The career diplomat gave an assured performance and resisted any attempts to be dragged into the Brexit debate. He stressed that he would serve the general European interest, act independently and take no instructions from the British, or any, government. The most pointed questions came from UKIP MEPs who were incensed that he would take the solemn oath assuring his independence. “You cannot serve two masters” said Gerard Batten “so who will you side with if the EU and UK interest conflict?” Sir Julian replied that he was not here to defend the interests of the British government and when pressed later on how he saw post-Brexit security arrangements being organised, he repeated that he could not speculate on the outcome of the negotiations.
As a strong Remain supporter, Sir Julian emphasised his European commitment by making his opening statement in French. He appears to have convinced any doubters, with the Socialists welcoming his positive and professional performance and even the Greens saying he had done a god job. The Tory spokesman, Timothy Kirkhope, now Lord Kirkhope, called it a strong performance and Committee Chairman, Labour MEP Claude Moraes told journalist after the hearing that “he gave an intelligent, well-prepared and sophisticated performance.”
The Parliament will endorse his confirmation with a vote on Thursday and Sir Julian will take his place in the College as soon as the Council confirms his appointment.