(perhaps more than the UK Parliament)
It’s an often heard statement – especially in the Mail, Express and Sun, but elsewhere as well, that the EU is an undemocratic body. It’s a slogan without even a kernel of truth and needs to be unpacked and rejected.
The first thing to ask is why the 27 other democratic European countries continue to believe that the EU is a democratic institution. Surely we should have some respect for their understanding of democracy and accept that an understanding of democracy is not limited to the UK and particularly not to Brexiteers
The little diagram below sets it out simply
The Commissioners are nominated by the governments of the members states, including by the UK government. In the past we have been able to nominate the Commissioner portfolios most important to our interests, notably Foreign Affairs and the Single Market for example. More recently we have shown less interest and others have taken the major portfolios. The Commission implements Council decisions and defends the Treaties that have been signed up to by all members states
The Council – made up of the democratically elected ministers of the member states – is of course the body that takes the decisions, sometimes by qualified majority, sometimes only at unanimity. That sounds like how decisions are generally made in multi national bodies.
The European Parliament is directly and democratically elected and holds the Commission and Council to account. It has real power and influence.
The European Court of Justice, not shown in the diagram, provides the judicial component. It’s quite unclear why the ECJ attracts so much hostility from Brexiteers other than that it provides some easy slogans about ‘foreign judges’. Not that Brexiteers have been much in support of our own judiciary when it upholds the rule of UK law. Any institutional democratic structure needs an Independent judicial arm and the ECJ is just that. Its judges include senior British judges and it’s a travesty to suggest that they operate at less than their usual standards of expertise and impartiality.
Every international treaty that we take part in has its equivalent, whether called a court or an arbitration panel. In the end, just as in domestic matters, a country entering international agreements, has to cede final judgment to bodies beyond their national power.