Sunday, 28 February 2016

Why I'll Be Voting to Stay In in June (Part One)

Unless you've spent the past few weeks on a desert island with your head buried in a bucket of sand, you almost certainly know that in June this year the UK will hold a referendum on whether to remain a member of the European Union or not. I don't normally post about political subjects, but this is such a hot topic that it almost seems wrong not to.

Obviously, if the UK voted to leave the EU, it would be a major hassle for me. I wouldn't have to leave the country, but there would certainly be plenty of paperwork to do, and the idea of queueing outside the prefecture at 4am to obtain a carte de séjour, as some of my American friends have had to do, doesn't really appeal.

However, I understand that it's not up to the rest of my fellow citizens to remain a part of a political institution against their will just for my convenience, so here are the real reasons why I believe the arguments for the UK to leave don't hold water.

Argument 1: EU decisions are made by politicians we never elected and can't get rid of if we want to

This is statement was made by UK Justice Secretary Michael Gove when he declared himself on the side of the "out" campaign last week. Michael Gove represents a constituency in which I have no right to vote, and much as I would like to, I can't get rid of him, and neither could all the members of the constituency in which I vote, even if a majority wanted to. This is exactly analogous to the UK not being able to kick out an MEP from another European country. It's how our democracy works, and the fact that our Justice Secretary thinks that he can get away with pretending not to understand this is somewhat scary.

Argument 2: EU decisions are made by unelected Brussels bureaucrats

The EU is governed by the European Commission, a cabinet government made up of one representative per member state. Commissioners are appointed by the democratically elected heads of state who make up the European Council and approved by the democratically elected European Parliament. This process of indirect election is similar to the system used for the French Senate, and a lot more democratic than the process by which people are appointed to the UK House of Lords. The other "bureaucrats" in Brussels are the equivalent of the UK civil service and government advisors.

Ironically, one of the most undemocratic aspects of European politics is the power of lobbyists in Brussels. If you ask many French people, they would say that the UK is largely to blame for the importing of what was originally much more a feature of American politics into the European Union.

Another supreme irony is that many of the people who complain about the lack of democratic representation in Europe will have voted UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party) in the last European elections.  The MEPs from this party make a point of not attending the European Parliament as much as possible and of claiming their parliamentary allowances anyway. And then they claim that the UK has no voice in Europe ...

Up Next: Brussels Regulation and Unchecked Migration


  1. If you want to talk undemocratic, I'm pretty mad that I can't vote in this election. I'm fine with not being able to vote in normal British elections, but surely every British citizen resident in the EU should get a vote in this one? If anyone's being directly affected, we are. I'd love to know exactly how things will work if Brexit happens too - I imagine some sort of reciprocal grace period where people already resident in either Britain or EU have a smoother time with residency and so on, but I haven't seen any information. Have you heard something about that?

    1. I read an article recently saying that international treaty changes can't take away rights which were acquired before the treaty was taken away, so the EU couldn't kick out British citizens who were already resident before Brexit. What I reckon they could do, though, would be to ask us to justify that we did have the right to be there at every turn, and I know several British people who've recently applied for French nationality to avoid that.

      Have you never been on the UK electoral register(because you lived in London for a while, right?)? If you've been registered in the past 15 years, you're allowed to vote and can request a postal vote.

      I felt the same as you about not being able to vote in the Scottish referendum for similar reasons - I raging!

    2. No, I don't think so (unless you get automatically put on the register somehow?) I was only there a few months, but I should double check that!

    3. Until recently, it was done by the "head of the household." If you were in a rented flat, you'd have had to do it yourself, but if you were in accommodation like university halls of residence, I guess there's a chance it might have been done for you.

  2. I'm looking forward to reading part II because it's very interesting for me to hear the opinion of someone who understands UK politics (let's face it... many outsiders, like me, don't get it, it's complex, like French politics!)

    I've been hearing about the UK wanting out for ages but I can never tell whether it's serious or not, because French complain about Brussels too but they would never give up on the EU.