Sure, the EU’s democratic deficit blights the accountability and legitimacy of all it does. But are national politicians and domestic systems really the panacea UKIP pretends them to be? Our secret columnist in Brussels Schadenfreude finds out
Pro and anti-European Union encounters such as the British double header between UKIP leader Nigel Farage and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg rotate around two words – democracy and law-making. For UKIP maintains correctly that x per cent of laws are made in Brussels and incorrectly that this is a denial of democracy. Pro-EU figures such as Clegg dispute the figure and each has documentary evidence to support their contention.
They both miss the point. Why? Laws are made in Brussels. But they are not made by UKIP’s favourite hate-figure, the unelected bureaucrat. Bureaucracy proposes. The proposals are then taken apart first by elected representatives of governments, also known as ministers, meeting in conclave and acting, usually, by consensus.
Second, MEPs elected by voters in each member state take the legislation through similar accountability and scrutiny processes using the voting procedure adopted by their national parliament. The European Parliament acts by majority vote, which is what democracies do.
There is then a dialogue between elected national ministers and elected parliamentarians. It is democracy at every turn. So all the talk about ‘rule by Brussels’ and about how many laws are ‘made in Brussels’ – not to mention the ‘sacrifice of the democracy, which we gave to the world’ – and such-like is no more than eyewash.
Of course, it is of the essence of democracy that you do not get all you want. Almost half the voters in an election do not get the government they wanted to elect. Which is why Sir Winston Churchill said in the House of Commons in November 1947: “Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms which have been tried from time to time.” We live in an imperfect world – UKIP and the Lib Dems should not claim otherwise.
Sure, the EU’s democratic deficit blights the accountability and legitimacy of all it does. There is much room for improvement in terms of engagement with the citizenry. But are national politicians and domestic systems really the panacea UKIP pretends them to be? If so, why have voter turnouts declined solidly for decades to the point where 40 per cent of people prefer not to visit the ballot box on the day of a general election in the United Kingdom? These are issues of great complexity and neither Nigel nor Nick should be allowed to get away with citing simple answers as silver-bullet solutions.