The case against Europe: One MEP reveals the disturbing contempt for democracy at the heart of the EU

By Daniel Hannan

PUBLISHED:17:04 EST, 14  August 2012| UPDATED:04:08 EST, 17 August 2012

Over 13 years as  an MEP,  Daniel Hannan has witnessed first hand how Brussels works. Now he  has written a forensic analysis of why it’s rotten to the core. His devastating  critique should be required reading for every politician.

There  is a popular joke in Brussels that if the European Union were a country applying  to join itself, it would be rejected on the grounds of being  undemocratic.

It’s  absolutely true – and, believe me, it isn’t funny. Or, if it is, then the laugh  is on you and me.

Democracy  is not simply a periodic right to mark a cross on a ballot  paper.

A protester places a EU flag on a bonfire during a riot outside the European Council hall in Gothenburg SwedenA protester places a EU flag on a bonfire during a riot  outside the European Council hall in Gothenburg Sweden

It  also depends upon a relationship between government and governed, on a sense of  common affinity and allegiance.

It  requires what the political philosophers of Ancient Greece called a ‘demos’, a  unit with which we the people can identify.

Take away the demos and you are left only with the ‘kratos’ – a state that  must  compel by force of law what it cannot ask in the name of  patriotism.

In the absence of a demos, governments are even likelier than usual to  purchase  votes through public works schemes and sinecures.

Lacking  any natural loyalty, they have to buy the support of their  electorates.

And  that is precisely what is happening in the EU.

One way to think of the EU is as a massive vehicle for the redistribution  of  wealth – though not in a way that many of us would consider fair or  beneficial.

Taxpayers  in all the states contribute money to Brussels through their national  taxes.

The bureaucrats then use this huge revenue to purchase the allegiance of  consultants, contractors, big landowners, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), corporations, charities and municipalities.
In other words, all the articulate and powerful  groups they rely on to keep themselves in employment.

Unsurprisingly,  the people running the EU have little time for the concept of representative  government.

The (unelected) President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Durao  Barroso,  argues that nation states are dangerous precisely because they  are excessively  democratic.

‘Decisions  taken by the most democratic institutions in the world are very often wrong,’ he  claims, without a hint of irony.

French riots: Firemen in Amiens yesterday examine a car torched by youths during a night of violenceFrench riots: Firemen in Amiens yesterday examine a car  torched by youths during a night of violence

The plain  fact is that the EU is contemptuous of public opinion — not by  some oversight,  but as an inevitable consequence of its supra-national  nature.

The EU is run, extraordinarily, by a body that combines legislative and  executive  power. The European Commission is not only the EU’s ‘government’, it is also the  only body that can propose legislation in  most fields of policy.

Such a concentration of power is itself objectionable enough. But what is  even more  terrifying is that the 27 Commissioners are unelected. Many  supporters of the  EU acknowledge this flaw — the ‘democratic deficit’, as they call it — and  vaguely admit that something ought to be done  about it.

But the  democratic deficit isn’t an accidental design flaw: it is intrinsic to the whole  project.

The EU’s  founding fathers had mixed feelings about democracy — especially  the populist  strain that came into vogue between the two World Wars. In  their minds, too  much democracy was associated with demagoguery and  fascism.

They prided themselves on creating a model where supreme power would be in  the  hands of ‘experts’ — disinterested technocrats immune to the ballot  box.

They understood very well that their audacious scheme to merge Europe’s  ancient  kingdoms and republics into a single state would never succeed  if each  successive transfer of power from the national capitals to  Brussels had to be  approved by the voters.

They were unapologetic about designing a system in which public opinion  would come  second to deals stuck by a bureau of wise men.The EU’s  diffidence about  representative government continues to this day.

When  referendums go the ‘wrong’ way, Eurocrats simply swat the results  aside.

Demonstrators clash with policeman during protests in Madrid, SpainDemonstrators clash with policeman during protests in  Madrid, Spain

Denmark voted against the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, Ireland against the Nice  Treaty  in 2001 and Ireland (again) against the Lisbon Treaty in 2008.  Their  governments were all told just to go away and try again.

When  France and the Netherlands voted against the European Constitution in 2005, the  verdict was simply disregarded.

As  an MEP at the time, I well remember the aftermath of those last two  votes.

One after  another, MEPs and Eurocrats rose to explain that people hadn’t  really been  voting against the European Constitution at all.

They had  actually been voting against Anglo-Saxon capitalism or the French leader Jacques Chirac or against Turkey joining — anything, in fact, except  the  proposition actually on the ballot paper.

