What a silly question, you might say. Would it not be easier to ask what is right with the European Union? It would take considerably less time to enumerate. However, I should like to go to the very nub of it: its idea of governance.
One talks much of the way legislation and regulations are passed in the European Union with the peoples and legislatures of various member states being presented with a fait accompli and an assurance that nothing can be done to reverse European legislation.
We also know that the process of legislation and amendment of legislation is so cumbersome and secretive that achieving changes is well nigh impossible.
Most of all, we know that the legislative programme of the EU pays no attention to elections either within member states or, even, to the European Parliament; nor does it pay attention to changes in the Commission. Legislative plans are laid out for five or ten years; the Commission’s work programme is decided every year; the process goes on regardless of any democratic or constitutional developments.
Over and above that there is the problem of the Opposition. The European Union and its supporters do not acknowledge its right to exist. This was summed up very neatly by Professor Jeremy Black in his latest book: The European Question and the National Interest. Writing about the response to the two negative referendum results last year, in France and the Netherlands, he explains:
“Posing long-term issues provides a context for looking at the current conception of the future, which is largely defined by the issue of how best to respond to the rejection of the European constitutional treaty by the French and Dutch electorates. After an election, commentators rush to explain results, and generally over-simplify the situation, but there does seem to be a contrast between French criticism of the process of European change as threatening to dissolve social safety, and Dutch views about the overweening demands of the EU.
If, however, hostility to the real, or apparent, pretensions and activities of the EU comes from different sources, and much was made by Euro-enthusiasts about contrasts between French and Dutch views, this does not imply that the EU is an appropriate via media or necessary compromise, both views voiced by supporters of Euro-convergence. Such an appoach accords with a tendency to see different views to those of Euro-convergence in terms of factious opposition that necessarily needs to be ignored or overridden, a view that is in accord with the ‘official mind’ of the EU and also with a centrist, or generally left-of-centre, political alignment. Politically, this attitude is at variance with the Anglo-American practice and precept of shifts in government control with the concomitant understanding not only that opposition is constitutionally valid, but also that its political place includes the role of gaining power.”
While this summary of the difference between the whole idea of an integrated European state and a political system that is based on democratic accountability is entirely accurate, sadly one must relate that the rejection of the validity of political opposition is gaining ground within British politics, particularly at local but also at government level.
Cross-posted from Albion’s Seedlings