Category Archives: Europe

Should a pro-European vote ‘leave’?

medal

Last week, I collected my medal for twenty years of European public service. I have dedicated my entire professional life to the EU, it is the issue about which I feel the most passionate. As a student I was an activist for the Young European Movement, I joined the EU public service with a strong sense of purpose, and I am a believer in a European tier of government as a necessary evolution of our political system which benefits us all.

So you would have me down as a cast-iron certainty to vote ‘remain’ in the upcoming Brexit referendum, wouldn’t you? Right now, I’m not so sure.

Like Anand Menon, I’m surprised that we haven’t seen more opinion pieces like this excellent article in the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad. The deal which David Cameron is trying to negotiate with the European Council will no doubt be presented by him as a good one for the UK, and there will be lots of debate over whether it is or it isn’t. But it will be very hard to argue that any deal he strikes will be good for the EU and its other 27 Member States. How could it be? He will seek to protect UK interests, narrowly defined by the current right-wing and ideologically-driven government, with a view to appeasing his party’s nationalist fringe. There will be a number of superficially insignificant but symbolically meaningful features which further water down the vision of the EU as a post-national political community; and there may well be more ideologically-driven elements which water down the EU as a force for social justice. I do recommend that you read Adriaan Schout’s aforementioned article for a sense of where this is likely to be heading.

You might think that the other 27 Member States are unlikely to allow themselves to be bullied into a bad deal. But experience tells us otherwise. In the world of horse-trading and compromise that is the European Council, short-term political considerations tend to count for more than long-term sustainable visions, which is why the Treaties of Nice, Amsterdam, and Lisbon left us with such a mess in the eurozone. The EU and its Member States, acting together, can be a formidable force; but when decisions are made in the European Council it’s all about the weakest link in the chain and this results in cautious incrementalism and defensiveness.

If Cameron were negotiating for a deal which introduces meaningful reform to the mechanics of the European Union, making it more effective and efficient, I would enthusiastically back him. He isn’t, though. And his fellow heads of government are likely to bend over backwards to accommodate his political needs in order to avoid a scenario where the UK leaves the EU. So there is a fairly strong possibility that next week’s European Council will sign off on a deal which would be a step backward for the EU in order to keep the British in. But even with such a deal there is still the real possibility that the British could vote to leave in 2017; and even if they vote to stay, the European question will not go away, and the next neverendum becomes only a matter of time. The Council may buy a temporary respite, but at what price?

One way or the other, we will soon find out what the deal is which David Cameron has negotiated. Most of the debate will be about whether it is good enough “for Britain” to justify a vote to remain. I will be looking at it from the other perspective: will the deal he negotiates be good enough “for Europe”?

As a Briton, I see nothing to be gained for my country by its leaving the EU, and much to be lost. As a European, I see nothing to be gained for our collective wellbeing by further handicapping the European Union simply in order to appease one Member State. Indeed, we stand to lose a great deal. Unfortunately, although the outcome of the UK referendum will have an impact on all Europeans, only the British will get to vote. That potentially presents pro-European voters with an awful dilemma. If the final choice is between a bad deal for Europe, and a Europe without Britain, I will feel dreadfully torn. While my heart would revolt against a vote for Brexit, I can see a real possibility that the best thing for Europe would be for the UK to leave rather than stay on the basis of a bad deal for the rest of us.

Treat 7 May as EU referendum day

The general election on 7 May 2015 will quite possibly be the most important election during my lifetime (so far – nearly half a century, folks). If you thought 1997 was a biggie (and for my generation it certainly was), this one has even more at stake. For the first time in quite a long time, we have a genuine choice between two diametrically opposed ideological visions: on the one hand, the incumbent Prime Minister offers us an even smaller state with radically reduced public services putting us on a par with Europe’s outliers; on the other hand, a return towards the European mainstream (I’d like to be more emphatic than that but that would be overstating it).

This is already quite enough to make this an election worth fighting for. But there is an even bigger issue at stake, one which would determine the UK’s entire future. And one on which there has been an alarming degree of silence during this election campaign. David Cameron is offering an in-out referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. The referendum would be held in 2017 after an attempt by the government to persuade the EU to “reform”. If satisfactory reforms are not forthcoming, the implication is that the government would not campaign to stay in. Even if it were to campaign for an in vote, who can say that the public will not treat the referendum as a chance to protest against an austerity government heading for its mid-term trough?

