We await the next political opinion poll – hopefully tomorrow’s Guardian will have one from ICM, though until Ming Campbell is replaced by a new Liberal Democrat leader we are once again in a sort of polling interregnum with a known unknown bearing down on us.

There were a couple of polls over the weekend. Firstly a Populus poll for the BBC’s Daily Politics showed us what we already knew, that the overwhelming majority of people say they would like a referendum on the new European Treaty, in this case 73%.

67% of people also told Populus that “the issue of Europe is important in the way that I will vote at the next election”. This is somewhat misleading – if you ask people if they think an issue is important or if they care about an issue they will nearly always say yes, to be meaningful they need to pick it out as more important than other issues. In measuring the importance of Europe (or any other for that) as an issue, the best measure is that offered by Ipsos MORI’s monthly tracker of what issues people say are important to the country. Other pollsters ask this of course, but MORI’s stands along because it is regularly done, month in, month out, and more importantly it is unprompted – people aren’t given a list of issues to choose from, they say whatever they think.

In their September poll a whopping 4% of people said that Europe was one of the most important issues facing the country, compared to 43% for immigration, 41% for crime, 36% health and 22% defence and international terrorism. That isn’t to say Europe doesn’t have the potential to be a salient issue – back in 2000 and 2001 when William Hague was banging on about “Saving the Pound” Europe was regulary cited as a major issue facing the country by around 25% of people, it went as high as 43% in 1997. It’s just that, right now, very few people see it as an issue of importance when compared to things they really care about, like immigration, health and crime.

Meanwhile, an ICM poll for the Guardian found that 89% of people thought they were still judged by their class, only 8% thought it was unimportant in shaping the way they were viewed. 53% considered themselves to be working class, 41% middle class – proportions largely unchanged since the late 1990s.


107 Responses to “How many people actually care about Europe?”

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  1. A clarification, I think.

    As far as I know the MORI question on “most important issue” isn’t asked every month – almost every month but not quite. This year it was not asked in February or March (which was quite annoying because the January one had shown “immigration” dropping from 38% to 25% and I wanted to know if this was a blip or a trend (it was a blip – up to 36% in April)).

    On Europe – I always thought this was less ‘important’ from a polling point of view because those people who are likely to say that it is an important topic to them are those who are likely to vote Conservative anyway; so even if Europe is higher as an “important issue” it won’t have much effect on vote (except maybe through increasing turnout of Conservatives?)

    Jon

  2. Peter Cairns:-

    “you only look at how the report on the Scottish elections went down yesterday. the fact that everyone was criticised didn’t stop the name calling and buck passing”

    …”everyone” except the voters of course. The Gould Report concluded that all poitical parties had put their own interests before those of the electorate.
    It behoves politicians to remember the etymology of the word Democracy from time to time:-
    From the Greek-demos ( common people) + kratos ( rule)

    John T:-
    “Thanks for the insight re EU!”

    Here are a few more :-
    Valerie Giscard d’Estaing :-this new treaty” takes up the entirety of the progress contained in the constitutional project…the proposed measures remain intact”

    Jose Socrates ( PM of Portugal) :- “This Treaty is not the end of the story because their is no end”

    and some interesting ideas from letters to The Times today :-

    *Repeal of the acquis communitaire by which an EU directive can never be rescinded.
    *MEPs be empowered to initiate and repeal legislation rather than merely to approve proposals from the Commission.
    *Restore social policy responsibility to member states.
    *Reject the proposal that the ECJ should have competency to adjudicate it’s own supremacy over the parliaments of member states.

    …Any party proposing that these measures were enacted before UK Treaty assent would begin to demonstrate some vestige of democratic accountability.

  3. Colin – I was thanking Peter for his writing about the EU in relation to Scotland, information which I hadn’t known.

    Frederic “Europe affects ordinary people concerning many issues about which they care very much indeed, ” The problem is that those issues are not discussed in practical terms, apart from when an “outrage” hits the heaadlines, and even then the argument descends into mutual “clubbing over the head”.

    I’m not going to be drawn into an argument re the “opt-outs”, but if the public are told facts that they can relate to their everyday lives, then the Europhile/Eurosceptic differences might start to make sense and gain in importance.

    Highlighting different of the Reform Treaty, without reference to any country’s “opt-outs” doesn’t shed much light on the actual issues.