As  in any abusive relationship, the contemptuous way in which Eurocrats treat  voters has become self-reinforcing on both sides.

The  more voters are ignored, the more cynical and fatalistic they  become.

They  abstain in record numbers, complaining — quite understandably — that it makes no  difference how they cast their ballots.

Eurocrats, for their part, fall quickly into the habit of treating public opinion  as an  obstacle to overcome rather than a reason to change direction.

To  get around the awkward lack of enthusiasm for their project, the Euro-elite of  Brussels claim the people are being misled.

If only they weren’t hoodwinked by Eurosceptic media barons and whipped up by  unscrupulous nationalists, if only there could be an informed and  dispassionate  election campaign, then the people would surely see that  deeper integration was  in their interests.

But, the  argument goes on, because people are unable to make an unclouded  judgment,  Eurocrats are therefore entitled — indeed obliged — to  disregard their  superficial desires in pursuit of their true  preferences.

Critical: Daniel Hannan is a Conservative MEP representing the south east of EnglandCritical: Daniel Hannan is a Conservative MEP  representing the south east of England

In his  final interview as prime minister, Tony Blair stated: ‘The British  people are  sensible enough to know that, even if they have a certain  prejudice about  Europe, they don’t expect their government necessarily  to share it or act upon  it.’

Got that? According to Blair, we don’t want our politicians to do as we  say: we  want them to  second-guess our innermost, unarticulated  desires.

From the point of view of the politician, this is a  remarkably convenient  theory. Not all Eurocrats are cynics. There are some  committed  Euro-federalists who believe it is possible to democratise the EU  without destroying it.

Their  ideal is a pan-European democracy, based on a more powerful European  Parliament.

The European Commission would become the Cabinet; the Council of Ministers  would  become an Upper House, representing the nation states; and the  European  Parliament would become the main legislative body.

Give MEPs  more power, runs the theory, and people will take them more seriously.

A  higher calibre of candidate will stand, and turnout will rise.

Pan-European political parties will contest the elections on common and binding  manifestos.  European democracy will become a reality.

The problem with this idea is that it has already  demonstrably failed.

Turnout  for the 2009 elections to the European Parliament was a dismal 43 per cent – compared to 65 per cent in our 2010 general election, a figure that was itself  considered embarrassingly low.

In  other words, less than half the population could be bothered to vote – despite  voting being compulsory in some member states and Brussels spending hundreds of  millions of euros on a campaign to encourage turnout.

One  of its gimmicks was to send a ballot box into orbit – the perfect symbol of the  EU’s pie-in-the-sky remoteness.

The plain fact – which Brussels chooses to ignore – is that over the past  30  years, the European Parliament, like the EU in general, has been  steadily  agglomerating powers.

Yet  people have responded by refusing to sanction it with their votes.

Turnout at European elections is far lower than at national elections for the  obvious  reason that very few people think of themselves as Europeans in  the same sense  that they see themselves as British or Portuguese or  Swedish.

There is no pan-European public opinion, there is no pan-European media. You  can’t  decree a  successful democracy by bureaucratic fiat. You can’t  fabricate a  common nationality.

A bleeding protester is led away by riot police during a rally in the Spanish capitalA bleeding protester is led away by riot police during a  rally in the Spanish capital

But  MEPs respond to this by blaming the electorate.

They  demand better information campaigns, more extensive (and expensive) propaganda.  Europe matters more than ever, and, they argue, voters must be made to see  it!

It  never occurs to them to infer any loss of legitimacy from the turnout figures,  nor to devolve powers to a level of government — the nation state — that  continues to enjoy proper democratic support.

On  the contrary, those nation states find themselves in danger of being subverted  by the Brussels machine and its sympathisers.

Ireland  used to have exemplary laws on the conduct of referendums, providing for equal  airtime for both sides and the distribution of a leaflet with the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ arguments to every household.

When  these rules produced a ‘No’ to the Nice treaty in 2001, they were revised so as  to make it easier for the pro-EU forces to win a second  referendum.

Henceforth,  the free publicity would be divided up in proportion to each party’s  representation in parliament.

There is no  pan-European public opinion. You can’t  fabricate a common  nationality.

And  since all Irish parties — except Sinn Fein — were pro-Treaty, impartial  information was replaced by State-sponsored propaganda.

Worse,  the result was that all subsequent Irish referendums, not just those to do with  the EU, are fought on an unbalanced basis.

