President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker has dealt David Cameron a reprieve yesterday by giving the financial services portfolio to Conservative peer Lord Jonathan Hill.
Cameron, who opposed Juncker’s appointment earlier this year, had made no secret of his desire for a strong economic portfolio to bolster the UK’s influence in Europe. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman hailed the appointment as a positive step towards Britain’s hope of reform within the EU.
Hill, a former education minister who has also worked in public relations, is widely thought of as a political quiet man with a talent for negotiation. He replaces Catherine Ashton as the UK’s commissioner in Europe and will take on the brief overseeing financial regulation and market stability.
Reacting to the news yesterday, business groups in London were broadly pleased with the announcement.
Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, said Hill’s new job was “greatly welcome”, adding: “This is a significant economic portfolio– particularly given President Juncker’s pledge to create a capital markets union.”
He added: “Entrusting this commitment along with financial services to a UK Commissioner is a clear demonstration that British influence in Brussels is far from waning.”
Labour’s shadow Europe minister Gareth Thomas called on Hill to “start repairing broken alliances and building bridges with partners across the EU.”