    It’s no good simply saying that we have given away all our power without saying precisely how that has damaged, or could damage in the future our lives. People simply get bored by the noise, and disengaged from the argument.

  4. Colin – I was thanking Peter for his writing about the EU in relation to Scotland, information which I hadn’t known.

    Frederic “Europe affects ordinary people concerning many issues about which they care very much indeed, ” The problem is that those issues are not discussed in practical terms, apart from when an “outrage” hits the heaadlines, and even then the argument descends into mutual “clubbing over the head”.

    I’m not going to be drawn into an argument re the “opt-outs”, but if the public are told facts that they can relate to their everyday lives, then the Europhile/Eurosceptic differences might start to make sense and gain in importance.

    Highlighting different interpretations of the Reform Treaty, without reference to any country’s “opt-outs” doesn’t shed much light on the actual issues.

    It’s no good simply saying that we have given away all our power without saying precisely how that has damaged, or could damage in the future our lives. People simply get bored by the noise, and disengaged from the argument.

  5. Jon – the gaps in MORI’s trend data this year are a special case. It’s because they were integrating their interviewers into Ipsos’s fieldwork team, so for a least one month they didn’t do a political tracker at all – the figures in the voting intention tracker are a separate poll done just to keep that main tracker unbroken.

  6. Colin,

    “Jose Socrates ( PM of Portugal) :- “This Treaty is not the end of the story because their is no end””,

    I can’t see this as anything but a statement of fact.

    All laws and treaties last only as long as those that sign them want.

    You seem to interpret it as some sign of ever encroating Europe, but if the UK or anyone else makes a proposal to reduce power and gets it through, then the change will happen, but in the other direction.

    I think one of the reasons for the publics general indifference to much of what Europe does is the fact that despite nearly 35 years of membership with constant calls from the right to “wake up Britain” the sky hasn’t fallen or the ground open up beneath or feet.

    We had a huge battle over “Save the Pound” and a majority of British people still don’t want the Euro, but by and large they think the Euro has been a good thing.

    It’s generally been good for the EU and it’s been convenient for them when travelling.

    Warning people that they might wake up one day in the United states of europe doesn’t mean much if when the go out side life goes on pretty much as before. Indeed i am pretty sure that the people who complain about the things the EU does would still complain about the same things if the EU wasn’t there and our governemnt did them instead.

    There is a disparity between the amount that people are warned about Europe intruding in there lives and how much they actually feel.

    The Express can rant about curved bananas and pounds and ounces, but as most people buy them in Tesco’s and don’t check the price let alone how they are weighted or what euro classification they are it’s pretty much a waste of time.

    I remember a Community Council meeting for an ugrade of a local sewage works where we were debating the best site, and one of the public said,

    ” We’re only getting this here because of EU rules”, to a general hear hear,

    To which the planning offical replied,

    “Would you rather continue to have raw sewage on the beach”, to silence from the audience.

    Fact is it was easy to blame the nasty EU because they didn’t want it at there end of the village ( oddly enough the people from the other end of the village where the alternative site was were quite keen on it not being at there end either), but as to what the EU directive was trying to do, bring sewage up to a proper standard, no one was against.

    For all it’s flaws the EU is a convenient scapegoat for people anger and frustration over things that they don’t like.

    I’ve lost count of the times i’ve heard local councillors complain about the EU this or that, but as soon as there is a new road in their ward they are on the front page of the paper smiling while trying to blot out the sign that tells people it’s been built with EU money.

    Yes…. I know it’s our money not the EU’s…. but you can say that for any tax be it central government or Local council spending.

    Peter.

  7. PeterCairns “United States of Europe” doesnt mean much as if life goes on much as before. What nonsense(unless democracy means nothing).That statement applies to most dictatorships-Europe as seen from Brussels is a one party state. How is this different from China? Possibly most decisions made are acceptable and for huge numbers life goes on better than before. However, the decisions are made by unelected,overpaid often corrupt members of government(sounds familiar?),with a different agenda. They cannot be dismissed-in China because of the military,in Brussels because of bureaucracy and self-protection.SNP would be a joke if Scotland were independentin EU.Who in Brussels would listen to you?It is bad enough now as part of UK. Yes,I am sceptical as you should be after fighting for years for independence-not about being in EU,but about the way decisions are made and the inadequacy of the people who make them.

  8. How did we end up comparing the EU Reform Treaty with the Chinese system? Most people turn off as soon as they hear things that signify polarisation of debate on Europe (including me!).