There are many other examples of Brussels’ influence undermining the  democratic  processes of its member countries in order to sustain the  requirements of  European integration. Croatia dropped the minimum  threshold provisions in its  referendum rules in order to ensure a result in favour of joining the EU in  2011.

When the president of the Czech Republic declared his reluctance to sign the Lisbon  Treaty into law, senior Brussels Eurocrats called on their  Socialist allies in  the Republic to threaten the President with  impeachment, even though he was  trying to stick to a promise he had made to his people in the run-up to his  election.

Meanwhile, in Britain, successive party leaders have had to abandon their pledges  of a  referendum on one aspect or another of the EU. Each such betrayal  damages their  credibility with the electorate, yet it seems they are  prepared to pay that  price for the sake of Europe.

However,  British party leaders have got off lightly compared to others.

In Ireland, the ruling Fianna Fail party found its support slump from 41.6 to 17.4  per cent in last year’s general election, as voters turned  against a government  that had meekly agreed to the EU’s  loans-for-austerity deal, turning Ireland  into a vassal state.

Teetering: A Greek protestor during riots in Athens in June, after austerity measures were put in place in a bid to rescue the country's economy

Teetering: A Greek protestor during riots in Athens in  June, after austerity measures were put in place in a bid to rescue the  country’s economy

Meanwhile,  Greece and Italy suffered what amounted to Brussels-backed coups as elected  prime ministers were toppled and replaced with Eurocrats.

In  Athens, George Papandreou’s mistake was to call for a referendum on Greece’s  austerity deal – a move which was to prompt fury in Brussels where, as we have  seen, the first rule is ‘no referendums – unless we can fix the result’.

Papandreou  was not a Eurosceptic. On the contrary, he fervently wanted Greece to stay in  the euro. His ‘sin’ was to be too keen on democracy, and so he was out

Silvio  Berlusconi, too, got on the wrong side of the EU. His pronouncement that ‘since  the introduction of the euro, most Italians have become poorer’ was factually  true, but sealed his fate.

The European Central Bank’s sudden withdrawal of support for Italian bonds, verbal  attacks from other EU leaders and a rebellion by Europhile  Italian MPs combined  to see him off.

Both Papandreou and Berlusconi were already unpopular for domestic reasons —just as  Margaret Thatcher was when EU leaders and Conservative  Euro-enthusiasts brought  her down in 1990.

Had  any of these leaders been at the height of their powers, they would not have  been vulnerable.

Nonetheless, to depose an incumbent head of government, even a wounded one, is no  small  thing. It shows the hideous strength of the EU.

With  Papandreou and Berlusconi out of the way, Brussels was able to install  technocratic juntas in their place — unelected administrations called into being  solely to enforce programmes which their nations rejected.

The  most shocking aspect of the whole affair was that so few people were  shocked.

The  Brussels system was undemocratic from  the start, but its hostility to  the ballot box had always been disguised by the  outward trappings of  constitutional rule in its member nations. That has now  ceased to be  true.

The  Brussels system was undemocratic from the start, but its hostility to the ballot  box had always been disguised by the outward trappings of constitutional rule in  its member nations. That has now ceased to be true.

Apparatchiks  in Brussels now rule directly through apparatchiks in Athens and Rome. The  voters and their tribunes are cut out altogether. There is no longer any  pretence. In place of democracy, we now have the tyranny of a self-perpetuating,  self-serving elite, all wedded by self-interest to the European  project.

They  are, it must be said, a worried and tetchy bunch. Ever since 55 per cent of  French voters and 62 per cent of Dutch voters rejected the European Constitution  in 2005, the Eurocrats in Brussels have been noticeably defensive. They have  given up trying to win round public opinion. Their primary interest is keeping  their well-paid positions.

Before  those ‘No’ votes, they could convince themselves that Euroscepticism was  essentially a British phenomenon, with perhaps a tiny off-shoot in  Scandinavia.

Now,  they know that almost any electorate will reject the transfer of powers to  Brussels. So they concentrate on wielding power in the way they know best — through influence and money.

It  is a shock to discover just how extensive the EU’s reach is. Take its claim in  2003 to be ‘consulting the people’ about the draft of a new constitution by  inviting 200 ‘representative organisations’ to submit their  suggestions.

Every  single one of them, I discovered, received grants from the EU. If you scratch  the surface, you find that virtually every field of activity has some  EU-sponsored pressure group to campaign for deeper integration, whether it   be the European Union of Journalists, the European Women’s Lobby or the European  Cyclists’ Federation.

