Fiscal compact: The plan to swap Ashton with Barnier
9 March 2012
“Backroom Brussels revealed – the secret deal to save the City from Barnier,” headlines the Financial Times, after it emerged that UK and EU officials drew up a deal last December to install a UK commissioner as Europe’s top financial regulator in order to tempt British PM David Cameron into backing the EU’s new fiscal treaty.
According to several senior officials privy to the talks, the political bargain involved Michel Barnier, the French commissioner for the internal market and scourge of the UK Treasury, replacing the UK’s Baroness Ashton as the European Union’s foreign policy chief.
The London daily reveals that the reshuffle plan was developed with the team of Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, but enthusiasm waned due to fear that the European parliament would resist the move. A spokesman for Barroso, however, has denied the plan, saying the EC president “never had and never does have the intention to propose this change”. This said –
… several people involved say the Commission reshuffle was a serious and credible option during the intense diplomatic activity before the December summit. The British “were handed Barnier’s head on a plate”, one person said.
The Financial Times notes that –
The removal of Mr Barnier would have been cheered by many in the City and Westminster but some UK officials concluded that it would have amounted only to a temporary reprieve. Mr Cameron instead tried and failed to ensure that permanent guarantees to protect financial services were written into the new treaty.