  9. Peter

    My concerns about the EU centre -as I have tried to explain-on it’s fundamental lack of democratic accountability-not on curved bananas, or the funding of Scottish sewage plants.
    But I can understand that the latter might be of more concern than the former to politicians in areas reliant upon EU Regional Aid.

    Concern about an “ever encroaching Europe” as you put it is precisely what people are concerned about. I took the trouble to establish this by posting the results of polls on the subject by the Scottish Government! Just to remind you , the largest proportion of people polled felt that we should stay in Europe , but one with reduced powers. This was true both for the Scottish Poll & the UK wide Poll.

    We did indeed have a battle over membership of the Euro-and it is to Brown’s credit that he stopped Blairs blind faith in a “one size fits all” interest rate policy managed by the ECB. He has been proved right. The Euro has caused inflation throughout Europe and it’s popularity has fallen-particularly in Germany. Italy not so long ago talked of withdrawing from it.
    It will only ever be a success if / when the basic objective the Eurozone comes to pass -ie-convergence of the EU economies-aka Europe as the single economic state.

    Yes I agree that Snr Socrates made a “statement of fact” . He did indeed!
    Actually our Prime Minister is clearly aware of peoples fears of a Federal Europe, and quite aware of the constant drive towards it in Brussels. In a little reported remark after LIsbon, he said that this was the end of further institutional change in Europe for a decade at least

    And so we are back to trust again-does he mean it?-will he stop it?

    Much more to the point will he push for Europe to turn it’s face outward to the enormous economic competitive challenges of China & India-rather than inward to the next batch of ossifying laws attempting to create the supra-national European State?

  10. Collin-I wonder if you & I are becoming mistaken as one entity?
    I will be happy to add my surname in future posts-Boyd.

  11. Colin We have similar views but my nname has 2 lls for reasons too complcated and boring for this site

  12. Anthony

    I’ve raised this a few times (albeit sandwiched into some political discourse) but what on earth has happened to ComRes? Have they performed the psephological equivalent of Captain Oates?

  13. Collin,

    As long as EU commission takes direction from the democratically elected heads of the member states and they are all democratically elected in free and fair multi-party elections as they are now, any talk of Europe being like China is unfounded.

    The so called “Bureaucracts in Brussels” are like the manderins in Whitehall or the staff I work with at Highland Council, give advice and opinions, but they do as they are told by politicians like me.

    The Council of ministers are all elected, the commissioners are all nominated by elected governments and the directly elected european parliament oversees them.

    At all levels if we don’t like the things the EU does it’s down to politicains we have elected and the decisions they have made, not the people employed to carry them out.

    They don’t always agree with the politicains, but when push comes to shove they carry out our orders even if they aren’t happy about it, or what we’ve decided isn’t very smart.

    Rather than make claims about us being like China, why not quote an example of the European Commission taking a decision that wasn’t requested or endorsed by the Council of Ministers, all of whom are the democratically elected leader of their own countries.

    I’ve said this here before but the message doesn’t seem to get through. The elctorate vote for people to act on their behalf and they make laws and employ people to impliment them.

    The people employed aren’t elected, not here not in the EU. In the US they do elect police Chiefs or District Attornies, but if you want to go down that road and fragment and politicise the judisary and police force be my guest.

    But then if you want real democracy why stop there, elect your local dustman, or postie.

    Peter.

  14. John T. “how many people actually care about Europe?” Difficult to discuss without showing why people should(or should not) care, dont you think? However, when this happens, you switch off. Not very helpful, perhaps?

  15. Going back to the original question; I certainly have the feeling that the EU really is low down on most people’s agenda (although high for the tabloids and the Telegraph; an unusual duo. Why? It’s just not a day to day concern; people care more about the rubbish being collected, the mortgage and the ckid’s education. The EU is too far away from every one’s daily lives. They dislike the EU as they dislike all politicians as it’s an example of the gravy train missing them…

  16. Jack,

    I tend to agree with you, but I’d also add that a lot of what the EU does is both boring to most people and administrative.

    Overseeing water quality standards is hardly declaring war, and although it’s important regardless of who sets and oversees it, it isn’t visible.

    In addition it’s pretty routine and on going like the work of any department and it rarely has a public face like a domestic ministry (although how many britains would recognise and tell the correct ministries for the current cabinet).

