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UK Political System
#21
'At the EU level, the EU treaties in effect act as a constitution limiting the power of the politicians'.

I know many supporters of Brexit who would argue the EU is a 'superstate'. I personally don't think the EU treaties act like a traditional constitution. However, could this indicate a confusion that provides UK Brexiteers with the type of ammunition regularly deployed, for example, by senior Conservative politicians?

Even if we concede that the treaties currently act as a constitution, should they do so? Does this take away from national sovereignty in a way that creates democratic deficit, at least for some EU members?
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#22
"..It also fails to recognise how the system has delivered stable governments for the best part of a thousand years, while few Continental systems can manage more than 100 years."

I think this is a very, very rose tinted view of British history!! However, underlying it is a plausible argument about the adaptability of UK institutions to changing political and historical circumstances. Might this mean written constitution-based systems are subject to greater risk of impasse and breakage, as arguments about processes and interpretation crowd out discussions about solving problems quickly and effectively?
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#23
@ Guest,

The EU is not and cannot be anything other than what its members want it to be.

The Treaties define the competence and legal framework of the EU.

They require:

- a unanimous vote in the EU Council (heads of state/government of the member states)
- a majority vote in the EU parliament
- and a ratification by each of the member states according to their constitutional requirements, so this means a ratification by the national parliament and/or regional parliaments of the member states.

So, whatever the treaties contain, it is because the parliaments of all member states voted in favour of it and ratified it.

Consequently, I fail to see what could be the problem with them. They are entirely democratically legitimised.
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#24
To continue:

the EU can only legislate within the framework of the treaties - and these treaties are democratically legitimised by the national (and sometimes regional) parliaments.

Laws in the EU are made as follows:

1. First, the member states negotiate and ratify a treaty. That's the legal framework.

2. The EU commission then proposes laws to trun these treaties into laws to make sure that all members adhere to the treaties they adopted.

3. Next, the national parliaments are informed of the proposed law. 
  • If one third of them object to this being regulated by the EU and opine it should be regulate at a lower level (national, regional etc), the proposal is sent back to the Commission that can abandon or modify its proposal or can motivate why it opines it is better to regulate this at EU level  - the Commission can then relaunch the proposal
  • if half of the national parliaments object, it's end of story for the proposal.
As such, the national parliaments function as a Virtual Chamber of the EU.

4. If the proposal gets past this Virtual Chamber of national parliaments, it moves to:
  • The Council (of National Ministers)
  • and the EU parliament
They can each reject, adopt or amend the proposal. Only if both legislative bodies agree on a final wording, does it get adopted.

Where is the democratic deficit in this?
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#25
@Claire 

Your contrasting of Italy and Frances voting systems is very interesting. I believe Frances system is different in that you do not divide area's into different constituencies each allocated a single seat to be won. And your 2nd round see's co-operation between the winners and the looser factions in order to win recommendation. Obviously this is a duel sided sword. Which side do you think the sharper; that of double standards and underhand tactics at the cost of misrepresenting the electorate, or as a mechanism that encourages less all out slander, providing a needed moderating effect on how factions engage with each other?
You mention a proportional system with a stabilizing mechanism. Do you have one in mind in particular?

I myself am for a PR system here in the UK called Direct Party Representation Voting (DPR Voting) that still leverages some of the older mechanisms of first past the post - such as constituencies (as nothing short of a revolution would allow for us to replace these without huge disruption - we are a nation of bureaucracy that resists dramatic change), but allows for proportional representation without in my view too big a sacrifice in the stability of the elected government.

In the polling booth there are two ballot papers, one vote to elect a Member of Parliament, and a separate ballot paper to vote for the party. 
The first ballot paper elects a single MP in each constituency (by simple majority). 
The second ballot paper vote totals are counted nationwide, like a referendum. It is the nationwide total of ‘party’ votes cast that alone determines how many votes each parliamentary party has in the parliament. 

In Parliament however each party shares its parliamentary votes out equally amongst its own MPs (so each MP exercises one share of their party’s total vote in parliamentary divisions, and has a vote equal to every other of their party's MPs.) 