Abandoning its EU membership (‘Brexit’) would be catastrophic for Britain. I hold this to be self-evident, and if you disagree then you might as well stop reading now because anything I say from this point forward is not addressed to you. For a mercantile nation with a history of internationalism and pretensions to global influence, Brexit would be crazy. But it could happen. Cameron will not get the “reforms” he wants. (I use quotation marks because “reform” in this context is a transparent euphemism for the repatriation of powers. God knows the EU could do with genuine reform, but that is not on the agenda, certainly not in the context of a UK-driven treaty renegotiation.) He has painted himself, and the country, into a corner. If he wins, there WILL be a referendum in 2017; and there is every chance that the country will vote to leave an unreformed EU. Decades of toxic disinformation and woeful public education have queered the EU’s pitch, and the organisation has not helped itself.

All this is to say that it is essential for the future of the country that Cameron does not remain Prime Minister after 7 May. The duty of any patriotic voter is to do whatever he or she can to avert that possibility. Treat 7 May as EU referendum day. Cast your vote in whichever way is most likely to oust Cameron from office. Do it for yourselves, for your children, your neighbours, your pet, your Queen and country.

Architecture and islamophobia

The UK far right’s indignation at the imagined encroachment of Islam into British life has given us some great comedy moments, including this week’s snafu by UKIP berating the BBC’s liberal bias for staging a vox pop in front of a mosque in central London, better known as the gorgeous Westminster Cathedral in Victoria. And who can forget this priceless EDL rant against the Muslamics for building a huge mosque near the sea front in Brighton?

Westminster Cathedral

#ThingsThatAreNotMosques

The fact is, Islamic civilisation has given us some stunning architecture, a source of inspiration to Western architects and artists for centuries. The Brighton Pavilion is one such building, but there are countless others. The inspiration flows in the other direction too; I doubt there’s a major city anywhere in the Islamic world which isn’t chock full of western-influenced buildings, from gothic to neo-classical to post-modern. I wonder if pilgrims to Mecca post angry Facebook rants about the Puginesque Clock Tower overshadowing the Ka’aba?

Clock Tower Mecca

Big Bennish

Our cultures have mixed and mingled throughout their illustrious histories, much to our mutual benefit. There are mosques that have become churches; and churches that have become mosques; and they are all the more interesting for it.

Hagia Sofia Istanbul

Church that became a Mosque

Cordoba Cathedral

Mosque that became a Church

So what exactly is it that the far right find so threatening? Is it the foreign architectural style which seems so out of place in frigid England? Then let’s say goodbye to Winchester Cathedral and York Minster, which use exotic imports from Islamic architecture such as the pointed arch and the rose window. What happens when British Moslems build their places of worship in the local architectural vernacular? Is that OK with the kippers and Britain First?

Tahir Mosque, Catford

Is this OK, UKIP?

When challenged on the Daily Politics, Nigel Farage made the excuse that his party’s activists “are not wholly trained”. Wholly trained in what? Architecture? Let’s call this spade a spade: this UKIP activist’s reaction betrayed her islamophobia, and the only training she lacks is how to hide it from public view. In this, she is not an exception, she is absolutely typical of every kipper I’ve ever encountered. UKIP is an islamophobic party. Who can doubt it?

(Postscript – if you’re interested in learning more about Islamic architecture, you might enjoy The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron and In Xanadu by William Dalrymple. Non-Amazon link.)

2014: the Text Adventure

Here it is – 2014, the Text Adventure!

You are in the EU. Your quality of life is decent
but you are irritated with the number of foreigners
and the level of taxation. Exits are W, N, E, SE, S, SW.
What do you do?

> Go W

You find yourself confronted by a heavily armed policeman
shouting at you to lie on the floor. What do you do?

> Put hands up

You have been shot. You are dead.
GAME OVER

Would you like to go back to your last saved game?

> Y

You are in the EU. Your quality of life is decent 
but you are irritated with the number of foreigners 
and the level of taxation. Exits are W, N, E, SE, S, SW. 
What do you do?

> Go N

You have fallen into a giant supervolcano. You are dead. 
GAME OVER

Would you like to go back to your last saved game?

> Y

You are in the EU. Your quality of life is decent 
but you are irritated with the number of foreigners 
and the level of taxation. Exits are W, N, E, SE, S, SW. 
What do you do?

> Go E

You find yourself in a war zone. All around you are shattered 
buildings and piles of rubble. You see a convoy of white lorries. 
What do you do?

> ask for help

The lorries had Spetsnaz special forces inside them! You have been 
shot. You are dead.
GAME OVER

Would you like to go back to your last saved game?