    Like I’ve said if we didn’t have anonimous civil servants in Brussels doing these things we’d probably have anonimous civil servants here doing them.

    It’s an odd thing but the further the administration gets from peoples lives the less interested they are in it and the less important they seem to think it is.

    So we get a situation where they don’t really feel the impact of it on their daily lives (low salience in polls) while when asked about it they are negitive (If they don’t see what it does they tend to think it’s doing nothing worthwhile).

    Peter.

  17. Peter Cairns- A single government(never mind a minister,nevermind a coucillor) can no more tell a commissioner what to do (if he doesnt want to do it) than I can.The best it can do is go through a series of meetings(at which he can be outvoted anyway). Even if agreed,the commissioner or his senior staff has numerous ways of delaying action indefinitely.I am talking about decisions that matter,not some local drains problem. If you believe this is the equivalent of a minister instructing hissenior civil servants, then I think you need a little help. Brussels bureaucrats,believe you me,are NOTHING like our civil servants.

  18. Collin,

    As with my request that you give an example of the commission or anyone else acting without politicans authority, have you anything other than assertion to back up the claim that people employed by government in Brussels are different from those employed here.

    If they aren’t like our civil servants, prove it, preferably with something that isn’t just innuendo with a sprinkling of block capitals.

    Peter.

  19. Peter.

    You might be interested in this view of the degree of democratic accountability actually operating in the governance of the EU :-

    http://www.fedtrust.co.uk/admin/uploads/FedT_LAD.pdf

  20. Colin,

    All that says in effect is that instead of the council of ministers and one commissioner per country, there should be a commission elected in line with a pan european election.

    In short the way to make the EU more democratic is to have a federal europe with less power for national heads of state.

    Firstly hell will freeze over before europes leaders create a power above themselves and secondly Britain would never sign up for such a thing.

    As I’ve said all along there are things wrong with europe, but the blame and the solution lies with the people we elect and the decisions they make not with the people employed to uimpliment them.

    Peter.

  21. Peter Cairns. The problem is that Europe will never be either federal or democratic,which leaves control in the hands of Brussels. Yes,I have direct knowledge of senior Bussels staff through a senior civil servant seconded to Brussels for 2 years.If you feel I was a bit aggressive,youshould hear what he has to say!He came back very depressed at the situation over there(about 3 years ago).Apologies for the caps. will not occur again.

  22. Collin

    Since I “switched off” yesterday afternoon, nothing has been added that addresses my desire for examples to be given of how the “lack of accountability” affects my life.

    There is just assertion, and counter-assertion.

    Is there real elector accountability in domestic politics that is greater or more effective than that in the EU?

    Cllr Cairns provides one example re water-quality, to show something that the EU actually does that seems worthwhile. What exactly does it do, with examples, that is not?

  23. Peter
    I draw your attention to this Europe wide poll of attitudes to EU, the euro etc.

    http://www.openeurope.org.uk/media-centre/pressrelease.aspx?pressreleaseid=31

    If any politician of any hue thinks this represents an endorsement for ever increasing political. sociaL & economic integration , then they need to get out of their ivory tower a bit more.

  24. Colin
    “reduce the EU’s trade barriers against developing countries.” is the only thing of substance in that poll.

    The rest is a reflection of completely un-informed opinion; the question of “why people should care” referred to at 5.24pm by “2 l’s” above remains an open question, with no specific answers apart from one about hygiene from one side and one about free trade from the other. If anyone can thiink of anything else that is substantive, then I might be persuaded to care more.

    The only fact I can add about EU activity is that Peckham received an EU grant of £500m for re-generation a few years ago.

  25. John T

    I beg to differ-the things of “substance” are Key Findings number 2, 4 & 8

    I just love your “un-informed opinion ” remark!!
    I can hear that being muttered throughout the corridors of power in EU.
    No doubt the millions about to be spent in setting up an EU “embassy” ( ?!) in London will be expended in an effort to rid us all of these un-informed opinions.

    I’m very pleased that the good folk of Peckham are content with their £500m

  26. Colin

    The Key Findings are polling figures – people’s opinions, not actual issues of substance or policy.

    I’m glad you agree that people are un-informed.

    If there is an EU embassy to be established in London with a view to telling the public what it does, then provided it doesn’t cost too much, that’s not a bad idea.

    I’m all for getting information out there. The good people of Peckham probably don’t realise that their houses have been built with EU money, and might well include people who think the EU is unremittingly bad. Is that OK by you? Or would you rather they based their opinions on some facts?

