The end of roaming charges: the policy and politics in Brexit Britain

By Armida van Rij

With summer now firmly underway, and many people taking their holidays, our continental neighbours have a very timely present for the UK: as of yesterday, all EU citizens – including UK residents – will no longer pay roaming charges for using their mobile phones abroad in other EU countries, as well as being far less likely to face ‘bill shocks’ when returning from foreign trips. Unfortunately, however, there’s a big, obvious stumbling block for those of us who live in the UK: Brexit. So how will the UK’s departure from the EU impact British residents with regards to this policy? Continue reading

London’s trade in services must be prioritised in Brexit negotiations

By Tony Halmos

Now that Article 50 has been triggered, both sides in the Brexit talks have laid out their starting positions – and a general election has been called to give the government a mandate for delivering Brexit – it is time to take stock of what London needs most and make sure that all its efforts are steered in a united way to achieve this. Continue reading

The UK in a Changing Europe

Prof Anand MenonHere at the Policy Institute we host a number of external initiatives that form our Policy Park. The idea is that by creating a diverse ecosystem for policy analysis we can help put forward the most innovative thinking in today’s most important policy issues. The Policy Park is currently made up of the Media Standards Trust, the Ramphal Institute, the Pensions Policy Institute and the ESRC funded The UK in a Changing Europe initiative. In this podcast, Professor Anand Menon, Director of The UK in a Changing Europe (and also European Politics and Foreign Affairs professor at King’s), chats with the project communications officer Ben Miller about the purpose of the initiative and what they hope to achieve through their work. Continue reading

The European Union must have a closer link to national politics if it is to retain its legitimacy

anandmenon

 

Post by Professor Anand Menon. Originally posted on LSE’s European Politics and Policy blog on 19 June 2014.

National governments are still involved in negotiations over nominating a candidate for the next President of the European Commission. Anand Menon writes that while much of this debate has focused on the merits of individual candidates such as Jean-Claude Juncker, the real issue is a structural one concerning the future of the European Parliament. He argues that, whichever candidate is nominated, the European Parliament is no longer fit for purpose as a mechanism for legitimising the EU. Only by forging a stronger link between the Union and politics at the national level can the EU’s democratic legitimacy be ensured.

Many conclusions can be drawn from the European elections. One, however, stands out as the most significant. When it comes to ensuring the democratic legitimacy of the European Union, the European Parliament is simply not fit for purpose. At a time when the EU more obviously shapes the economic fortunes of its citizens than ever before, this situation is unsustainable. The future of European integration depends on it being linked more directly to national democratic politics.

This time was meant to be different. Because the European elections were to directly affect the choice of European Commission President, its proponents argued they represented the dawn of a new era of ‘normal,’ partisan EU politics. The European Parliament, as ever, leveraged its powers, nominating candidates for the Commission post in an attempt to foster clear contestation between competing individuals.

Yet nothing changed. As ever, most European voters chose simply not to participate. The vast majority of those who did had no idea about the Presidential candidates their votes were supporting. Many simply chose to use the election to protest against a variety of irritants ranging from mainstream politics to immigration, to the impact of globalisation.

No one has come out of this process well. Not the national governments who, over time, have created this constitutional mess with their willingness to increase the powers of a parliament neither they nor their voters respect. Nor the EP itself, which has used the elections to attempt a naked power grab spuriously legitimised in the name of ‘democracy’. The much-vaunted (if little watched) televised debates between the Presidential candidates revealed merely how little they disagree on, united as they are by a desire simply to drive integration forward.

Nor has either side distinguished itself following the elections. To argue that Jean-Claude Juncker enjoys a genuine democratic mandate is to wilfully ignore the intentions of the voters. Yet to claim opposition to him is based on an assessment of his credentials is equally disingenuous. The idea, frequently expressed, that Juncker is too much of a backroom dealmaker loses all credibility when the head of the notoriously secretive and profoundly undemocratic IMF is touted as an alternative.

We confront a choice between unpalatable alternatives. Member states could accept Juncker, thus appointing a candidate beholden to the Parliament, and creating political problems for David Cameron. Alternatively, they could select an alternative candidate, sparking an angry confrontation with a Parliament whose approval is needed for the European Commission to take office. In so doing, they would underline their contempt for the (albeit imperfect) mechanisms of representative democracy at the EU level.

The nub of the problem is not about this or that candidate. It is structural. In attempting to enhance its own powers, the EP is acting like parliaments have throughout history. In defending their prerogatives, the member states are acting like normal nation states.

The victim of the clash is the legitimacy of the EU system. Absent a European demos, whose emergence national politicians are understandably reluctant to encourage, the EP is incapable of providing such legitimacy. Absent a means of providing accountability for their collective decisions at the European level, so too are national governments.

For many years, this did not matter. The EU dealt largely with trade and regulation and had no competence over those issues that voters really care about – taxation, welfare, health and education. The Eurozone crisis has changed all this. Decisions taken in Brussels shape the fiscal policy of member states to a degree unimaginable only a few years ago. The EU has, in other words, become politically highly salient.

