While appreciating the challenges facing the EU Parliament ahead of Brexit, Diane James MEP has urged the European Parliament to give more detailed consideration to draft plans for a new system of allocating Parliamentary seats across the European Union.
Until now, no permanent system has been established and each member state is allocated Parliamentary seats, and consequently its number of MEPs, on a random or ‘pragmatic’ basis prior to each European election. In the view of many observers, and of Parliament itself, this has led to an imbalance in Parliamentary representation – a so called ‘democratic deficit’ – which Parliament is now looking to address.
Speaking today in a meeting of the Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO), Mrs James highlighted potential pitfalls in some of the draft proposals.
Echoing the views of UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, Mrs James labelled as “bizarre” the suggestion by Guy Verhofstadt, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, that UK nationals might be given EU citizenship, and questioned how that could possibly work in practice – particularly if a reciprocal arrangement allowed nationals from EU member states to be afforded UK citizenship.
What participation in EU elections, she asked AFCO, would those individuals be entitled to?
“The allocation of Parliamentary seats on the simple basis of the population of member states could prove problematic,” she said. “As an example, the UK has a population census every 10 years. France, by contrast, has one every year. So the population benchmarks for the two countries would not be in sync – and such potential disparities could, of course, be multiplied across the 27 remaining member states.
Also, there is a real risk of double counting. For example, there are around 900,000 Polish people currently resident in the UK. Would they be considered part of the UK or Polish population,” she asked.
Mrs James concluded by also highlighting the issue whereby certain member states effectively sell EU passports (creating what she called “passports of convenience”). This, she claimed, would distort the true population(s) within those countries and, in doing so, lead to a further imbalance in EU Parliamentary representation.