> Y

You are in the EU. Your quality of life is decent 
but you are irritated with the number of foreigners 
and the level of taxation. Exits are W, N, E, SE, S, SW. 
What do you do?

> Go SE

You find yourself in a city without electricity or water. 
There seem to be a lot of ruins. There are explosions
all around you. Next to you is a school run by the UN. 
What do you do?

> Enter school

You find yourself with a group of women and children. 
A tank shell blasts through the classroom wall. 
You are all roasted in a fireball. You are dead. 
GAME OVER

Would you like to go back to your last saved game?

> Y

You are in the EU. Your quality of life is decent 
but you are irritated with the number of foreigners 
and the level of taxation. Exits are W, N, E, SE, S, SW. 
What do you do?

> Go S

You have been kidnapped by a group of men dressed 
entirely in black, but they are not ninjas. 
One of them has a videocamera. He speaks to you in an 
East End accent. What do you do?

> Ask for help

The man with the East End accent makes a speech to the 
camera and cuts off your head. You are dead. 
GAME OVER

Would you like to go back to your last saved game?

> Y

You are in the EU. Your quality of life is decent 
but you are irritated with the number of foreigners 
and the level of taxation. Exits are W, N, E, SE, S, SW. 
What do you do?

> Go SW

You catch Ebola. You are dead.
GAME OVER

Would you like to go back to your last saved game?

> Y

You are in the EU. Your quality of life is decent 
but you are irritated with the number of foreigners 
and the level of taxation. Exits are W, N, E, SE, S, SW. 
What do you do?

> wait

You are still in the EU. Your Prime Minister calls a 
referendum. You can vote YES to leave or NO to stay. 
What do you vote?

> NO

You are in a minority. Your country leaves the EU. 
GAME OVER


(Inspired by Rob Fahey)

Cameron is pulling a Suarez over Juncker

cameronsuaraz

Much has been said and written about the British government’s campaign against the Spitzenkandidat process and against Juncker personally, and I’m not going to rehash that. But something else needs saying.

The British political establishment and press are colluding in misrepresenting the rest of the EU as unprincipled and anti-democratic. This is what has everyone outside Westminster stumped. It’s a bit like Luis Suarez saying that Chiellini bumped into his teeth with his shoulder. It’s such an obvious subversion of the truth that no-one can quite believe that it’s meant in earnest.

Example: sources close to the Prime Minister say that he is fighting for a principle. Standing alone again, Britain defends democracy against those on the continent who would threaten it! The affrontery of this argument is breath-taking – it is Cameron who is being unprincipled here, reneging on an arrangement to which he had previously agreed, dishonestly representing this good-faith attempt to reinforce European democracy as… wait for it… anti-democratic!  Cameron cannot win this argument outside the echo chamber of Westminster where they have convinced themselves – contrary to all the evidence – that their “demos” is the only one that counts.

Another example: a Tory MP defends Cameron by claiming that he is challenging vested interests in the system. Again, they try to frame a narrative where Britain stands alone against an out-of-touch elite in Brussels. But the ‘Spitzenkandidat’ procedure challenges those vested interests – the old status quo where EU top jobs are settled behind closed doors during late-night horse-trading. By linking EU top jobs to the outcome of the European elections, this new arrangement seeks to address the obvious disenchantment which we so clearly saw reflected in last month’s election results. Cameron wants to keep the old system while claiming to represent those people who so clearly rejected the old system! It’s the kind of double-think which can only work in an environment where years of negative misreporting have so distorted perceptions as to disconnect a closed group of people from reality.

The rest of us watch with slack-jawed amazement. Why is he doing this? What can he hope to gain?

Perhaps this image gives us a clue:

camsupport

Yes – Cameron’s strategy is working for him at home. He is boosting his own popularity, and shoring up support within his own party.  With elections next year, and with May, Johnson, and Gove circling in the middle distance, Cameron is doing what politicians do.

The problem is, by winning his own local game, Cameron effectively guarantees that he will lose the bigger game being played by the rest of the EU.  Let’s be honest, he isn’t even really playing. To those of us outside the Westminster bubble, this is bizarre behaviour from a major leader. But this is what Cameron has done all along, from his decision to take the Conservatives out of the EPP, to his ill-judged veto of the Fiscal Compact, to his bizarre stance on Juncker.  Cameron’s playing snap while everyone else is playing chess.

