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Schadenfreude – Subsidiarity and national parliaments having the right to veto EU laws

Allowing national parliaments to veto European Union legislation at will would bring the European project to a ‘screeching halt’ but, perhaps, that is the intention of those proposing the move. Our secret columnist in Brussels Schadenfreude takes a close look

Let’s talk common sense. You simply cannot have a parliamentary veto over past and future legislation of the European Union. The notion is inherently absurd.

The past would have no fixed existence. At any time of the day or night, some parliament could come along and say that x was cancelled, even if x was in widespread use. Total confusion. As to proposed regulation if every parliamentary body in the EU had to agree ‘in toto’ it is blindingly obvious that pressure and interest groups, some of them contradictory, and political cabals would ask for this or that or the other and a ragbag of amendments and counterproposals would emerge.

Effectively – the EU would come to a screeching halt, which is perhaps the intention. There is a workable alternative. Already the European Commission informs all parliamentary bodies of draft proposals. They are asked if the draft complies with the requirements of ‘subsidiarity’.

Subsidiarity is a doctrine that concerns whether a proposal or a practice is being applied at the lowest possible level, closest to the citizens affected by it. You do not expect local authorities to have a defence policy. You do not expect central governments to run lending libraries. It is a difficult doctrine, partly because it has not been fully worked out.

No matter. When parliaments are asked whether a draft proposal complies with subsidiarity, they could also give an opinion on whether it is acceptable in the form presented; and could, if they were able, explain how the proposal might be modified. The commission would consider, without prejudice, whether and how the weight of parliamentary opinion could be respected.

Not everybody would be satisfied but politics works on the greatest good for the greatest number. Purists would say that this would need a treaty amendment. Perhaps in due course but until then it could work on the basis of ‘best endeavours’.

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