Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

The United Kingdom and the European Union: A Struggle over Democracy1

Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

The United Kingdom and the European Union: A Struggle over Democracy1

Article excerpt

The author points out that for so long as Britain remains a member of the European Union (EU), the British Parliament are required to enact into law all decisions emanating from the European Union dominate legislation in the United Kingdom. Similarly, decisions made by the European Court override British law. This is important, he points out, not merely because this subordinates Britain to the decisions of the European Union, but also because the European Union is not a truly democratic organization.

Key Words; United Kingdom; European Union; Democracy; Self-Government; EU Constitution; Conservative Party.

The bureaucrats who put together the Treaty of Rome in 1956 as the foundation of a European union were at best uninterested and at worse downright hostile to extending democracy. The affairs of the new Union were blithely put in the charge of an appointed Commission, with a huge supporting bureaucracy far out of the reach of any electorate. When a European Parliament was created much later, the powers of its elected members were crudely subordinated to those of the unelected Commission, and as one observer has remarked, have subsequently declined as rapidly as their salaries and expense accounts have risen. The European Parliament is, in effect, subservient to the unelected Commission. One result of this undemocratic structure has been a level of Euro-corruption at the on a scale far in excess of anything in the member states. 2

Having initially declined to join the European Economic Community on its formation in 1957 the then-Conservative government of Britain under Harold Macmillan decided during 1962 to enter into negotiations to join. The negotiations failed, and in a speech to the Labor Party conference on 3rd October 1962 the Leader of the Labor Party, Hugh Gaitskell, hastened the demise of the negotiations. He said:

'Of course, Mr. Macmillan has given a pledge in his broadcast. He said: "When we know the final position, then it will be for us here in Britain to decide what to do." For us here in Britain? Who does he mean? Does he mean the government? Or the Tory Party? Or the British people?

'We are now being told the British people are not capable of judging this issue - the government knows best; the top people are the only people who can understand it; it is too difficult for the rest. This is the classic argument of every tyranny in history. It begins as a refined intellectual argument, and it moves into a one-man dictatorship; "We know best" becomes "I know best." We did not win the political battles of the 19th and 20th centuries to have this reactionary nonsense thrust upon us again.

'Of course, they extend the argument now, "We must go in," they say, "not because the power of logic, of fact and conclusion suggest it is to our advantage; we must go in because the people who really understand it, the top people, all want it." They contradict themselves. If their minds are so arid that they can think of no other arguments, they are a long way down in the intellectual class. But what an odious piece of hypocritical, supercilious, arrogant rubbish is this!'

The Conservative Party won the General Election in 1970. The Conservative Manifesto A Better Tomorrow said:

"If we can negotiate the right terms, we believe that it would be in the long-term interest of the British people for Britain to join the European Economic Community, and that it would make a major contribution to both the prosperity and the security of our country. The opportunities are immense. Economic growth and a higher standard of living would result from having a larger market.

"But we must also recognize the obstacles. There would be short-term disadvantages in Britain going into the European Economic Community which must be weighed against the long-term benefits. Obviously there is a price we would not be prepared to pay. Only when we negotiate will it be possible to determine whether the balance is a fair one, and in the interests of Britain. …

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