The line taken by the UK government on Ukraine’s Viktor Yanukovych during his final months in power was that he had sacrificed his country’s long-term interests for the sake of short term personal interests.  It’s hard to see how the UK’s current EU policy is any different.

(edited on 30 June to add the cartoon sourced from https://twitter.com/Manon__Dufour/status/483536929045356544)

“Small government”

Something I often hear from people who don’t like the EU is that they favour “small government”.  The following tweet is from just such an exchange that I had last night with someone who didn’t like my post about UK v. EU democracy:

 

As I said in my reply, I think the people who make this point are confusing ‘small government’ with ‘local government’.  International, or supranational, governance need not necessarily be ‘big’ – in fact, it usually isn’t.

The ‘big government’ to which so many self-styled libertarians object is the kind of government which taxes a lot and spends a lot and regulates a lot.  The European Union is very far from being that kind of ‘big government’ – its footprint is tiny compared to national and local governments.  The EU’s budget for 2012 was €147 billion, or 1.12% of GNI; the UK budget for 2012 was £682 billion, or 45% of GDP!  The European Commission employs 32,666 civil servants (serving a population of 503 million); Whitehall employs 498,433 (for a population of 63 million); Glasgow City Council employs around 20,000 (serving a population of 600,000).

One of the reasons that the EU exists, and makes sense, is because doing some things at the European level can reduce the footprint of government. Imagine 28 regulatory regimes for food safety, or car type approvals!  Far from embodying ‘big government’, the European Union – with its Treaty enshrining the principle of subsidiarity – is a continent-wide experiment in smaller, efficient government.

This is especially true under the current, neo-liberal Commission.  But even if we had an interventionist Commission which favoured big spending and heavy regulation, European government would still have a far smaller footprint than national or local governments in Member States, for structural reasons to do with money-raising powers, administrative resources, and legal competences.

So we’ll file ‘big government’ along with the other Euromyths.  But what can we expect from people who think they’re libertarian while advocating heavy-handed state regulation of all aspects of citizens’ personal lives from recreational drug use to free movement?

What’s a europhile to make of the Cyprus bail-in?

As if there weren’t enough slightly-but-not-very informed comments out there… here are my €0.02 on the Cyprus bail-in, as seen from a ‘pro’-EU perspective.

1.  On a personal level, I’m horrified by the proposal to strip ordinary savers of their money to bail out the banks.  I completely understand the anger of people who feel it’s daylight bank robbery.  I would go mental if it happened to me!

2.  As I understand it, Cyprus’ problem has arisen because its government pursued a deliberate policy of using its euro membership to increase its attractiveness to offshore investors, including those of a, well, less savoury character.  In so doing, its banking sector badly overstretched itself.  There are clear parallels with Iceland in 2008.

3.  So I’m not remotely surprised that taxpayers in the richer eurozone countries balk at bailing out Cypriot banks.  They will naturally be asking themselves why they should be paying to save the skins of wealthy Russians.

4.  So I’m also not surprised that eurozone ministers insisted on a massive haircut from the Cypriot government.  Politically, they had little choice but to insist on this bitter ‘sweetener’ for their voters and taxpayers.

5.  I’m guessing that eurozone ministers felt that they could not tell Cyprus how to conduct its haircut; that would be meddling.  But I really wish they had.  Leaving the Cypriot government room to impose part of the burden on ordinary depositors was a monumental political blunder which will feature in future text books.

6.  Let’s be clear: according to the reports I’ve read, the choice to impose a levy on small deposit holders was a CYPRIOT one, not a Eurozone one.  The Eurozone said “haircut equal to one-third of the bailout” – and I guess they assumed, or hoped, it would be targetted on the big offshore depositors.

7.  But the Cypriot government chose to spread the shock and hit small deposit holders too.  Why??  I guess they couldn’t face the prospect of imposing more than 10% on offshore investors (i.e. the Russians).  We can speculate as to why that is, but I can’t think of many reasons that don’t leave a very nasty taste in the mouth.

8.  But wouldn’t the Cypriot people rebel against such a cruel decision by their government?  I’m guessing the Cypriot government calculated that they could choose to hit small investors and blame Brussels/Berlin for it, even though it wasn’t Brussels or Berlin that did it.  The Cypriot government comes away looking like the victim, not the villain.

9.  This is a disaster for the EU, any way you look at it.  Brussels and the EU Institutions are not to blame; Eurozone ministers are the ones who took the decision to impose a haircut, apparently against the advice of Brussels; and the Cypriot government chose in turn to target small investors.  But there is no way that the EU can escape the resulting PR shit-storm.  How do we avoid the impression that poor southerners have been stitched up like kippers by Brussels?

