Continuing from my previous post.
It follows that the EU is a stupendously good idea, right? Peace, love, understanding – all neatly codified via mutual treaty networks for the benefit of EU member states’ citizens.
In fact it’s such a fine idea that other regions of the world are planning to do something just like it, right?
Look round the world. You’ll find plenty of regional economic and political ‘blocs’ of different shapes and sizes. ASEAN. Mercosur. The Andean Community. The East African Community. The Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). The African Union. As far as I can see, none of them with the possible exception of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) have collective decision-taking on anything significant that rules out national vetoes. See eg Mercosur:
MERCOSUR’s present structure is explicitly inter-governmental and not supranational, as no transfer of sovereignty has taken place. In this respect MERCOSUR differs fundamentally from the EC/EU and also from the Andean Community of Nations (CAN). In combination with the political system of presidentialism that traditionally reigns in the current Member States, MERCOSUR follows a strict model of top-down integration…
I can’t work out exactly how the EEU takes decisions. Here it suggests that the Eurasian Economic Commission has a Council that takes decisions by consensus, plus a Board that takes decisions by ‘qualified majority voting’ (not explained). But it’s safe to assume that nothing much happens of consequence in practice if all EEU member states are not ready to accept it at the top level, where eg President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan keeps a beady eye on anything touching Kazakhstan’s national sovereignty. And is Mighty Russia going to let sundry other former Soviet republics out-vote via QMV it on an important policy decision? No.
In short, in almost all international processes outside the EU (and the unpopular rule of the UN Security Council where the five permanent members each have a right to veto) ‘consensus’ rules. Everyone has to agree. That in turn means that any one state within any given decision-making process can block or delay indefinitely a decision if it’s not happy with the proposal. Slow? Yes. Boring? Yes. Legitimate? Yes!
Other regional blocs variously express their vague ambitions or ‘goals’ to have something like the EU model. But not today, thanks. It’s a momentous step for any country to agree even in principle to set up supranational legally binding processes that trump national sovereignty and the right to block expressed by the unanimity/consensus rule. Who knows where that might lead? There is zero evidence that the members of any regional bloc elsewhere in the world plan to let this happen in the foreseeable future, and well beyond that. Why would they? It’s stupid!
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There are advantages to the EU way of doing things. Above all, the EU ‘gets things done’. Puny ‘national’ interests get trumped by the common good in many areas, where that Common Good is expressed by QMV and/or Commission powers. This helps make the Single Market work.
The problem is that this comes at the cost of national democracy and elementary accountability. Decisions move into untransparent remote elite haggling, with national parliaments and mere voter-taxpayers cut out of everything that matters. This in turn opens the way to top-end ‘regulatory capture’ – powerful corporate or other lobbies can throw money and effort into influencing decisions in Brussels to advance their own private interests.
It also leads to power-creep. EU officials are on the look-out for ways to expand their formal regulatory power at the expense of national governments, inch by inch:
As a minister I’ve seen hundreds of new EU rules cross my desk, none of which were requested by the UK Parliament, none of which I or any other British politician could alter in any way and none of which made us freer, richer or fairer.
That’s bad enough: we all glumly slump into a post-democratic stupor, the hollowed rituals of democracy amusing us while the real decisions are taken far away by people we have not elected under procedures and laws that might as well be invisible or secret.
The real problem is that it’s all going to accelerate even more, as the sickly EU establishment is driven to ever more elaborate gyrations to keep the Eurozone going. Once the UK Brexit referendum is decided one way or the other, we can expect to see a new push to concentrate yet more decision-making at the EU level at the expense of remaining national democratic accountability. Populism will grow as voters across Europe rightly feel exploited and cheated.
In a sane world this ought to lead to Europe 2.0: a tidy division of Europe into Eurozone Europe that combines all the (relatively few) countries prepared to trust each other enough to set up a de facto superstate, and Wider Europe, all the other countries who want to join a light-tough free trade area. Some countries currently within the Eurozone should join Wider Europe as they are never going to ‘fit’ into Eurozone Europe. Everyone agrees not to fight and to be nice.
In the world we have, the current EU elites are too weak and unpopular to attempt anything so radical (and rational), so they will focus instead on immediate self-preservation and manoeuvring to expand their delicious post-modern-power. What Stalinist-Lite glory for Mighty Atom Jean-Claude Juncker from Luxembourg, head of the European Commission, to make barely veiled threats to member states’ governments who displease him, and to swipe Google with colossal fines!
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Of course all states ‘share’ or otherwise express their sovereignty in the modern world by cooperating closely with other states. The EU is not an exception.
Where the EU is an exception, and a highly dangerous exception, is in the unique way it erodes national democracy or even basic national decision-making in favour of remote elite proclamation. That is why no other regional bloc plans to attempt the EU’s experiment – because there is no theoretical place to stop once you outsource your most basic sense of responsibility and surrender national decision-making.
Almost everything the EU currently does can be done through intergovernmentalism rather than supranational institution-building. The latter is steadily serving up greater political and practical dysfunctionality: in today’s world rules and institutions need to be light-touch, transparent and legitimate, not remote, heavy and opaque – illegitimate.
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Why vote Brexit / Leave?
Who decides? Not you.
Who decides who decides? Sorry, that used to be you, but to ‘get things done’ we’ve had to move on from that frumpy inefficient way of working. Now shut up.