  27. John T.There is,it seems to me, one incontravertible “fact”- the EU is and will continue to be undemocratic, regardless of how good its decisions. This is why I compared it to China. No doubt China makes numerous decisions beneficial to its citizens and there is no doubting its economic success. Is this the government you want? Because this is what you will get.

  28. JohnT. But without the economic success.

  29. John T

    I could not disagree more with your view that people’s opinions are not issues of substance.

    (…I mean why are you bothering to comment on opinion polls here ?)

    IMHO any politician -or governing administration of any sort holding that view for long will be out of a job-one way or another.

    By the way it’s not “EU money”-it’s EU citizens’ money redistributed through an administration which duplicates their national governments’-and which is notorious for waste , fraud & errors.

    …and that is not just an “opinion”-it’s a fact.
    link

  30. Colin
    EU money is the same as Government money, or “taxes”. I wasn’t suggesting it hadn’t been collected – if that was a criticism of my understanding of that very basic issue.

    Is it OK that people’s opinions are not arrived at because of their reaction to real information? Is it OK to spend squillions on advertising campaigns pushing “spin” and winning the public over without any reference to facts?

    “(…I mean why are you bothering to comment on opinion polls here ?)”

    I think it’s a valid point (and I make it often) that people rely on “gut reaction” when responding to surveys, and I wish they had more to go on than the loud noises in the papers

    I’m interested in what people think, and why they think the things they do think. I’m intrigued that no-one (not even The Sun in its anti-Treaty campaign) can come up with any practical examples that could inform those surveyed.

    Comparison between the EU to China is very odd, because their system of Government is for China, and its “dependent territories”, not for 20-odd sifferent countries. Perhaps it was the EU “mandarins” that prompted that?

    I’m sure Anthony would have censored my comments here long ago if they had been as irrelevant to this site as you suggest.

    Your link is to an article in November 2005. Anything more recent?

    I accept the “notoriety”, the “reputation”, is there – that’s consistent with my statements. the question is, is the notoriety based on any concrete examples?

    Of course what people think is important. I was not suggesting that people should be ignored, I was suggesting that they should be informed. I don’t understaand why that elicits such a negative response from you.

  31. Colin (one l)

    Re the “opinion is a substanive issue” point. Of course you are correct – it drives decision-making. Even if , say, all the indicators are that prison doesn’t work, more will be built because public perception is that prison doea work. (Might be a bad example, because I’m not sure whether prison works or not), but I hope you see that I get your point.

    Ironically, that’s not so in China, Collin, where decisions are made without reference to opinion polls. By the way, that isn’t the problem with China, it’s more the fear of protest/opposition, which passes on to its poeople a fear of repression and a reluctance to discuss politics – “keep your head down”. I lived there for a short time amongst un-westernised non-English speakers and while they were perfectly happy in there lives, there was a marked quietness, and over-regard for authority. I can’t see the French ever acquiescing to the thought-police, or the British for that matter.

  32. I remember the infamous curved Bananas story, wher the beaurocrats in Brussels wer estopping British banans being sold.

    However whta had actually happened was that farmers, retailers, traders, processors and restraunts across europe wanted a single system of classification instead of different national sytems so that they could buy and sell freely and consistantly throughout the EU.

    Ministers asked the commission to draw up the rules and after a lot of wrangling (unsurprisinly ever nation tried to skew the classification to help their own interests) they came up with a single set of rules.

    Then the UK press take the fact that certain types of banans that we like will be graded as somewhat differently to currently into a Euro attack on the British way of life.

    There never was any possibility that there would be any restrictions on the type of banans we could buy, but it’s amazing how many people still hold the banana wars against the EU.

    Peter.

  33. JohnT. Different dictatorships use different controls.The Chinese use fear,the EU uses extreme uncontrolled bureaucracy-both seem to work quite successfully.

  34. Collin,

    Still no sign of any actual proof of your assertion of an uncontrolled bureacracy.

    “All the Presidents Men”. Before you publish you need too independent verifyable sources.

    Peter.

  35. John T:-

    “I accept the “notoriety”, the “reputation”, is there – that’s consistent with my statements. the question is, is the notoriety based on any concrete examples”

    You may be interested in this:-

    http://www.ifj-europe.org/default.asp?index=2720&Language=EN

    You can do your own searches on Paul Van Buitenen & Martha Andreasen & make your own mind up.
    Andreasen was sacked by then Commissioner Kinnock, whose portfolio included Fraud reduction.

