Decisions made at the European Council are now largely made by Qualified Majority Voting (QMV), now that the succession of Treaties have taken away unanimity and vetoes (mostly to the UK’s detriment).  The number of votes given to each state is designed to reflect the population of the countries.  There are a total of 352 and are split across the members as follows:

Germany 29

France 29

UK 29

Italy 29

Spain 27

Poland 27

Romania 14

Netherlands 13

Greece 12

Portugal 12

Belgium 12

Czech Republic 12

Hungary 12

Sweden 10

Austria 10

Bulgaria 10

Slovakia 7

Finland 7

Ireland 7

Croatia 7

Lithuania 7

Latvia 4

Estonia 4

Cyprus Luxembourg 4

Malta 3

The votes are cast by the Council members and then scored accordingly.  In order to pass the motion must have sufficient support representing 65% of the population of the EU, or 229 votes (there are some variations on this depending on the policy area, but 65/35 is the norm).

So far, so good as we can expect that decisions made that best reflect the interests of the majority of the people.  Actually, that is not the case.  QMV is an easily gamed system.  The key to the game is the fact that a motion only requires 35% of the votes (123) to prevent it from being passed.

If we to split the EU into broad lines, we could say that it is made up of the following blocs: the rich north western bloc (UK/FR/DE/AU/BE/NL/LUX/IR), The rich Nordic bloc (SW/FI/DN) the less rich/poor Mediterranean bloc (IT/SP/PT/CYP/GR/MA) and the poor former Communist east bloc (PO/RO/CZ/HU/BU/SL/CR/LI/LA/SV/ES).

We can generally expect voting to conform to these bloc interests.  Theses blocs have the following votes at their disposal: NW 133, Nord 24, Med 87, CEEC 108.  Although a joint move by CEEC and MED will be insufficient for a 65% share of the vote a CEEC bloc vote plus either just Spain or Italy, or plus a combination of some of the smaller MED countries is enough to kill any policy.

When one considers that all of the CEECs and all of the MED countries except Italy are all net recipients of EU funds, it is clear that the takers rather than the givers control the policy agenda.  In other words, only policy that satisfies the wishes of these countries will ever pass, and therefore only legislation that is unlikely to represent the needs and requirements of the UK will never be passed. Why would we want to stay in a club like that?

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