Friday, 21 October 2011

Who do we want to be governed by? The EU?

The following comment was made on Liberal Conspiracy (and my comment is reproduced and enhanced below):

“The real ponit though is who we want to be governed by. I think our parliament and courts should be supreme in our country, yet we have a situation where our vote is watered down time and time again in Europe. We only get to directly elect our MEPs, but they are near enough powerless. The actual levers of power we have absolutely no say in. Did anyone on this site vote for Herman Van Rompey, or anyone else in the European Commission? Wasn’t Baroness Ashton simply appointed?”

The real point is how astoundingly people misunderstand representative democracy (and why it's better than direct democracy). Lets just break this down…

Who do we want to be governed by, or rather who don't we want to be governed by? For EU-sceptics it's "Not the EU" because "UK matters should be dealt with by UK government". But where do you stop with this? Why do I get represented by westminster? Why haven’t I got a regional South West government that negotiates on policy with the rest of the UK while maintaining an agreed trade system between regions? Why not town? Why not street level crime policy?

I’m not going to claim one level over another is correct, because it is arbitrary. There are countries in the EU with governments that preside over less of a population than my local constituency, this doesn’t mean that my constituency should be an autonomous EU member state, nor does it mean those small countries shouldn’t be.

You think our parliament and courts should be supreme, yet there is no discernible reason why they should be other than through some kind of nationalistic pride. To argue that the parliament should be supreme is also to argue that a town council should supersede the authority of parliament. If you don’t argue this it’s only because you’ve chosen your own personal and subjective limit of where to draw the line on where authority should reside. But it is just that, subjective…arbitrary.

Our vote is not “watered down” in Europe, it is proportionate. Sure, it may become less strong as more people join the representative party, but it’s still a fair vote. There is no reason why the UK should be getting more favourable treatment than other countries when it comes to european wide trade and regulatory agreements. We already dislike that potential for a German and French bonus from the on going "crisis talks" yet we also want to give ourselves an unfair edge?

To talk of MEPs as powerless is ridiculous. There are about as many MEPs as there are MPs in this country. Do you believe that MPs are powerless in this country? They have got more and more power as treaties have been amended, taking more and more away from the less accountable Council of Europe (or at least requiring that both arenas agree). Again, to state that MEPs are pointless is to state that our MPs are pointless, the model is entirely comparable.

Then we come to the crux of the whole representative democracy thing. For a start you’re overly simplistic on the realities of the “election” of the president of the council of Europe. The European council is every head of state for those in the EU, and has the responsibility for political objectives. It is therefore entirely democratic that heads of state (either directly elected, or indirectly elected) then go on to “elect” their own president, in this case through a unanimous decision by all heads of state.

In essence the president of the EC has one of the best mandates of any politician in the world through representative democracy. And yes, Ashton was also “appointed” but only by in practice getting a majority of “votes”.

It’s time to start thinking a little bit more maturely about the EU (or perhaps to simply start thinking). In the UK we elect an MP who does little but bring our concerns to parliament as a very influential lobbyist (at least if a member of the ruling party), and has a small say on implementation of policy. That MP then helps decide which party wins, and that party democratically decides who will lead them. All the EU does (outside of the situation of MEPs, which is exactly comparable to MPs), for the purposes of European wide political direction, is then extend that party (through their leader) to be our voice amongst other nations. It’s not an alien concept, and it’s readily embraced in this country within our own borders.

So who do we want to be governed by? We decide by who we vote for to decide the policy direction of the country, and therefore what type of policy direction we want to take on to be considered in Europe. If we have a problem with how we’re governed in the EU then we better tear up what constitution we have with our own national governance and try again, because if the EU is not working then neither is our own democracy here at home. They are, after all, as close to being identical models of representation as can be.

Finally...is it really worth all this fuss? The EU probably influences about 15% of all of our laws, a far cry from interfering in everything that we do in this country, and doesn't even consider how much the UK has a say in how EU laws that affect that 15% are created either.

Again, to go with the tact above, is it wrong that national government imposes as much law as it does over the South West? Over individual towns? Streets? At what point do you say "These people, with our involvement in a proportionally representative system where I get a fair say, have no right to tell me what to do" and why?

If one of the best arguments EU-skeptics have is that they don't feel why they should be governed by the EU, then it's their duty to say why we should be governed specifically by Westminster instead, and not one of the other many ways we could provide governance for ourselves. Just don't be surprised if those reasons don't have anything other than desires and "feelings" to back them up.