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EU leaders choose Juncker, despite UK opposition

Europe's leaders nominated Jean-Claude Juncker to the top job in the European Union on Friday, despite staunch opposition by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron.

A British official said the vote was 26-2 in favor of the former prime minister of Luxembourg. Just Cameron and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban opposed his appointment as the new president of the European Commission. He must now appear before European Parliament and a confirmation vote is scheduled for July 16.

The result - although not a surprise - has led some to criticize Cameron's public battle to block Juncker's rise to the top job.

While Cameron had a number of supporters in his opposition to Juncker, a career Eurocrat whose appointment Cameron argued would be "the wrong approach for Europe," he appeared to have alienated them by going publicly out on a limb over the issue, rather than pursue consensus.

Speaking at a press conference following the vote in Brussels, Cameron said it was a "bad day for Europe". He added that the Juncker decision had made him "even more determined" to reform the EU, as his appointment would risk undermining the position of national parliaments in the Europe.

'Wake up and smell the coffee'

The approach may have garnered praise among the sizable number of euroskeptics in the U.K., but it rankled a large part of the 28-strong EU.

Speaking ahead of the vote on Friday, Alexander Stubb, who took over as Prime Minister of Finland on Tuesday, told CNBC: "In the U.K. some people really seriously need to wake up and smell the coffee. The EU is a very good thing for the United Kingdom. Over 50 percent of the trade of the U.K. goes to the EU… if that is to be cut off, I think the continent will be cut off seriously."

However, he added that he believed the tensions with the U.K. were salvageable.

"David Cameron is a very principled man and he has felt strongly that Juncker is a little bit too federalist for his liking. But I think we can all make amends. I think we can all solve the situation," Stubb said.

Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sakorski expressed his views more succinctly in a taped private conversation which was leaked to the media earlier this week when he said Cameron had "f***ed it up."

As well as objecting to Juncker personally, Cameron also took aim at the process which looks set to bring the former head of the Eurogroup in.

Rather than being elected by direct democratic vote, Juncker will get in because he has the support of the European People's Party, the grouping of moderate right-wing EU parties which is the largest grouping in the European Parliament. Cameron's Conservative Party left the group in 2009.

Cameron runs the risk of appearing to simply pander to anti-EU voices within his own party, and to those voters who may be lured by the anti-EU UK Independence Party in next year's elections.

"No-one cares that much about who's going to be the President of the European Commission, it's a British-only obsession," according to Gilles Moec, chief European economist at Deutsche Bank.

"The problem really in the euro zone is that when you look at the sources of growth, most of it comes from domestic demand, and that's almost a mechanical reaction to the fact that fiscal austerity is a bit less painful."

Cameron has pledged to re-negotiate the U.K.'s relationship with the EU, but by neglecting the back-room diplomacy which usually accompanies such appointments, he may in fact have scuppered his chances of winning more concessions for the country from other EU leaders.

Fredrik Reinfeldt, Prime Minister of Sweden, told CNBC he shared some of Cameron's "complaints" about the process by which Juncker is likely to be elected.

"The program itself is more important than the actual person elected," he stressed.

Sweden is one of the U.K.'s natural allies in the EU, as it shares a relatively healthy economy and non-membership of the euro.

"He (Cameron) and the British people have friends inside the European Union. Maybe we should voice that a little more clearly," Reinfeldt said.

- By CNBC's Catherine Boyle

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