10.  This is a really horrible situation – especially for my fellow European citizens in Cyprus, in the short term, but for all of us in the long term, I fear.  It will be a huge shot in the arm to eurosceptics everywhere.  This is unfair, because I think this is a case of poor policy, poor political judgement, and poor institutional architecture, rather than a clear argument against European government or even against a single currency.  I still believe there’s an overwhelming case for governance at the European level.  But my faith in the existing Treaty architecture – not exactly strong to begin with – has taken another hard knock.

(DISCLAIMER: I post as a private citizen with some inside knowledge of the workings of the EU but no specialist knowledge of eurozone matters.)

 

edit – I’m told that the FT is now reporting that it was the Commission that first floated the proposal to target small depositors.  If that’s true, then that seriously undermines my defence of the EU institutions (as opposed to the eurozone ministers and the Cypriot government) but it reinforces my final point in para 10.

What’s a eurosceptic?

It’s a label I dislike, and not just for the obvious reasons; but it’s the label that has stuck, so let’s be clear what we mean by it when we use it.  Here’s my understanding of the term:

A eurosceptic is someone who wants less European Union.  It’s an existential thing.  There are shades of grey: a eurosceptic might be opposed to his or her country being a member of the EU; or they might think that the EU should be watered down in some way; or they might want the abolition of the entire project.  But, generally speaking, we can presumably agree that a eurosceptic is looking for less EU.

A eurosceptic is NOT someone who opposes, dislikes, is unhappy with, hates a current EU policy.  You might disagree with the CAP; you might hate the common visa policy; you might think that the EU’s environmental legislation is much too weak; you might think that the EU’s working time directive is an outrageous burden on business.  These are not existential arguments against the EU; they are arguments against current EU policies.  Holding those views does not make you a eurosceptic, though of course you might *also* be a eurosceptic.

The two concepts get muddled all the time.  Why is that?  We don’t see this confusion in national politics.  Most politically literate people don’t call for the abolition of national government from Westminster because they oppose cuts to benefits, or the Iraq War, or the stealth privatisation of the NHS, or gay marriage.  If there’s an issue in national politics which bothers you, you might go out and vote for someone who agrees with you; or you might write to your MP; or you might go on a demo; or you might even get involved in party politics yourself.  But you’re not usually a UK-sceptic.

Clearly, this is part of the EU’s problem.  We need to ask ourselves how we can develop a greater sense of engagement by citizens in the European tier of government and politics.  The fact that the EU’s citizens don’t feel sufficiently engaged to seek to influence policy, the fact that they conflate the policy of the current Commission with the entire edifice of the European Union itself, is a real challenge.  It might in fact be a legitimate ground for euroscepticism.  But the policies themselves – the CAP, the austerity, the fisheries, the working time directive… these are not legitimate grounds for euroscepticism.

Ask yourself this: if the EU were to ditch a policy you hate, and introduce a policy you love, enforcing it throughout the EU and using its international muscle to establish it as a global norm, would you still think that the EU is a bad thing?  If not, then you’re probably not a eurosceptic.

Democratic accountability – a comparison

Just how undemocratic is the EU compared to the UK?  Well here’s a quick and dirty comparison – don’t hesitate to correct me if I’ve got something wrong, I’m not a political scientist nor a constitutional lawyer.

comparison

 

Edit – as @FrazerGoodwin points out, the table doesn’t tackle the whole issue of Royal Consent, and the role of the British monarchy in UK law-making.  In case you think that’s purely ceremonial, with no real impact on modern-day legislation, think again.

Edit (September 2017) – I wrote this piece a long time ago, long before any of us really imagined that the UK might vote to leave the EU. A lot has happened since I wrote it, and quite evidently my arguments have fallen on deaf ears, because democratic legitimacy is still cited as a key factor by many who voted to leave. One major change since 2013 was the introduction of the Spitzenkandidat procedure for the 2014 European Parliament elections. This now means that the leader of the EU’s executive (the President of the Commission) enjoys the same degree of legitimacy as the leader of the UK’s executive (the Prime Minister) – in fact – and I would argue more, in law, as the UK’s chief executive is the leader of the largest party only by convention and not by constitutional law.

The EU: a union of state bureaucracies?

Jean Monnet said that we are not building a coalition of states; we are creating a union of peoples (“nous ne coalisons pas des États, nous unissons des hommes”).  So no, in response to @brunobrussels, we are certainly not a union of state bureaucracies; or, at least, that’s not what we aspire to.

