Democratic EU - ePepys
22nd Jun 2016
10:06 pm - Democratic EU
(Sorry for the long post. Summary: the EU is no less democratic than the UK.)
One undecided lady invited me in for a longer discussion. She seemed to be swinging towards Remain, and maybe I helped nudge her a bit further.
Her main worry was the oft-stated democratic deficit in the EU. This seemed to be the most common concern of the day (in East Oxford, even those flirting with Leave have better reasons!). My argument (far from original) was that the referendum isn't on whether the EU is well run, but whether we would be better off (in all senses) in or out. If we are in, we can push for improvements - as we have (occasionally) chosen to do in the past (with some success). If we are out, we still have to live next to/trade with/negotiate with our neighbours, but with much less influence on them.
But, thinking about it subsequently, I'm not sure that the EU is much less democratic than the UK. Compare the institutions:
The executive (EU Council; UK Prime Minister) are both chosen indirectly by Parliament. In the UK, we usually know which Prime Minister we are voting for (but maybe not if Boris takes over), and he is our chief representative on the EU Council. He chooses his UK Cabinet, who have specific responsibilities in the UK and on the EU Council.
Civil Service leadership (EU Commissioners; UK Cabinet Ministers): both appointed by the EU/UK executive. In the EU (but not the UK), the parliament can reject Commissioners. Other civil servants are apolitical. (By the way, the total number of EU civil servants is ~1/10th the number of UK civil servants.)
Parliaments: The EU parliament is directly elected by proportional representation. The House of Commons is directly elected, though not proportional to the total vote. The House of Lords is (mostly) indirectly elected (appointed for life by the elected government/opposition). In the UK, most laws are proposed by the Government, but in practice this is the Civil Service (under direction of the PM and Cabinet Ministers). Similarly, in the EU, all "laws" are proposed by the Commission. In both cases, the law must be approved by the parliament. The UK parliament can also initiate legislation, but "private members' bills" rarely pass.
There are some differences between EU and UK in the balance of power between the different branches. On the other hand, I think a Council of (qualified) equals is more democratic than a single prime minister, and a proportionally elected parliament is better than the (distinctly less democratic) mess we have.
Of course in the EU, it's not just the UK that has a say, but that's just a function of its larger size. If you object to that, then maybe I can ask for an independent Peoples' Republic of Oxford East.
The last argument (also made by my canvasee) is that fewer people vote in EU elections, and often they reflect national issues. The same could be said for UK local elections, but in any case, this is an argument for better voting in EU elections, not voting to leave the EU. It's hardly democratic to vote (once) to remove voting forever.