  36. Peter.

    Perhaps you can help me-

    Do you think the following is correct,and what is your answer to the question at the end.

    In answer to the charge that “Europe is undemocratic and that power lies with unelected, faceless bureaucrats,” the European Commission is fond of reminding us that the most powerful decision-making body, the Council of Ministers, is responsible through its members to parliaments and electorates in every EU country.

    Furthermore, it states, “Each country decides how to make its ministers accountable.” Thus, the Commission effectively argues, because Council members are responsible to their electorates, the European Union is democratically controlled.

    In order to explore this assertion – that the Council somehow adds democratic legitimacy to the European Union – we simply need to look at what the Council is, and what it does.

    Firstly, the Council itself. In fact there are many “Councils” each dealing with specific policy areas – like environment, transport, fisheries, agriculture, etc. Their members are the sectoral ministers from the member states,(not always the Heads of State) each council comprising the same number of ministers as there are member states.

    So what do they do?

    The answer to that is quite simple – they “legislate”. That is, they receive proposals from the unelected Commission, asking them to take powers and/or responsibilities from their member state governments (or to impose obligations on their citizens).

    They then turn these proposals into laws, giving the Commission the powers it asks for – often acting by qualified majority voting – thereby depriving their own governments (and/or citizens) of power.

    That’s it.

    From then on, the Commission having been given the power, it keeps it, to exercise as it thinks fit. The Council has no further part to play in the process, unless or until the Commission comes back to ask it to amend or extend those powers (or both).

    Does the Council maintain an oversight over how those powers are exercised? No.

    Has the Council any power to call the Commission to account over the way it uses its powers? No.

    Can the Council remove or modify those powers, if it is unsatisfied with the way the Commission is performing? No.

    Does the Council even have the power to ask the Commission for information on its performance? No.

    So what is the Council?

    In effect, it is a transfer station. On the basis of proposals from the Commission,( the only body empowered to initiate legislation) it handles the process of taking powers from member states, packaging them up and shovelling them into the Commission, for them never to be returned.

    Does it ask the electorate in advance – through an election manifesto – what powers it should hand over? No.

    And is any record kept of which particular ministers vote for what, so that they can be taken to task by their electorates, if they vote the wrong way? No.

    Is this process democratic?

  37. Colin-Thanks- saved me writing in similar terms.None of your comments are assertions.However “dont confuse me with the facts”-makes it too difficult to live with ones prejudices.

  38. Collin – I don’t understand your last sentence – do you want to be confused? Yopu seem to be sideing with me – we need facts, not “spin”, and all Colin has provided is a description of the process (rather loaded to reflect his view of it)

    “The Chinese use fear,the EU uses extreme uncontrolled bureaucracy-” suggests we all feel cowed by bureaucracy. Is there an example as to why I should feel threatened by EU beaurocrats in the same way that a Chinese peasant feels threatened by punishment for protesting against government policy?

    Colin, the answer to the question, “is the EU law-making process democratic” is yes. One only has to compare it with the UK “democratic process” to see that “democracy” in action isn’t a simple matter of responding to the clearly ewxpressed wishes of majorities of voters, but something rather more complex. Involving “spinning” arguments instead of examioning the facts.

    There are still no examples from you of how the EU processes damage us to the extent that it should be fundamentally changed.

  39. Colin,

    If by your definition the EU is undemocratic then so is Britain, and indeed every other modern democracy. They all have civil servants who give ministers or their equivelents advice.

    Ministers then decide how to act and send there civil servants away to do it. That action comes back as legislation for the government to take forward if it chooses.

    As to many “commissions”, we have many ministers, in ministries covering similiar areas.

    There is of course a difference.

    Where as in the EU the “commissions” are overseen by a council of ministers elected from a range of countries and from a range of democratically elected ( usually proportionally) political party’s in the UK it tends to be a single politicain from one party which didn’t get the support of the majority of the electorate at the election.

    You can claim that having a room full of agricultural ministers plus their advisors is a lot more clumbersome than a single minister but your on dodgy ground on it being undemocratic.

    So lets try a different tack, why don’t you tell us what a democratic EU would look like and how it would work.

    Peter.