Consequently, the democratic malaise afflicting European governance is unsustainable. Member states rely on the EU to achieve key policy objectives. A gradual erosion of support for the Union threatens their ability to deliver these. Seeking democratic legitimacy via empowerment of the European Parliament has been repeatedly tried and has failed.

The only alternative is to link the EU more closely with national political processes. This is not to say that these latter are perfect. Far from it. But they do engage citizens in debates over partisan politics to a far greater extent than do European elections. Politicians stand or fall on their records in office, and if those records included active participation in generating EU decisions, these too would be the object of greater democratic scrutiny.

Moreover, direct involvement in EU policy making would change the behaviour of national politicians. As things stand, many of these choose simply to carp from the sidelines, blaming the EU for difficult decisions whilst failing to suggest alternatives. Having a direct say over these decisions would mean putting up or shutting up. The cheap shot at Brussels would no longer be a rational political strategy for national parliamentarians directly involved in the EU legislative process.

Redesigning the system to ensure such involvement will not be easy. There are various competing schemes out there, and ultimately, it will involve treaty change, which many governments are currently desperate to avoid. In the interim, greater use of the yellow card procedure introduced by the Lisbon treaty, and more effective scrutiny of EU legislation through the relevant committees in national parliaments would represent a good start.

The crucial point is that something needs to be done. The two levels of European politics are mutually dependent. Member states need the EU to achieve policy outcomes they could not accomplish alone. The Union depends on these member states in order to function. The methods used to ensure democratic legitimacy must reflect this interdependence, linking national politics directly with the EU and engaging national publics in a way the current system simply fails to do. The alternative is to see the Union lose all legitimacy, undermining its ability to act at the very moment when member states need it most.

Originally posted on LSE’s European Politics and Policy blog on 19 June 2014.

Alain Juppé sets out vision for the future of Europe

By Alice Pannier and Dr Benedict Wilkinson

Alain Juppé, mayor of Bordeaux, former French Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs spoke at Kings as part of the Policy Institute at King’s ‘Europe in crisis‘ project on 21 May.

Essentially, M. Juppé sought to send three different messages to three different audiences. To all EU voters, he outlined the main policies of the centre-right European People’s Party in the context of the forthcoming European Parliament elections. To British citizens, he sought to highlight the continuing importance of the EU for the UK (laying particular emphasis on the fact that France still values UK membership). To French electors, he gave a taste of what his European and foreign policy orientations would be if the UMP – for whom he may well yet be a candidate in the 2017 presidential elections – was to return to power.

M. Juppé began by addressing the criticisms directed at the EU, noting that Brussels is often accused of being undemocratic, naïve, inefficient, and the source of widespread unemployment as a result of its policies of austerity. And yet, he pointed out, the current credit crisis originated not in Brussels but in the United States. Moreover,  the EU has proven invaluable in providing member states with a stable currency and low interest rates. The impact of the financial crisis, in other words, would have been far greater had the Union not existed.

The best response to the problems confronting Europe, Juppé argued, is for the EU to move towards greater integration. In particular, EU action is required to enable the Union to be more competitive on the world stage in two areas in particular:  economic policy and energy policy. In the former, Juppé called for common economic policy that would go beyond mere banking supervision, thus agreeing with Angela Merkel’s proposition. His specific proposal foresaw the creation of more regional champions such as Airbus. This has been a traditional French demand, dating from concern about the predatory behaviour of American firms in the 1960s. Yet he gave few details about how such schemes might be promoted, and how governments could be persuaded to support them.

Energy provided the second element of his economic vision. The former minister underlined the strategic necessity for the EU to be less dependent on foreign energy supplies. The EU’s inability to prevent the annexation of Crimea was, according to him, partly down to the Union’s reliance on Russian gas, partly to the inability of Britain, France and Germany’s to speak with one voice on the international stage, partly to considerations of “realpolitik”, such as France’s wish to go ahead with the sale of Mistral ships to Moscow. A possible solution would be for European countries to invest both in nuclear power and renewable energy.

The Q and A session following the speech focused on the Ukrainian crisis, France’s attitude towards on UK membership and the ‘democratic deficit’. On the first, Juppé insisted on the need to restore “a balance” of influence and power between the EU and Russia, for which energy independence is key.

When it came to the position of the UK, Juppe stressed that France remains attached to UK EU membership, arguing that Brexit would be “a catastrophe”. Moreover, he emphasised that there was no need for treaty change, as the current treaties permit an “à la carte” EU, allowing more integration for those who want and can, and opt-outs for others, thus making it unnecessary to either leave the EU, or change the treaties. He gave very little sense, however, of how a Europe in which Eurozone member states proceeded forward with further integration could also take account of non-euro member states such as the UK, whose governments have genuine concerns that tighter Eurozone integration might diminish their influence over key ‘EU-27’ policy areas such as the single market.

On the issue of the ‘democratic deficit’ , the former Prime Minister argued that the Lisbon treaty partly corrected this by giving more power to the Parliament. In light of the results of the elections to the European Parliament, which took place the day after his speech and which saw a significant rise in the popularity of Eurosceptic parties across Europe, however, there is certainly room to doubt whether Europe’s citizens perceive the EU parliament in such a positive light.

The Policy Institute at King’s will discuss the European elections’ results in its next event on 9 June.

Catch up on this event online