The EU referendum and some paradoxes of democratic legitimacy

27678701211_6125a9b158_zIn parliamentary democracies referendums generate alternative, competing sources of legitimacy. This has been clearly demonstrated by the EU referendum result, with the public voting to Leave despite a clear parliamentary majority for continued membership. Nat le Roux, Strategy Director of The Constitution Society, discusses this paradox and suggests that it would not be unreasonable for some MPs to choose to vote against the invocation of Article 50.  

In a parliamentary democracy, referendums are potentially destabilising because they generate alternative, competing, sources of democratic legitimacy. A majority of elected representatives may hold one view on a matter of major national importance. If a referendum demonstrates that a majority of the public hold the opposite view, which manifestation of democratic legitimacy should trump the other? Continue reading

A Broader Vision of the Future of Europe

Globe-EuropeThe UK has been affected by events in mainland Europe since history began, as mainland Europe has been affected by events on the British Isles. In response to Matt Wood’s post ‘David Cameron Needs a Vision for the Future of Europe’Konrad Schiemann, former Judge at the European Court of Justice from 2004 to 2012, nominated by the UK, argues that whilst it is understandable that the UK Parliament asks what is best for the UK, it might be more beneficial in the long-term, both for Europe but also for the UK itself, to ask ‘what is best for Europe?’.

Any historical perspective makes plain that the UK, like every other European country, has always been hugely affected by what is happening elsewhere in Europe. Britain was colonised by the Romans; the Spanish Empire sought domination as did the French under Louis XIV and Napoleon, the Germans under the Kaiser and Hitler, and the Soviet Union under Stalin. The beginnings of the creation of a European Common Market in the 1950s all hugely affected this country long before the UK officially joined what became the EU in 1973. Moreover, the adoption of the Euro by many of the other countries of the EU has affected the UK notwithstanding that the UK has not adopted it. Continue reading

Why National Parliaments in the EU Should Be Empowered

big-benOn Monday 12 October 2015, a panel of experts will to discuss the role of national parliaments in the debate on the EU at an event at the UCL European Institute. Here, Sandra Kröger, lecturer in politics of the University of Exeter, talks about the ‘democratic disconnect’ in the European Union between domestic and EU-level political institutions. She proposes that national parliaments can, and should, be empowered, but also that national parliamentarians need to make better use of the powers already available to them by engaging more closely with EU affairs.

In early 2013, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has publicly announced a referendum on European Union (EU) membership by the end of 2017 should he be re-elected in 2015. He has since linked the now certain referendum to the re-negotiation and eventual re-location of certain competences to the UK as well as the possibility, for the UK, to opt out of specific policies. Just how convincing such demands are in the light of the recent British government’s own balance of competences review not finding any competences that should be returned to Westminster is open to debate. Be that as it may, one central demand of Cameron is a ‘bigger and more significant role’ for National Parliaments (NPs), reflecting a desire for more national democracy. Continue reading