About Nick Boughton
Just a nerdy web and systems developer on the webbertubes. I make silly things and play D&D.
I’ve seen a lot of arguments about the EU referendum and two that I keep seeing brought up by the Leave camp are the idea that the EU is undemocratic and the concept of ‘taking back’ sovereignty.
Let’s address the question of democracy first.
Is It Democratic, Nick?
The structure of the EU is no less democratic than that of the UK; in some ways it’s more democratic.
At the top you have the Council of Europe which is made of the heads of state of each member state. All of whom are democratically elected.
Next there’s the EU comission. The commission is just a civil service with civil servants from every member state that are appointed by each of our governments. This no less democratic than how our own civil service operates. All the commission does is make proposals. It has no power to force laws through or make any kind of binding change.
Then you get the EU parliament which is made up of elected MEPs from every member state. The EU parliamentary elections use proportional representation which means that it is much more representative and democratic than our own broken FPTP system for electing MPs. A system that allowed the Conservatives to form a majority Govt with only 24% of the eligible vote and 36% of the actual vote. That would have been impossible if we had a proportional system.
Laws and regulations proposed by the EU commission must be passed by the EU parliament before they can become law and the parliament has complete autonomy over whether it chooses to amend and pass or reject these proposals. This is very much like our own parliament with the added bonus that MEPs can actually claim to have a democratic mandate.
Finally once any EU law or regulation is passed it is up to the member states as to how they implement it and they have complete autonomy in how they do so.
The sovereignty argument is one that doesn’t really hold water when you apply a little reason to it. The idea that leaving the EU will somehow free us up to discard troublesome EU legislation and regulation from our system might sound attractive in a ‘truthy’ sort of way but there are two problems with this argument:
Regulatory burden? What regulatory burden?
We have the second lightest regulatory burden in the OECD. (see the graph? yeah.)
Y’all got any more of that trade?
Leaving the EU won’t free us from EU regulations if we want to continue trading with the EU. The requirements for access to the common market are fairly well known; one only has to look at Norway and Switzerland.
Adherence to EU product/trade regulations and laws.
Paying into the EEA (like we currently do but without the £8bn rebate we have at the moment).
Acceptance of the free movement of labour (that means no border controls for EU citizens).
So what changes if we leave but want to continue trading with the common market? Nothing. In fact we lose out massively to the tune of £8bn per year, we would have no say in the regulations we would have to accept and the EU subsidies that currently keep the North of England afloat vanish. Does anyone really believe that the Tories will pick up the funding bill for supporting regions outside of London? I certainly don’t.
Leaving the EU would change little with regards to our sovereignty, absolutely nothing with regards to EU immigration and it would cost us £8bn per year more than it currently does, at the very least.
The EU is a project for peace and prosperity, a grand experiment to ensure that there is never another major war in Europe and it’s working. It’s not perfect, there are parts of it that very much need reform but it’s working.
I don’t see any benefit to us in leaving but I do see a lot of potential problems. Not least of all is that it would give the Tories carte-blanche to strip us all of our rights and turn us into a carbon copy of the US with no paid sick or parental leave, no protections for pregnant workers, and no recourse against predatory employers. It’s the EU that guarantees those rights and an unrestrained Tory govt is something we cannot afford to allow.
If we vote to remain now and things get bad, we can always leave in the future. But if we leave now there’s a very real chance we won’t be able to re-join.
And if we do leave right now we’ll be putting our country into the hands of people like Boris Johnson and Michael Gove and Nigel Farage without the EU to stop them from destroying our public services, selling off our NHS and making serfs of us all.
And that’s not a future I want to be a part of.
The EU as an institution is big and bureaucratic, I’m not going to argue against that but it isn’t all that undemocratic and in some ways it’s more democratic than our own system. There are definitely areas that need reform and improvement both at home and in the EU but we can’t change the club if we’re not a member.
The EU guarantees us a great many things, our rights at work, clean beaches, environmental protections, freedom of movement just to name a few and I have no faith in our current Govt that we would keep any of those things in the event of a “Brexit” (I hate that word).
And so I’m voting Remain because I do believe that we’re stronger in Europe and if we want to reform the EU and make a better future for all Europeans then we need to be part of the project.
But don’t just take my word for it. Have a listen to this guy: