Brexiters have a constant refrain that we need our democracy back. It is true that democracy means different things to different people but I would contend that there is a general consensus that for a place to be democratic its laws must be passed by a representative body and that those representatives must be replaceable at elections.
Is the European Union democratic? No European law can be passed without the consent of the European parliament. The lower house of that parliament is elected directly by the people of Europe. Indeed it is more representative of the European people than the British government is in representing the British. Members of the upper house of Europe are appointed by their respective governments – not as democratic as it should be – but better than the British upper house of Lords which is simply appointed by our Prime Minister alongside people who got there simply by birth. So Europe is democratic.
Of course the more astute Brexiters might well say that okay Europe is democratic but we British are out-voted all the time by the other Europeans because there are 64m of us and 444m of them. This is true. However, Britain votes on the winning side 87% of the time – not 100% – that is far greater than your chance of electing the government of your choice in Britain which currently is stands at 37% (or 24% depending on your point of view). Britain has greater sway in Europe than you do in electing your British government. In fact, over twice the sway – pretty good odds if you ask me.
Brexiters say – but we want 100% and 87% is not good enough. Hang on – who is the we? Here in Elmbridge we recently voted for a new administration which is not Conservative. Yet we are still governed by a Conservative administration in Surrey. Do the people of Elmbridge suddenly claim that we fear being swamped by the rest of Surrey? Surrey has continually elected Conservative administrations for over century yet Britain has, on many occasion, been run by the Labour party. Does Surrey aim for Sexit? Leaving because you do not like the wider view is a possible decision. But if we are intent to apply this idea in relation to Britain and Europe why not equally apply to England and Britain or Surrey and England or Elmbridge and Surrey? Would we, the people of Elmbridge, leave Britain because we are often outvoted by the rest of the island? Of course not. There is no consistency to it – the “we” argument does not cut it.
Getting rid of the Government
Except in the recent Elmbridge elections we can only vote for a third of the councillors each year. It can take a number of years to change administrations. In some ways this is a good thing because the public mood at the time of a particular election would not overly affect the administration. In any case there is a debate to be had. Surrey has a general election every four years, Britain and Europe every five years.
Just as the people of Surrey can remove their government – though choose not to – the people of Britain and the people of Europe can get rid of theirs. In 2014 Europeans had the chance of removing the majority administration but did not do so. In 2015 the British had a chance to change their government and chose to do so. It’s up to the people.
In Europe the Conservative Party (74 MPs) and UKIP (46 MPs) are in opposition and the Labour party (190 MPs) and the Liberal Party (70 MPs) are in government. Perhaps that’s why UKIP and so many British Conservative MPs want to leave. Who knows?