative Party in power adapting to the times and national mood as necessary.
Unlike a Peter Mandelson or in earlier times Mrs Thatcher’s bull-dozing single market Commissioner, Lord Cockfield, there is little expectation in London that Lord Hill will have much impact in Brussels or achieve anything in whatever Commission post Juncker allocates to him.
The Prime Minister has removed nearly all the identifiable pro-Europeans out of his cabinet. His new Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, has openly said he can contemplate Britain leaving the EU.
Another European but non-EU issue is the Conservative and press hatred for the European Court of Human Rights. Cameron has sacked a senior lawyer politician, Dominic Grieve, from the post of Attorney General. Grieve had always made clear he would resign if Britain sought to leave the ECHR and Council of Europe. Now Grieve has gone the demand that ‘foreign judges’ (that is from the ECHR) should stop dictating to Britain can now be made more stridently by Conservative anti-Europeans.
All the women Cameron has promoted to ministerial rank are known Eurosceptics. In fact, it is impossible to identify a conservative minister left in the British government who has said anything friendly about the EU since entering political life.
The new Cameron government can be fairly described as a Brexit government and if Mr Cameron remains as prime minister after May 2015 with his referendum pledge the chances of Brexit have just risen higher.