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Cameron seeks EU reform backing

David Cameron will resume talks with German chancellor Angela Merkel and his Swedish and Dutch counterparts as he seeks support for his European reform agenda and the UK’s bid to block Jean-Claude Juncker from becoming president of the European Commission.

The Prime Minister is at the country residence of Fredrik Reinfeldt, where he was pictured being taken for a traditional row on a lake by the Swedish premier along with Ms Merkel and Dutch PM Mark Rutte before they sat down for discussions into the night over dinner about economic and institutional issues.

As he arrived for the pre-scheduled session, Mr Cameron said: “As the democratically-elected leaders of Europe, we should be the ones to choose who should run these institutions rather than accept some new process which was never agreed.

“I think that is important.”

The visit came as Mr Cameron’s position was bolstered by cross-party support, with Labour announcing that it would not back former Luxembourg Prime Minister Mr Juncker in his bid to replace Jose Manuel Barroso when he steps down after eight years in the autumn.

Mr Juncker is the candidate of the centre-right European People’s Party – the largest grouping in the European Parliament following last month’s elections – but is regarded in London as an arch-federalist and opponent of reform, whose appointment would make UK departure from the 28-nation bloc more likely.

Under the Lisbon treaty, the European Council – made up of the leaders of the member states – is supposed to “take into account the elections to the European parliament” in choosing a candidate for the presidency – who must then be approved in a vote of MEPs.

But Mr Cameron is seeking to secure enough allies to form a blocking minority in the Council against Mr Juncker under the qualified majority system, which gives added weight to the votes of bigger countries.

Labour has said its MEPs will not vote for Mr Juncker in the European Parliament, where the EPP is far short of an overall majority.

A party spokesman said: “The nominee for European Commission president is ultimately a decision for the European Council, including David Cameron.

“Labour will not support Jean-Claude Juncker as a candidate for president of the European Commission. Should Mr Juncker be put before the European Parliament, Labour MEPs would vote against him.

“The message from the European elections was clear – that we need reform in Europe. We need reform so we can promote jobs and growth.

“Mr Juncker’s record shows he would make these reforms more difficult.”

The issue of candidates for the EU’s top jobs was not on the formal agenda for the talks in Sweden, but they were likely to be discussed in the margins of the meeting.

This morning’s session is due to concentrate on wider policy issues, including the crisis in Ukraine.

The regular weekly Tuesday meeting of Cabinet will be held back until the afternoon to allow the Prime Minister time to return to the UK.

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