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Wednesday 17 July 2019

Late yesterday afternoon, Ursula von der Leyen was approved by the European Parliament as the European Commission’s new President, she was the sole contender. Her margin of victory was just 56 in the 700+ seat chamber. Incumbent President, Jean-Claude Juncker had a cushion of 307. She’s about as popular as Juncker is sober, who lest we forget was hardly flavour of the month, his passage to the top job was tortuous.

The irony however is that the new Commission President is indebted to the European Parliament. In 2014, Juncker was MEPs’ choice for the job so he was free to do virtually as he pleased. Von der Leyen has been imposed by the EU Member States – including Theresa May, whom Emmanuel Macron pleaded with for her support, presumably without Brexit guarantees in return– which meant Angela Merkel’s longstanding ally has had to promise everything and anything to the majority of the Parliament’s factions. This will be a major cause for concern for the UK if we stay tied to Brussels for much longer, the EU’s only directly elected institution is avowedly pro integration.

Granted, there are Eurosceptic MEPs, who make admirably loud noises of disdain, particularly British ones, but they’re a minority. Ultimately, MEPs are drawn from the elites, and the Continent’s elites lust after European integration.

For every Nigel Farage, there are two MEPs of the complete opposite disposition who are slotted into influential positions, a case in point is fanatical federalist Guy Vehofstadt who acts as the chief Brexit coordinator. Almost all MEPs recognise the sanctity of the EU’s embarrassing anthem and most importantly, like any institution it has a tremendous appetite for power, which it can only satisfy through more Europe, not less.

The equally federalist European Commission exploits the gap between the national interests of the member states and the ragingly pro-integration Parliament to fatten out EU regulations with additional red tape and restrictions. Note, Mrs von Der Leyen is herself utterly devoted to European integration.

She also wants her chance to make her mark on Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. If Boris Johnson honours his promise, he’ll deny Germany’s former defence minister that opportunity by taking Britain out of the Europe the day before she starts her new job, but that hasn’t stopped her from laying out ambitions for yet another extension.

“I think Brexit is not the end of something, but it’s the beginning of a new relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom,” von der Leyen told Sky News.

“So we should be very careful how we deal with each other.”

“And secondly it is very difficult to have Brexit. Therefore I said when there are good reasons, an extension might be possible.

“Because we should do everything not to have a hard Brexit.”

She went onto say that a renegotiation would be possible if Britain changed its red lines. What planet is she on? The concession days under May are over. Britain is leaving on Halloween, deal or no deal.

That’s the reality. Someone who recognises as such is Britain’s heavily pro-EU former Ambassador to Brussels, Ivan Rogers.

Speaking before the Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday, Rogers admitted that Britain was always on a separate course out of the EU, watch the clip here.

For all her faults, von der Leyen appears to recognise this too so let’s get on with it and get out.