The European Union is not as democratic as it might be but it is still more democratic than the national parliaments of some of its members – including that of Britain. We choose who will represent us in Strasbourg and Brussels (the MEPs) via a fair voting system under which every vote counts. In Britain we have an unfair voting system and even a whole Upper House that is not elected at all!
The MEPs the 28 member nations choose are there to legislate. At any one time they can agree on policy to be implemented. So of course, as with our national Parliament, laws passed can be unpassed and decisions made can be modified or changed. That’s how democracy works. The Treaty/Constitution of the EU can be altered if the MEPs on behalf of their constituents agree collectively that it is right to do so.
One of the most important of the checks and balances is the application of the principle of “Subsidiarity” which says that decisions will be taken at the lowest level practicable. This is often national Parliaments but it could be at a lower level in the hierarchy. In Britain again we fall short of the democratic example set by the EU in that, apart from the Celts, we have no significant legislatures below Westminster. We fail the democratic test again.
We now have a bizarre situation where the British Government, the leadership of all our respectable political parties, virtually every one of our national institutions, the majority of our Members of Parliament, virtually every major Business (and more) acknowledge the necessity not just of remaining in the EU but in improving the effectiveness of our participation. And yet because of the Prime Minister’s need to try and hold his fractious party together (he’s failed) we have a preposterous referendum which could put our future at risk. And the war cry of the “outers” is all about improving our democracy by leaving when, as I have shown, the reverse would happen.
The quality of the debate so far has been dire. The attempts to reduce an immensely complex matter to soundbites has led to a simplistic shambles of a polarised shouting match - Jingoism and Nationalism battles scare tactics. Referenda do this and I agree with those who say that the referendum will come down to an instinctive choice (gut feel) in the polling booth. This is not an argument for a referendum, it is an argument against. We trust our Parliamentary democracy (flawed though it is) to take decisions for us - but not in this case. No matter it’s going to happens so let’s make sure the side of reason and real democracy wins it not the side of chauvinism and bigotry.