These  are not independent associations which just happen to be in receipt of EU funds.  They are, in most cases, creatures of  the European Commission,   wholly dependent on Brussels for their existence.

Protesters clash with riot police outside of the Greek Parliament in Athens, in FebruaryProtesters clash with riot police outside of the Greek  Parliament in Athens, in February

The  EU has also been active in spreading its tentacles to established charities and  lobbying groups within the nation states. The process starts harmlessly enough,  with one-off grants for specific projects.

After  a while, the organisation realises that it is worth investing in a ‘Europe  officer’ whose job, in effect, is to secure bigger grants.

As  the subventions become permanent, more ‘Europe officers’ are hired. Soon, the  handouts are taken for granted and factored into the organisation’s budget. Once  this stage is reached, the EU is in a position to call in favours.

When  he introduced the Bill to ratify the Lisbon Treaty in 2007, the then Foreign  Secretary, David Miliband, made a great song and dance that it was backed by a  whole range of independent organisations including the NSPCC, One World Action,  Action Aid and Oxfam.

Yet  every organisation he cited was in receipt of EU subventions. In a single year,  Action Aid, the NSPCC, One World Action and Oxfam had among them received €43,051,542 (£33,855,355).

Can  organisations in receipt of such colossal subsidies legitimately claim to be  independent? Hardly surprising that they should dutifully endorse a treaty  supported by their paymasters.

In  much the same way, the Commission pays Friends of the Earth to urge it to take  more powers in the field of climate change.

It  pays the WWF to tell it to assume more control over environmental matters. It  pays the European Trade Union Congress to demand more Brussels employment  laws.

The  EU hoses cash at these dependent organisations, who then tell it what it wants  to hear. It then turns around and claims to have listened to ‘The People’.

Here  is the swollen European behemoth, its  interests utterly tied into the  European project. And I fear it’s not going to  stand aside for a cause  so trivial as public opinion or  democracy.

And  here’s the clever bit: millions of workers linked to these groups are thereby  drawn into the system, their livelihoods becoming dependent on the European  project.

Meanwhile,  big businesses see a way of manipulating the EU system for their own purposes,  grasping that they can achieve far more in the Brussels institutions than they  could from administrations whose legislatures are dependent on public  opinion.

Between  2007 and 2010, the EU banned several vitamin supplements and herbal remedies and  subjected others to a prohibitively expensive licensing regime.

The  reaction from consumers to this attack on alternative medicines was overwhelming  as millions of Europeans found that an innocent activity they had pursued for  years was being criminalised. I can’t remember receiving so many letters and  emails on any question in all my time in politics.

It  turned out these new restrictions were pushed strenuously by big pharmaceutical  corporations.

They  could easily afford the compliance costs; their smaller rivals could not. Many  independent herbalists went out of business, and the big companies gained a near  monopoly.

The  lesson here is that whenever Brussels proposes some apparently unnecessary  rules, ask yourself, who stands to benefit?

Nine  times out of ten, you will find there is a company or a conglomeration whose  products happen to meet all the proposed specifications anyway, and is using the  EU to its own advantage.

Thus  are businesses, as well as charities, drawn into the  Euro-nexus.

Thus  are powerful and wealthy interest groups in every member state given a direct  stake in the system.

These  days, the EU’s strength is not to be found among the diminished ranks of true  believers or the benign cranks who distribute leaflets for the Union of European  Federalists.

Nor,  in truth, does it reside primarily among the officials directly on the Brussels  payroll.

The  real power of the EU is to be found in the wider corpus of interested parties – the businesses invested in the regulatory process; the consultants and  contractors dependent on Brussels spending; the landowners receiving cheques  from the Common Agricultural Policy; the local councils with their EU  departments; the seconded civil servants with remuneration terms beyond anything  they could hope for in their home countries; the armies of lobbyists and  professional associations; the charities and the NGOs.

Here  is the swollen European behemoth, its interests utterly tied into the European  project. And I fear it’s not going to stand aside for a cause so trivial as  public opinion or democracy.

Extracted  from A Doomed Marriage by Daniel Hannan, published by Notting Hill Books at £12. © 2012 Daniel Hannan. To order a copy (p&p incl) call  0843 382  0000.

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  1. David Noakes Interview – Steve B. – . . . a General Strike against the EU until our government resigns or repeals the six EU treaties before we are imprisoned inside is the best hope of escape. |
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