Lord Hill has to run the gauntlet of the European Parliament endorsement hearing. They will want him to be loyal to the Treaties Conservatives have opposed, loyal to a federally inclined Commission which we oppose, and keen on the project of ever closer union which the UK cannot accept. He will doubtless use language to get through his test which will upset Eurosceptics.
As Commissioner he will lead a split life. One part of him will have to judge, decide and discuss policy and actions from a federal viewpoint, carrying out the wishes of the majority in the EU. The other part will have to remember that the UK wants none of this remorseless drive to greater union and has different interests and a different viewpoint. It’s becoming an impossible job, as the UK slips away from the EU in mood and rhetoric.
He has to help the UK government secure him a decent job within the Commission. I think there is too much emphasis on this issue. Many of the EU Commission jobs are important because the EU now has so much power. The UK Commissioner is only going to be able to do one of them. Within reason it does not matter that much which it is.
Thereafter, what matters is how strongly and well our Commissioner represents the UK case. Whilst under the theory of the EU he has to swear an oath for the great good of the EU and co-operate with the federal drive of the institutions, in practice he will be judged at home by how well he defends the UK’s interest and prepares for the UK renegotiation. He is unlikely single handedly to turn the rest of the EU round to the UK’s view that it should be a trading arrangement and not much else. Instead he should concentrate on getting a new relationship for the Euro permanent outs as the greater Euro zone presses on to political union.
Of course, were Labour to win the Election rather than the Conservatives, his brief from the UK would change. I think whoever governs the UK after 2015 will be forced to seek a new relationship, but Labour will not offer a referendum so they have taken away the UK’s main negotiating card that any new relationship has to pass a public test of acceptability.