The advantages of this system is that it is PR, every vote counts, there are still single member constituencies, voting and counting is simple and easy to get involved.
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#26
4. If the proposal gets past this Virtual Chamber of national parliaments, it moves to:
  • The Council (of National Ministers)

  • and the EU parliament
They can each reject, adopt or amend the proposal. Only if both legislative bodies agree on a final wording, does it get adopted. 

Where is the democratic deficit in this?

I'm not personally saying there is a democratic deficit here. I'm only pointing out how many Conservative opponents of the EU and supporters of a particular view about national sovereign parliaments would react to describing the framework in constitutional terms. This would be anathema to many people in the UK, principally conservative-leaning, who oppose having a written constitution. One more extreme, very summarised version of this argument is that a constitution confers rights to citizens. The UK has no citizens as British people are subjects of the Crown. Therefore, a UK constitution would fundamentally alter the relationship between the Crown, Parliament and its subjects in a way the British people do not want, given strong overall support for the monarchy (The UK's system is often called a constitutional monarchy, just to make things even more opaque!!!).

I think this whole argument rests on what people think a sovereign national parliament has to do. In the case of Brexit supporters, it is, in summary, to ensure exclusive national control of one's own borders, security, currency and the exclusive ability to make one's own laws and treaties. I personally think there are major problems with this. However, it it illustrates just how wide apart conceptions of democracy, rights and sovereignty can be between traditional UK visions  and models within EU countries. 
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#27
@Guest

I don't quite understand your point.

The UK does have a constitution, and the UK constitution effectively does define the rights and relationship between the state, parliament, government and the citizens.

That is what constitutes the very nature of a constitution: that it defines where the rights of the state, crown etc end and where the rights of the citizens begin and the other way around.

It is just that the UK constitution is not consolidated into a single document that can be easily consulted but draws on a large variety of texts.

This causes a democratic deficit because you need to be a constitutional expert to figure out what the rights of the citizens and the rights of the government are, while in a functioning democracy every citizen should be able to say: these are my rights. 

When you need to be a constitutional lawyer to figure that out, it opens up society to serious abuse of constitutional rights by the government since citizens do not know what their rights are and therefore those rights can more easily be abused.
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#28
At Guest: "I'm only pointing out how many Conservative opponents of the EU and supporters of a particular view about national sovereign parliaments would react to describing the framework in constitutional terms. This would be anathema to many people in the UK, principally conservative-leaning, who oppose having a written constitution... it it illustrates just how wide apart conceptions of democracy, rights and sovereignty can be between traditional UK visions  and models within EU countries."-

Well, the UK will be out soon, so the opposition of the British people to a constitution (without knowing how written constitutions actually function in European democratic systems) is now irrelevant.

The UK does not even fulfil the current criteria for EU membership (if it ever wants to re-join in the future, it will have to first complete a major overhaul of its political system to make it more transparent and democratic).

The UK's anti-democratic system has also been an obstacle in the past for the EU members acting more decisively against breaches of shared European democratic standards in Hungary. The EU members could hardly demand from Orban to respect separation of powers as one of the pillars of democracy when the UK (as a large 'western' EU member) has no proper separation of powers! Or how could they demand with credibility that Orban respects independence of the media when the UK has deep political influence on the media. Or demand that Orban respects the democratic principle of a special majority for any changes of the constitution, when the UK does not respect this principle (and does not even have a proper written constitution).

It is quite interesting to read previous resolutions of the European Parliament warning Hungary (Orban) to respect shared European democratic standards, separation of powers, the requirement of a special majority for any changes of the constitution etc. The statements in these resolutions were not fully truthful - e.g. claiming that all other EU members respect separation of powers meant deliberately turning a blind eye on the UK's system. Of course Orban (but not the UK politicians) understands all this - hence Orban's alliance with the UK was no surprise. Arguably even after Orban's sinister autocratic meddling with Hungary's political system, Hungary is still more democratic than the UK's system.

Here is an example of such a semi-truthful quotes from one of previous European Parliament's resolutions re Hungary - this one was adopted in 2013 = five years ago:

European Parliament resolution of 3 July 2013 on the situation of fundamental rights: standards and practices in Hungary

In all [EU]  Member States special constitutional procedures render constitutional amendment more difficult compared with procedures governing ordinary legislation, namely through the use of a qualified majority, additional decisional processes, time delays and referenda.

