Friday, 10 June 2016

Ruled by Brussels bureaucrats? It’s another lie

It is time to nail another lie: Britain is not ruled by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels.

So when Michael Gove says he wants voters to take back control from organisations that are ‘distant, unaccountable and elitist’, he is deliberately perpetuating the lie.

When Boris Johnson and Andrea Leadsom say, as they did repeatedly during the ITV referendum debate last night, that ‘we can take back control’, they are deliberately perpetuating the lie.

And when Brendan Chilton of the campaign group Labour Leave says that one of the biggest reasons to vote Leave is that ‘we must be able to elect our lawmakers’, he too is perpetuating the lie.

The Leave campaigners are clearly convinced that ‘Take back control’ is a nice, snappy slogan that voters understand and that resonates with those who are still undecided. And they are clearly perfectly happy to run with it, even though they know that it is built on a Big Fat Lie.

The people who make the EU’s laws in Brussels are not unelected bureaucrats; they are elected politicians, accountable to the people who elected them.

Virtually every law made in Brussels must be approved by two sets of democratically-elected politicians: the Council of the European Union, which is made up of government ministers from each member state, and the European Parliament, every member of which has been elected.

These are not unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats; they are elected, accountable politicians. (There may be occasional exceptions: the government of the UK, for example, includes 24 members who have not been elected by anyone – they are members of the House of Lords, unaccountable to anyone except the prime minister of the day. In any other country, the arrangement would be regarded as profoundly undemocratic.)

Ah, say the Leave campaigners, but the UK can easily be outvoted, can’t we? We can be forced to adopt laws that our elected representatives have not approved. They are right, so let us look at some figures.

Between 1999 and March 2016, the UK was indeed outvoted in the Council 57 times. It abstained 70 times, and voted with the majority – wait for it – 2,474 times. In other words, over a roughly 15-year period, the UK’s elected representatives, members of a government that has to face the electorate every five years, voted in favour of 95% of the laws passed in Brussels.

(The figures have been calculated, by the way, by Professor Simon Hix of the London School of Economics, who is part of a group of academics called The UK in a Changing Europe, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and based at King’s College, London. He is one of the expert speakers in the sovereignty and national identity podcast in my EUTheJury series.)

I imagine these figures might come as a bit of a shock to you. They certainly paint a very different picture from the one favoured by Leave campaigners. Their great strength, of course, is that they are empirically verifiable; they are, in other words, what so many people say they still need in this debate. Facts.

Imagine you are a member of a sports club, or an amateur choral society. New club rules are needed, and they are voted on by members of an elected club committee. If 2.2% of the new rules were not to your liking, would you regard that as reason enough to leave? I’m pretty sure that I would not.

And while we’re in the business of debunking myths, what about that bloated Brussels bureaucracy, living off the fat of the land on our hard-earned taxes, that we hear so much about? Do you know how many bureaucrats work for the EU? Fifty-five thousand. Do you know how many work for the UK government? Four hundred thousand.

If you’re after some more facts, here are some recommendations: the EU’s own website is here; the Full Fact website is here, and the BBC Reality Check website is here. Just don’t make the mistake of believing anything that the politicians say between now and 23 June. 

And if you’re still undecided, perhaps this statement from the Cornish Pasty Association will swing it for you: ‘After working so hard for so many years to gain recognition for the Cornish pasty through the EU Protected Food Names scheme, it would be wholly inappropriate for it to support anything that could potentially impact on that status …the CPA supports Britain remaining in the EU and being able to participate in that system.’


Political Refugee from the Global Village said...

The standard of accuracy in the referendum has been appalling on both sides but especially on the Remain side. Accusing people of deliberate lies when they believe what they say is not only nasty but also untruthful. In any case you are mistaken - we do not get our own way very often in the Council of the European Union . We compromise - of course. Despite the use of qualified majority voting, a high percentage of decisions in the Council are still made by consensus - because of this the UK does not get defeated in open votes often. It's a body akin to the British cabinet not the House of Commons. In the British cabinet votes are not usually taken at all. The Prime Minister generally gets his way with no vote taken. Note I do not accuse you of lying - just of not understanding.

Political Refugee from the Global Village said...

Our economic future might eventually be better outside the EU, but no-one knows and people who say they know are deluded or deluding. What matters is that I do not see any reason why laws should be made by unelected foreigners that we in the United Kingdom have to obey.

There's no right or wrong decision on Brexit - it depends on your values. Do we prefer to be free or want kind masters? I think the English will prefer kind masters. They will vote to stay in, for fear that there would be fewer laws if we leave. But maybe I'm wrong.

If H.M. the Queen, supposedly, the Duke of Edinburgh more certainly, Rod Liddle, Nigel Lawson, Ed West, Charles Moore and Douglas Murray are for Brexit and John Major, the Economist and the US State Department are against that's almost good enough for me. Throw in the ghosts of Peter Shore, Anthony Burgess, Enoch Powell...

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with your commenter, PVE Wood, regarding "laws made by unelected foreigners". The quote below explains why, but I suppose "taking back control" is such a great snappy slogan and requires no real explanation - fortunately for those who use it. Perhaps if our elected representatives turned up a lot more often then we wouldn't need to take back control:

" Public figures analysed by the FT show that Mr Farage attended only one of 42 meetings of the fisheries committee on which he sat for three years. Paul Nuttall, his deputy, attended two out of 56 environment committee meetings.

Unlike select committees in Westminster, which have only an advisory role, those in the European Parliament can mould important legislation through “co-decisions” over EU policy alongside the Council of Ministers.

In the parliament itself, Ukip typically misses a third of the votes, double the average."

Unknown said...

I think the trouble with accepting that the government ministers on the Council of the EU are elected is that the democratic process that elected them is at one remove from the EU. They were elected not in any European election, but in a UK election for a UK government. The fact that they go to Brussels sometimes and deal with EU laws seems, to most voters, not quite the same thing as their activities in their national government. We get one vote, and we are already resigned to that vote being a huge compromise. We vote for party candidate on a balance of likes and dislikes - because we agree with them more than we disagree. Stretching that mandate to Europe just seems like overextending that compromise, stretching an already heavily qualified legitimacy too far..

Yes, MEPs are directly elected, but they cannot propose legislation, only debate or amend laws proposed by the European Commission. That, too, feels instinctively undemocratic: we should be able to directly elect - and throw out - the lawmakers themselves, not just the debaters, the revisers.

I shall vote Remain, but largely because of the sort of arguments you set out in a previous blog post, regarding the survivability of the EU in the event of Brexit, and how unwise it would be at this point in history. But I find little to postively recommend the EU; it is in crisis, but most of its leaders and advocates seem to prefer to pretend otherwise. I'm with Yanis Varoufakis: the EU must radically reform, or die. I'm fed up of people assuming that, as a leftist, I must be pro-EU. I'm not; I'm pro-European - not the same thing at all, malheureusement.

Tom Page said...

Mr Lustig has overlooked a key point, which is that it is only the unelected Commission who can initiate new EU legislation (or the amendment or repeal of existing EU laws). The powers of our elected MEPs are restricted to vetting draft legislation that the Commission puts forward.

This sole ability to initiate legislation places the Commission firmly in the driving seat – 28 unelected Eurocrats (and not our elected MEPs) effectively running the show.

Tom Page said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.