But what’s the reality? Has the EU successfully delivered Monnet’s vision?  Or has it fallen short?

I think I answer that question partially in my previous post (Institutional Imbalance), but I still feel that Bruno deserves more of a reply.  I detect in his reaction – and I hope he’ll correct me if I’m wrong – the premise that power belongs more naturally with nation states and national parliaments, and any move to transfer sovereignty to a higher tier than the nation state effectively strips sovereignty away from its democratic home.

In his excellent book ‘Guns, Germs & Steel’ Jared Diamond describes how people have historically organised themselves in ever-more-complex configurations: bands, tribes, chiefdoms, states; and then those states evolve into ever larger structures, with ever larger numbers of citizens.

Diamond argues that humans have a strong interest in forming part of ever-larger state incorporations; but also that they tend to have a strong vested interest in the status quo.  As a result, they tend to resist upward incorporation even at the expense of their own longer term interests.  External pressure is usually needed to force the upshift to broader political structures (again, see my previous post); but, when this is realised, it tends to benefit all members of that new, larger, political structure.

To my mind, Diamond’s thesis offers a clear understanding of the tendency towards euroscepticism but also why this tendency is an historical dead end.

The nation state is no more ‘natural’ a political unit than any other, including the EU.  Arguments against the EU which are premised on the notion that the nation state has more legitimacy qua nation state than any other political structure are, I strongly believe, fundamentally flawed, and guilty of historical subjectivity.

Of course, there are those who argue that the EU’s structures are less democratically accountable than its Member States’, and that this means that sovereignty should revert to those Member State structures.  But this isn’t an argument against the EU.  It’s an argument – right or wrong – for reform of the EU’s structures so that they become more democratically accountable.

(Aside: I managed to squeeze the above into five tweets, but thought it preferable to go long form rather than spam people’s twitter feeds. This shows how useful Twitter is as a tool for forcing you to get your point across in as few words as possible.)

Update added at 15.46 CET 20/2/13:

It’s been suggested that I don’t really address the question of whether Monnet’s “Union of People” has been achieved.  What many eurosceptics fear is that the EU represents Big Government washing out the power of individuals.  It has also been put to me that the EU is an elite project which seeks to remove politics above society.  Let’s take these charges one by one.

Does the EU seek to remove politics from society?  This one is easy: of course it doesn’t.  If it did, why would so much money and effort be put into attempts to legitimise the EU with its citizens?  You might argue that those efforts are not very effective, but you cannot deny that those efforts are made.

Is the EU an elite project?  I see this as a meaningless question.  Restructuring a society’s political system has always been the task of an elite; Robespierre, Trotsky and the Gracchi belonged to an elite.  Popular support, or democratic legitimacy, is of course a different matter, but let’s save that one for another day.

Is the EU “Big Government”?  As Diamond argues, government has a tendency to become bigger over time, if by bigger we mean extending into more areas and bringing more people under its wing.  But what about ‘big government’ in the passive-aggressive, dismissive sense used by certain libertarians who fear that citizens are excluded from the decision-making process, or that government takes decisions about citizens which are none of its business?  In this respect, the EU is no worse, and probably a lot better, than most of its Member States.  EU competence is very clearly defined in a Treaty which has been negotiated by the Member States and ratified by the Member States.  There is double democratic legitimacy: firstly, through its Member States which are all representative democracies and which both appoint the executive and form one chamber of the legislature; and secondly, through the directly elected European Parliament, forming the second branch of the legislature.  I’m not going to address the question of whether this democratic legitimacy is sufficient, except to say that I personally think there are flaws; but to paraphrase Churchill, no-one pretends that EU democracy is perfect or all-wise.  It’s the best we have, until we put our heads together to make it better.

Does the EU wash out the power of individuals?  As soon as humans started organising themselves into political structures larger than the family, individuals gave away some control over their own lives in return for a higher degree of security.  Modern political structures attempt to find a compromise between the benefits which accrue from collective decision-making and the desire we all have to make independent decisions about our lives.  In this respect, too, the EU is no worse and probably a lot better than most nation states.

One final point: far from excluding the individual, the EU is there to benefit the individual citizen.  This is hard-baked into the Treaty.  The EU provides its individual citizens with many rights and freedoms which are guaranteed by the Treaty.  Those rights and freedoms should not be taken for granted.  Outside the EU, they might come under threat.