  40. John T & Peter. Ofcourse,no one is afraid of bureaucrats-that is not how they work.If they are uncontrolled(by ministers, Parliament in our case)then their agenda and objective can be achieved more easily.Passing legislation cannot be compared with advising a minister.As for suggesting that because EU is undemocratic,so UK must also,this doesnt stand up to a moments scrutiny, for the same reason.

  41. Peter & John T

    I suppose my answer to you both is that I wouldn’t start from here!

    To John-rather than “what damage” I ask what point & what benefit to the bureaucracy &institutions-particularly the Commission-and the
    self evident trajectory to integration.Why cannot trade be conducted -as itis with so many other nation states-without economic union? Why do the economies of Europe have to convergesimply in order to facilitate a common currency & interest rate policy?
    Why does the law of the country in which I live & vote have to be subsidiary tothe law of the EU which is not a country & where I do not vote?

    I feel that the areas of common interest across europe could have been fostered by trade & forums without the straightjacket of conformity, and cost of the insitutions which have been spawned in the transition from an “Economic Community” to a “Union”

    To Peter-I don’t think a European “Union”cannever be democratic until it’s law makers are directly elected by all it’s citizens-and that would make it one country.But I believe in the importance of the Nation State, and all that it represents for it’s people . I want to feel that I can directly influence the laws of my country with my vote. I feel no ability whatsoever to influence the laws of the EU-and less so every time I read that this or that policy change is not possible because it would infringe EU law.

    Thereare areas of pan-European action which I readily accept as sensible and usefull. But I do not believe that these needed the massive structure of institutions & law , which sensible co-operation between states ( a prerequisite in any event !), and organisations like UN & NATO for example could help to facilitate.

    Well chaps I guess we have squeezed the pips out of this one. We clearly have differing views & it has been most interesting to examine them.

  42. Colllin,

    “As for suggesting that because EU is undemocratic,so UK must also,this doesnt stand up to a moments scrutiny”.

    It stands scrutiny pretty well from where I stand.

    The minister who is appointed by the leader of his party as part the government in the UK, is the same minister as goes to sit on the Commission, he makes decisions based on advice from civil servants in London and Brussels.

    Other than the still unsubstantiated claim that the EU’s civil servants are somehow more corrupt or devious than ours it is the same politican with the same democratic mandate making decisions in two different palces.

    Therefore neither is more or less democratic than the other which means that if the EU is undemocratic then so is the UK or conversely if we have democratic control of public servants than so has the EU.

    Colin,

    A bit of a self tautology isn’t it.

    In effect you are saying,

    ” I am opposed to the EU because it’s undemocratic, but the only way to make it democratic is for it to be a federal state, and because I am opposed to that, I am opposed to the EU.”

    The reason for the single market with the free flow of goods and services was that when we looked at the costs of doing business in the EU compared to the US there was no comparison.

    The idea was to where possible to replicate what they had their with free movement of goods services and people between states and a single currency and central bank.

    If you compare it to the US, I suppose you could argue that what they came up with was a loose confedracy with no executive president, a single house of congress, but with more limited powers, and a governing council that is the equivellant of a forum of elected state Governors.

    Oddly enough I know quite a few Americans from both Right ( they don’t like big government in Washington interfering in their lives and taxing them) and Left ( they don’t like the power of the president which they feel should be curtailed), who would quite like that model themselves.

    You also mention Nato.

    It’s go a perminant HQ with a huge staff in Brussels. Looking at Afghanistan, it’s hardly inspiring, what with the Germans and French pretty much refusing to fight and us still short of combat troops after more than a year despite the European members having over 1m men under arms.

    There is no Nato parliament, I know we have an Ambassador to Nato because I once visited his house. All Nato decisions are made by unanimity so, luxembourg or Iceland can veto everyone else. Given your concerns about democratic accountability how can you be in favour of Nato?

    As to your vote influencing things, move to Scotland, in England the only two parties that can win now have identical manifestos.

    Peter.

  43. Peter-
    I don’t buy your equation of Westminster & The Council. If I voted for the ruling party at Westminster , they published a Manifesto & I voted for it. By & large I can expect to see the contents of that manifesto enacted by a majority in power.
    The single representative of that party in The Council does not provide provide me with any certainty as to outcomes there. He is but one voice.

    I don’t think the Commission is at all equivalent to our Civil Service.
    I have not claimed ( if indeed thats what you meant) that the present Commission is corrupt ( though you will remember Santer & his gang as well as I no doubt)-merely that the EU Auditors tell us that to date it has never properly accounted for its expenditure of our money.

