Opinion: On the EU, the UK referendum, and reform – part II

Written by on January 8, 2016 in Perspectives - Comments Off on Opinion: On the EU, the UK referendum, and reform – part II

It is likely that this year the UK will hold a referendum on its continuing membership of the EU. Part 2

What could the EU do to avoid a UK Referendum? Absolutely nothing. This is now set in UK law, and to be fair, it is long overdue. What could be done is to show not just the UK, but all EU member states that it is open to review and admit that as the geographical, political and social landscape of the union has changed, then so must the institutions that govern it.

In my opinion, it is time for all member states to look again at the EU with modern eyes and a sensible mind. The union may be damaged, but it is not yet broken.

The EU must seriously review and strengthen its democratic accountability to the citizenship. All governing appointments to all institutions, including the Commission, must be elected – either during the European Parliamentary elections, or by the Parliament itself.

The representation proportion of member states can be retained, but with nominations from Parliament as well as member nations. Individual members of the Commission must be answerable to Parliament and can be removed by a majority vote.

The EU finances simply must be placed on an open and accountable basis with both regular and special external audits. The accounts must balance, and spending outside or above the approved budget be seriously restricted and require the specific approval of Parliament.

EU-based and funded projects should by law source staff and materials first from within the nation hosting the project, and if not possible or practical, from any other EU member nation. Only as a last resort, and then only with specific permission, should funding be used outside of the union.

The migration issue in general must be addressed regarding asylum seekers. Rather than set artificial limits and ridiculous quotas, every member state should declare what they are willing and capable of accepting, subject to an absolute minimum by formula based on population and economics – the sum of which becomes the EU limit. Other migration must remain an internal matter for each member nation. There may also be an argument for limiting migrants’ ability to move between EU nations for a specified period.

Outside of the Council of Ministers, the European Parliament must be the supreme body of law making, including all supporting orders and regulations.
The European Parliament will convene in one place, as will all its supporting elements. The ridiculous waste of time and money shuttling between Brussels and Strasbourg must cease.

Failure to address these and other issues will simply generate further difficulties, to a degree that a UK exit will be the least of the EU problems in the future.

So what should the EU response be if the UK voted to leave?

I believe that they should resist the urge to “punish” the UK, and by that action also be seen to “threaten” the remaining members of the union; but instead retain the “moral high ground”.

The EU could easily offer a trade deal under the same criteria that it does for China, Turkey, the United States and others. It could also enact simple reciprocal rules on work, travel and visas that the UK may impose on EU citizens – no more and no less.

UK activities within the EU zone with regard to NATO would be governed under the same criteria as used for Canada and the US.

Every member state would pay an additional 6.8 per cent of their EU contribution to offset the net loss from the UK element of funding. The EU offices and institutions currently based in the UK would be closed, and re-opened in some of the poorer EU nations.

The UK should not be allowed to join the EEA block unless it fully and completely agrees to ALL the elements that govern that association and its relationship with the EU.

No EU finance should be made available directly or indirectly to the UK after any exit, but the UK could possibly be granted ‘observer’ status on selected occasions.

As for the UK, well, it must be left to go in the direction of its own choosing, neither aided nor hindered by the EU. However, I fear that it will descend into a social, political, and economic mess of its own making. There is a prevailing view that a return to greater trade with the British Commonwealth would be a solution. But a quick check of the members of that group raise some concerns regarding how the racial elements would be accepted. I am not convinced that a position of “we do not want your citizens here, but we want you to buy our products” will work very well. That would also be the same for the remaining EU members.

The UK population also believes that the EU needs them more than they need the EU. I am not able to understand the logic of that view, so will leave it for others to work out.

The only purely self-centred suggestion I would make is that UK citizens currently resident within Bulgaria would be granted residence status as “foreigners”, with such status not being unreasonably withheld, and differences in regulation not being enacted retrospectively. Maybe with consideration of a short cut to citizenship for those existing residents who apply. After all, we here in Bulgaria are not responsible for what our parent nation does, and we have all made the voluntary decision to make our lives here and become part of Bulgaria and its people.

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About the Author

The author is a UK citizen, who lives permanently in Bulgaria. Although pro-EU, he is not blind to the need for some serious reform in its institutions.