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Letter: EU Membership – Turning The Clock Back Is Not An Option

Published on: 31 Mar, 2016
Updated on: 31 Mar, 2016

EU flagFrom Sue Doughty

Sue Doughty is a former Lib Dem MP for Guildford and chair of the Surrey Liberal Democrats.

Richard Peters in his letter, Like it Or Not, We Are Part of Europe is absolutely right in his support for Europe.

Yes, it has its faults, but so does our own government system where a government can be elected by far less than half the electors.

We all remember the Commonwealth with affection and indeed the Queen has performed a remarkable role in her position as Head of the Commonwealth over many years.

However our main trading links are no longer there and the “missed opportunity” which Stephen Mansbridge refers to in his response to Mr Peters’ letter is not something available to us now.

Australia, New Zealand and Canada now have a different focus for their trade. Many of the African countries do more business elsewhere, including with China. While leaving the EU would not close us to our most important markets, there would be a considerable price to pay.

Each side does need to make a positive case and people need information which is impartial. is a really useful tool for checking the claims of each side against the reality.

Our opportunity is to stay in Europe, to continue to fight for reform and to fully benefit from our membership. Turning the clock back fifty years is not an option.

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Responses to Letter: EU Membership – Turning The Clock Back Is Not An Option

  1. John Perkins Reply

    March 31, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    By contrast the government of the EU, that is the Commission, is not elected at all. The European Parliament is not its government and, in any case, in 2014 the UK members were elected by about one third of the UK electorate. Of those, only two-thirds were positive votes.

    It is simply not true to say that the opportunity “is not something available to us now”. It is always possible to rebuild.

    Yes, the old Commonwealth countries found new markets for their goods and many trade with China. That does not mean they won’t trade with us in future. There might be a price to pay, but nobody can say if it would be “considerable” or not.

    Why do we need to “fight for reform and to fully benefit from our membership” if the EU is such a great institution?

    “Turning the clock back fifty years” is not something anyone is suggesting.

  2. George Potter Reply

    April 1, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    John Perkins is completely wrong.

    The government of the EU is only “unelected” in the same sense that our government (the Prime Minister and the Cabinet) is unelected.

    In the UK we vote for MPs and the leader of the party (or coalition) which has a majority in the House of Commons is appointed Prime Minister by the Queen and appoints whoever he (or she) likes to the government. If our MPs aren’t happy with the government they can defeat it in a vote of no confidence and force it to resign.

    In the EU we vote for MEPs and the leader of the party (or coalition) which has a majority in the House of Commons is appointed President of the Commission by the national governments. Each national government also appoints one of its own citizens as a Commissioner. The Commission President then chooses which positions to appoint each Commissioner to. If our MEPs aren’t happy with the Commission then they can defeat it in a vote of no confidence and force it to resign.

    As you can see not much difference between the two systems.

    The low turnout is definitely a problem but the same can be said of the London Mayoral elections (which has a turnout similar to the turnout for European elections) or Guildford Borough Council elections (which has a much worse turnout).

    And given that European elections use proportional representation then at least they can’t be any less legitimate than the last UK general election which saw a party win an outright majority with less than 25% of all eligible voters voting for them.

    • John Perkins Reply

      April 2, 2016 at 5:36 pm

      I disagree with George Potter’s assessment; there is a huge difference between the two systems.

      The government in this country, that is the executive, law-making body, is made up from MPs who have all been elected by the people. The fact that only some of them have been selected to hold authority within the body of MPs is irrelevant – they are still bound by the wishes of the other elected members.

      The executive, law-making body of the EU is the European Commission and it is made up of people proposed by the heads of member governments and selected by the Commission President. They are not elected by anybody except in the extremely remote sense that those who proposed them were themselves elected. That also applies to the President, who is proposed by the European Council (another unelected body) and only approved, or not, by the European Parliament.

      The EU Parliament is elected, but is not an executive body – it only approves, or not, of the proposals presented to it. The nearest equivalent in the UK would be the House of Lords.

      The EU Parliament can indeed dismiss the Commission, but it would only result in another set of appointed Commissioners.

      I only mentioned the point about low turnout to counter the suggestion that, somehow, it is better in the EU – it’s not. However, it doesn’t appear much of a positive argument to point out the faults in the UK’s “first-past-the-post” system. This is not a discussion about proportional representation.

    • John Perkins Reply

      April 4, 2016 at 12:18 pm

      The Prime Minister of this country is elected. He is elected to Parliament by his constituents and then elected to office by members of his party. He selects his Cabinet from MPs, each elected by his or her constituents.

      Nobody, other than his friends, elected Jonathan Hill to the EU Commission.

  3. Jim Allen Reply

    April 1, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    Perhaps the answer is a £5,000 pound fine for any who refuse or choose not to vote – then at least the candidate who gets elected can say people voted for me.

    Personally I don’t buy the argument that we should stay inside and fight to improve and fix this very leaky EU vessel rather than abandoning what is clearly a sinking ship, which has its bilge pumps failing, and head for the desert island with fresh hope of survival, clean air to breathe, water to drink and our own fish to eat.

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