    Thanks for your invitation-but no thanks.The party I intend to vote for will have a very distinctive set of policies which will benefit the country in my view.
    I trust that Mr Salmond will be able to claim the same for his country.

  44. JohnT/Peter.So these are the same- 1/A UK minister advised by his department,steering laws through Paliament and 2/The same minister in a group in Brussels over which he has little influence, discussing briefly proposed laws which are then enacted by the proposers without further reference. This is so bizarre,no further comment seems needed.However,as I am probably the only person in the world still reading this site,I doubt if it matters. Over and out.

  45. Peter-

    In your third para I think you meant “Council”-not “Commission”

    I just don’t buy the equations UK Parliament=THe Council & UK Civil Service= The Commission.

    A UK voter who voted for the winner in a GE, will have voted for a manifesto. He/she will have a high degree of certainty that it will be implemented by the majority party. THe individual from that party who sits on the EU Council of MInisters is in a minority-possibly a political minority & can offer no certainty of outcomes to the UK voter. There is no manifesto, no record of proceedures & no voting record for THe Council.

    The UK Civil Service is low key/a-political/legislatively re-active.
    THe Commission is high profile/political/legislatively pro-active. I saw Barosso with Brown recently. He set out the Commissions’ vision for EU, and did not think twice about warning BRown not to demand too many UK derogations from the grand plan. Our civil service does not act like this.

    THe democratic credentials of THe Council are illusory & it’s control over the Commission debatable.

    My point about NATO & UN was precisely because-as you say-EU agreement on foreign policy is so difficult to achieve, why not use the talking shops we have already rather than construct yet more EU institutions to no purpose.

    Thanks for your invitation, but the party I vote for will have very distinct policies & values, which are unlikely to be legislated for in Scotland at present!

  46. Colin,

    “Thanks for your invitation, but the party I vote for will have very distinct policies & values, which are unlikely to be legislated for in Scotland at present!”

    That will be UKIP I presume.

    Odd that you talk about being able to have democartic control through your vote when you seem intent on wasting it.

    Peter.

  47. Peter-you presume too much-the politicians eternal failing.

    Nope-I’ll be voting Conservative in all probability.

    Not at all a wasted vote!!!

  48. Colin.Amazing!! This could go on till we get a referendum(some hope)

  49. Colin.For some reason, Anthonys system recorded the entries after clocks put back as pm not am.People reading this should realise we shall be monitoring it 24/7 until Brown gives us the referendum we obviously need,from the low grade responses we have been getting.

  50. Colin at 1.25pm

    “FJ Calls for New Protection for Whistleblowers Within European Union

    30/09/2004”

    2004?? I need more recent examples of how the EU damages my life. How about an article from some time this year (or henceforward – I’m sure Anthony will indulge us awhile at the bottom of a thread!

    I disagree that the debate has been low-grade. It has been almost entirely about the process of government, at the expense of discussion of policies , which no doubt in my mind explains the public’s lack of interest in the EU (pace Anthony!!), but there was an interesting turn at 7.51pm from Colin :

    1 “Why cannot trade be conducted – as it is with so many other nation states – without economic union?

    2 Why do the economies of Europe have to converges simply in order to facilitate a common currency & interest rate policy?

    3 Why does the law of the country in which I live & vote have to be subsidiary to the law of the EU which is not a country & where I do not vote?”

    These are very good questions (I corrected the typos)and added numbers for convenience.as to the answers, my personal take is :

    1 Economic Union is not an issue for us – won’t happen.

    2 The differnet economies WOULD have to converge to facilitate a single currency and interest rate policy. Again, not an issue for us, as we do not envisage a single currency, a convergence of economies, or a single interest rate policy.

    3 Assumiong you live in the UK, your laws are not subsidiary to thse of the EU, at least until the “opt-outs” are removed, at which point I’ll gladly join the queue to exit.

    Colin at 1.36 pm

    “He/she will have a high degree of certainty that it will be implemented by the majority party”

    When was the last time a majority party decided anything in this country?

    The last time a majority view held sway was when the poll tax riots 500 yards from the palace led to its abandonment, but even then the taxpayer was punished by an increase in VAT from 15% to 17.5%, in order to “pay for the transition”.

    Collin – your departure from this debate presumably means we can stay off China now!

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