Despite all the comments to the contrary, it would seem as though the UK is heading for EU Parliamentary elections later this month. Numerous remarks have been made saying that Britain’s participation in these elections is ‘disastrous’, ‘a betrayal’ and similar. Why?
Whatever the rights and wrongs of it, the United Kingdom is still a member of the EU. It is still paying unimaginably vast sums of money to be so. It seems to me therefore that, for however long it may be, the UK is entitled to be represented in the EU Parliament – for all the good it seems to do, since the EU Parliament is largely an impotent, rubber-stamping body that spends lots of cash without actually doing anything.
There is however, given that staging European elections in the UK does seem to be something of a waste of time and money as the UK will be out of the EU by the end of October (probably, possibly, maybe, or perhaps even earlier) an alternative.
Danish MEP candidate Niels Fuglsang has suggested that it would be more practical to extend the term of office for existing MEPs, rather than go through the rigmarole – and expense – of electing new ones.
According to government figures, the cost of holding the last European Parliament elections was some £108 million and Fuglsang points out that this amount of money could pay for nurses and teachers in the UK rather than being spent on a brief period of office for British MEPs. Fuglsang also suggests that since the EU Parliament starts work at the end of August after the summer break, the 73 MEPs elected by the UK will have only two months before being obliged to leave as the country they represent does, and that this makes a mockery of democracy. He does have a valid point.
Can the UK simply ‘extend’ the term of office for the existing British MEPs? Is there some, obscure or otherwise, EU rule that says we can’t? I have no idea but it seems to me to be a logical and rather simple way of dealing with the EU election problem. And it would save a lot of taxpayer’s money, cash that could be better used elsewhere.
There is another aspect to this however, and one that is perhaps even more important than whether we keep our present MEPs or elect new ones and that is their conduct while they are in the European Parliament. At the beginning of April, Jacob Rees-Mogg suggested that the UK should wilfully cause chaos at the EU institutions if Brexit was delayed. Mr Rees-Mogg was quoted as saying, ‘if a long extension leaves us stuck in the EU we should be as difficult as possible. We could veto any increase in the budget, obstruct the putative EU army and block Mr Macron’s integrationist schemes’.
A spokesperson for the European Commission suggested that the Tory MP was essentially irrelevant and not involved in negotiations.
‘This gentleman is not our interlocutor and I would say then that the principle of sincere cooperation does apply, as Prime Minister May herself makes clear in her letter,’ (referring to the PM’s extension request) the spokesperson told reporters in Brussels.
Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, also commented, with reference to Rees- Mogg’s remarks, he said: ‘For those in the EU who may be tempted to further extend the Brexit saga, I can only say, be careful what you wish for.’
Nigel Farage has reportedly said something similar to Jacob Rees-Mogg but it begs immediate questions; what would be the point of such behaviour? Firstly British MEPs will not be present for long enough to be disruptive (assuming of course that the UK does, in fact, leave the EU by the end of October), and secondly, how would such behaviour help, what would it achieve?
The answer to that is precisely nothing. There is little doubt that the EU’s elite (none of whom are elected remember) have behaved very shabbily and acted in a dictatorial manner with regard to the freedom of individual countries’ citizens to decide whether or not to do something that the EU wants – The UK is not the first country to effectively be told, ‘You made the wrong decision. Do it again and carry on doing it until you make the right one’.
Nevertheless, there is nothing to gain by alienating either the EU and those who run it or other countries in membership of it. It seems that if the elections do go ahead, the UK is going to send to the European Parliament a bunch of people who have no regard for the EU but actively want to disrupt it.
This would not only be pointless but also immature, irresponsible and is equally destructive to democracy. That the UK must leave the EU is not in dispute – I have said so innumerable times already – as a majority of people in the UK voted to do so. Again as I have said many times already, the UK and the EU will remain neighbours and, I hope, friends and allies. We will still have to finalise a trade deal that encompasses many things, including the right of people to move legitimately and freely between the two, and we still need to ensure that life goes on. This will not happen by sending to Brussels a cabal of Brexiteers with no constructive aim.
Given the remarks made by some of those who wish to stand for election as MEPs, it would make more sense to extend the term of existing MEPs rather than have new ones. A majority in the UK voted to leave the EU, not destroy it.
© Kevan James 2019.