How you are going to vote depends, of course, on whether or not you want your children and grandchildren to grow up under a dictatorship.
The Lib Dems are dead set on remaining part of the European Union, come what may; the Labour Party might yet be nagged into having a referendum on whether Britain should stay in or not, but we can’t be sure; David Cameron says he will renegotiate our terms (although he now knows there’s no possibility of this being successful), and then hold a referendum, but can you really trust ‘Cast Iron Cameron’ again? And then, of course, there are the Scots Nats, the startling new Scottish party which wants independence from the UK for Scotland, but would then be happy, if this were achieved, to bury its country within another, larger and less democratic union.
And ‘less democratic’ is a mealy-mouthed term, along with ‘democratic deficit’ or even ‘undemocratic’. What the European Union really is can be termed a ‘group dictatorship’.
There are a total of 766 in the EU Parliament, elected by various forms of proportional representation. Once elected, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) then sit, not in national blocks but in seven Europe-wide political groups which, as stated in the EU’s guide to its institutions (2005), ‘between them, represent all views on European integration, from the strongly pro-federalist to the openly Eurosceptic’.
So far, so democratic.
It is important to realise that unlike Westminster, the European Parliament does not consist of a proposing chamber, such as the House of Commons, and a revising chamber as in the House of Lords, but that decisions are only arrived at by various European institutions, the most important of which are:
The Council of Ministers
The EU Commission is the institution which will put forward all ‘regulations’ and ‘directives’ and a new EU Commission is set up within six months of every five-year election. According to the guide, the Commission is ‘independent of national governments and its job is solely to represent and uphold the interests of the EU as a whole, including the ‘ever closer [political] union described in Article 1 of the original Treaty of Rome’.
And it is here that democracy begins to falter.
To begin with, it is the member states’ governments which between them will agree – in secret – who is to be the new President of the Commission who will then, in discussions with the member states’ governments, choose the new commissioners, one from each of the states. But none of these commissioners, including the president, will be an MEP and none need have been elected to any organisation at all. Nor will the MEPs vote for them but will simply be expected to ‘approve’ them en bloc – and once again, in secret.
So, it is in the European Parliament that democracy really breaks down.
It is the European Commissioners’ responsibility to put forward new regulations or directives (or more simply, ‘laws’). Before doing so, they will consult up to 3,000 advisory bodies and working groups and will be expected to consider the views of the European Parliament – yet they are also entitled to ignore them completely.
The next step is to have them ‘considered’ by the European Council of Ministers, and each proposed law will be reviewed by the appropriate minister from each of the 28 member states. For instance, should the proposal involve finance, it will be each government’s Minister for Finance who will do so, and if it concerns agriculture, then it will be the Ministers for Agriculture.
Once agreed the proposed new law is agreed it will be sent to the European Parliament which will send them on for study to the particular committee of MEPs dealing with the subject involved. But in an attempt to speed up the legislative process, the commission will then ‘facilitate’ private discussions between the leading MEPs on the committee, civil servants and ministers representing the European Council in a process known as the ‘Trialouge’. But this, too, will go on behind closed doors and therefore compromises emerge which may have no resemblance to amendments suggested by the elected MEPs in committee.
Once the commission is satisfied that the proposed laws will be passed, they pass them on to the full Chamber of MEPs, known as the ‘plenary’, will usually have been given only a few hours’ notice of the final voting list. Each party will then be allowed a short time to put forward their views in Parliament but the speaking time is allocated amongst the Parliamentary groups on the basis of their size and group members are just given around one or two minutes, with even their leaders being restricted in the time they can speak. So, these cannot be termed ‘debates’, such as we see in Westminster, but are mainly ‘sound-bites’ designed for the media.
Then come the votes. But although a proposal can be won or lost on a simple majority of those voting in the plenary, given the scores of proposals and their amendments that can be brought forward for voting in one day, it is not surprising that there can be some spectacular mistakes. Especially as the voting is merely on a show of hands! In spite of this, should any vote be lost, this is not the end of the matter. It then goes to ‘conciliation’ during which the commission has another chance to broker a deal between the Parliament and the council. Once again, in secret.
For it is the EU Council of Ministers which makes the final decision on legislation. Most, but not all, EU laws are passed jointly with the European Parliament, although in some fields the council alone legislates but has to consult the Parliament. Once proposals are passed, the commission is asked to publish the resulting laws – directives and regulations – in the ‘Official Journal’ and sent to individual member states.
In Britain, these laws then go through Parliament in the sense that they are laid before committees which will ‘take note’ of them. But there is no option to reject any unless Britain has a national veto on the subject under discussion, because the UK courts are required to accept EU laws regardless of what any Westminster Statute may say. Even the EU Commissioners admit that a large percentage of our laws come from the European Union.
This, in effect, means that whatever the unelected European Commission puts forward and the Council of Ministers agrees with, will become law in Britain.
And that means that everyone living in Britain is ultimately ruled by a group dictatorship – not a one man (or woman) dictatorship, but a dictatorship, nonetheless.
So, how will you vote on Thursday?
As we know, there is only one political party with members in the House of Commons, whose main aim to get our country out a political union in Europe – The UK Independence Party.