Juncker has reacted angrily to Cameron's opposition

The man David Cameron is determined to stop from becoming next president of the European Commission, Luxembourg's Jean-Claude Juncker, has delivered a stinging attack on the prime minister suggesting a legacy of resentment towards the UK may be the lasting result of the battle.

In a bitter sideswipe at Cameron, Juncker told a meeting in Brussels he would "not be forced to get on my knees before the British" and attacked the UK media for seeking to dig up "dirt" on him.

His angry comments, in a closed meeting of the European parliament's dominant EPP grouping of centre-right parties, were leaked to the Guardian newspaper and came after Cameron toughened his stand against his candidacy suggesting Britain could "drift towards the EU exit" if it went ahead.

And, as EU leaders started considering the possibility of a compromise woman candidate, the name of former Labour leader Neil Kinnock's daughter-in-law, Danish premier Helle Thorning-Schmidt, was being mentioned in Brussels.

She is married to Kinnock's son, Stephen, and is famous for taking a "selfie" with Cameron and president Obama during a memorial service for Nelson Mandela.

Helle Thorning-Schmidt dances with Neil Kinnock PIC: Reuters
Thorning-Schmidt is married to Stephen Kinnock

Whether the glamorous Social Democrat would be acceptable to Cameron, or would rally enough support from the centre-right EPP in Brussels is uncertain.

The prime minister's opposition to Juncker is based on the fact he is an old-style federalist who Cameron believes would resist reforms of the EU and damage his chances of renegotiating Britain's relationship with the Union ahead of his promised 2017 "in-out" referendum in which he will head the "in" campaign.

He is also eager to prove to his rebellious eurosceptic MPs that he is ready to fight for British interests and adopt a tough, uncompromising attitude.

It is exactly that approach, combined with his early and public rejection of the favourite candidate, that has pointed towards a potentially poisoned relationship between the government and the rest of the EU in future negotiations.

The first casualty of that may be current Commons leader and former health secretary Andrew Lansley who has hinted he is being lined up for the job as the next UK Commissioner in the EU, saying he would accept the post if Cameron offered it.

If the prime minister's attitude towards the presidency sours relations with the new Commission it seems certain Lansley would be denied one of the big portfolios in the EU, so further limiting Britain's power and influence.

So far the key figure, Germany's Angela Merkel, has played a characteristically careful game, insisting Juncker is her candidate but also leaving the door open for another.

And it appears the suggestion of having the first woman president may gain some traction, with Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaità also being mentioned.

However there is a long way to go before the decision is taken and Cameron must fear that, unless a compromise is agreed, the issue may be forced to a vote in Brussels which he would very likely lose.