Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Which democracy is better: Britain, Belgium or the EU?

Some Eurosceptics have mocked that a region of Belgium, called Wallonia, could block the international trade agreement between Canada and the EU. 

But if anything, this shows that some EU countries, and the EU itself, are more democratic than our system in the UK.

The European Union consists of 28 countries. All treaty changes or enlargement of the EU require the unanimous consent of every single country, however large or small, in accordance with their individual constitutions.
In the case of Belgium, under their constitution, regional parliaments such as the one governing Wallonia, must give their unanimous agreement before Belgium as an EU member state, can give its consent to any EU Treaty.
That includes the new trade agreement between the EU and Canada, known as Ceta, which is how it came to pass that a region of Belgium had the power to block the deal.
In addition, since 1894, voting in Belgium’s elections has been compulsory.
EU Treaties are also put before the European Parliament and while its vote is not binding, it is important; both the Belgian and Italian Parliaments said they would veto the Nice Treaty if the European Parliament did not approve it.
The systems of democracy adopted by Belgium and the EU seem fairer and more democratic than our system in the UK.
Contrast Belgium's system of compulsory voting with what happened in Britain's recent EU Referendum, where around 13 million people who could vote didn’t bother. That’s almost 28% of the electorate.
What a difference 13 million voters could have made to the EU Referendum result if it had been compulsory for them to vote.
And contrast Belgium's system of giving an equal say to their regions on constitutional changes, with what happened in the UK Referendum, where two out of the four countries in the Union of the United Kingdom did not vote for Brexit.
Unlike in Belgium, under Britain's (unwritten) constitution the objections to Brexit by Scotland and Northern Ireland have counted for next to nothing.
Similarly, Gibraltar - a British Overseas Territory which also had a vote in the EU referendum and strongly chose to remain in the European Union - has seen their objections to Brexit ignored.
So, the UK government is now arranging for the UK to leave the EU, without the unanimous consent of all the UK’s countries, and without the consent of our overseas territory, the state of Gibraltar.
In addition, our new Conservative administration is proposing to go ahead with Brexit without any vote by the UK Parliament, even though ‘Leave’ campaigners said they wanted Parliament to have more sovereignty. (This is now the subject of court challenges).
Isn’t there something basically undemocratic about taking a Union of four countries on a path that half of those countries simply don’t want?
That could never happen in Belgium (almost a tenth the size of the UK) where all the regions have an equal say.
And it could never happen in the European Union, where all countries of the EU, however large or small, have an equal vote and veto on new treaties.
Which is the better system of democracy: ours, or theirs?
• Wallonia has now lifted its objections to the EU-Canada Trade Agreement (Ceta), which will be worth an estimated £1.3bn a year to Britain (but only whilst we are in the EU). Whilst Belgium and other EU countries were democratically considering Ceta, last week the UK's international trade secretary, Liam Fox, had to apologise to MPs for not allowing Parliament to have a debate on the Ceta deal.
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1 comment:

  1. In the United States a constitutional amendment has to have a 2/3 majority in both houses of congress and then it has to be ratified by a majority of the states before it can pass into law. I'm not sure of the exact figure of the number of states it may be more but they certainly have to ratify it. Again a more democratic model than ours. Even so the USA's democracy is currently under threat.


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