The history of democratic traditions in Europe shows that reforming a constitution requires the utmost care and due consideration of procedures and guarantees aimed at preserving, among other things, the rule of law, the separation of powers and the hierarchy of legal norms – the constitution being the supreme law of the land.

Respecting and promoting such common [European] values (as set out in Article 2 of the Treaty of the EU) is not only an essential element of the European Union’s identity but also an explicit obligation deriving from Article 3(1) and (5) TEU, and therefore a sine qua non for becoming an EU Member State as well as for fully preserving membership prerogatives.

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=TA&language=EN&reference=P7-TA-2013-315


The basic European democratic principles described in the above statements do not apply to all EU members, but rather to all EU members except the UK.

It is quite possible that recently the EU members decided to act more strongly against Hungary and Poland re breaching of democratic standards because the UK is on the way out, hence the 'standard' excuse of autocrats such as Orban that the UK does not respect the shared European standards either is off the table.


PS: Note that the UK failed to support the shared European democratic standards even on its way out, during the recent vote of MEPs about sanctions against Hungary - see the graph here: http://debateuncensored.x10host.com/forum/showthread.php?tid=45&pid=87#pid87
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#29
(02-10-18, 11:05 AM)Real European Wrote: @Guest

I don't quite understand your point.

The UK does have a constitution, and the UK constitution effectively does define the rights and relationship between the state, parliament, government and the citizens.

This causes a democratic deficit because you need to be a constitutional expert to figure out what the rights of the citizens and the rights of the government are, while in a functioning democracy every citizen should be able to say: these are my rights. 

When you need to be a constitutional lawyer to figure that out, it opens up society to serious abuse of constitutional rights by the government since citizens do not know what their rights are and therefore those rights can more easily be abused.

It doesn't define rights explicitly; that is the nub of the recent arguments about having a written constitution in the UK. Convention plays a significant part in the UK's governance arrangements, which is why your points are so important.  This opacity does potentially allow for greater levels of abuse. It is also potentially open to vested interests defining or redefining conventions in ways that act against the best interests of the population or democracy in general. 

I've attached a link to this from a leading British University. This is not to provide a definitive response. But what I personally think is interesting is the complexity of the issue. This can be easily picked up from the summary provided. When it is this hard to define what the nature of any constitutional arrangements are, it is no wonder many in the EU are sceptical about how democracy really functions in the UK (it might also be of interest to note that there are many who would strongly dispute we in the UK have any form of constitution at all- a tradition dating back to the English radical philosopher Thomas Paine).

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/constitution-unit/...nstitution
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#30
And the UK now has a minority one-party government propped up by a small party - the votes of which PM May bought using a bribe (= public money). This is just despicably anti-democratic.

I don't this is something inherent to FPTP-coalitions can be made by bribes and inducements in in any system. But this particular arrangement is really shameful. In effect, ten MPs can hold the sword of Damacles over the Conservatives.

[i]As a consequence of his impartiality, Mr Bercow - who keeps order in the Commons - cannot vote on legislative issues, unless it is to break a tie. Furthermore, it is a long-held tradition for the mainstream parties to respect the constituency of the Speaker and not to field candidates against him, whatever the constituency.[/i]

This convention is not always followed. Mr Bercow has faced opposition in general elections (though not from major parties- I think Nigel Farage once opposed him, standing for UKIP) and is a controversial figure. However, this does not dilute the point you're making. It is odd that such a convention could even exist in a democracy.

Another point is that the Speaker is not technically elected just by the House of Commons. The election requires assent by the Lords Commissioners, following a somewhat unusual procedure. It is   quite well summarised on wikipedia.

The Lords Commissioners enter the chamber of the House of Lords at the appointed time, and take seats on a structure temporarily placed for the duration of the ceremony. The Lord Chancellor or Leader of the House of Lords, as the most senior Lord Commissioner, commands the Gentleman/Lady Usher of the Black Rod to summon the House of Commons. Representatives of the House of Commons arrive at the Bar of the House of Lords, and bow thrice, but do not actually enter the Lords Chamber. After each bow, male Lords Commissioners doff their hats to the Members of Parliament while female Lords Commissioners bow their heads in return. The Reading Clerk of the House of Lords then reads the Monarch's Commission, which authorizes the Lords Commissioners. After the appropriate business has been transacted, the Commons again bow thrice and depart.

Make of that what you will!! 
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