The MPs purporting to be democracy crusaders ought to acknowledge their irrelevance to EU law-making

The MPs purporting to be democracy crusaders ought to acknowledge their irrelevance to EU law-making

Members of Parliament do not know their place in the EU food chain. It pains me to point this out, but they are the bottom feeders. The halibuts of European democracy. The flounders.

So it turns out there’s a second reason, beyond publicity for his fishing constituency, why the excellent BrexitCentral contributor and doughty former MP Austin Mitchell once changed his name to Mr Austin Haddock.

You would never have guessed it from the theatrics of MPs and Arch-Remain campaigners, screaming that Parliament’s rights have been abused and its glistening sovereignty trampled under foot by a Cabinet cabal inflicting some form of odious latter-day Templar ritual. But it strikes me that they are simply angry over form – the trappings of democracy rather than the actual exercise of it. For MPs are at the very fringe of the process in EU law-making. Power lies at an Amazonian distance upstream from them.

It is not even as if these champions have at any past stage displayed a modicum of capability or even interest in seeking to navigate that section of legislative river that lies closest to them. Whitehall has been persistently adding red tape to EU laws, for two reasons. Firstly, to tack on a separate piece of law to an EU-sourced one, without necessarily pointing out that the former was optional. Secondly, to avoid the most remotest of chances that the European Commission might take them to court for not implementing the law, even when all other governments had already baldly asserted they were implementing it in a more business-friendly way. That failure in observation skills is without even going into the oversight MPs ought to have displayed, and have a better chance with Brexit now to retrieve, in keeping tabs on agreements being made at global standards-making bodies they have never have heard of.

The level of rubber stamping was so embarrassing and obvious that for a time under Labour: European Scrutiny Committee meetings were held in camera to try to mask MPs’ powerlessness over the EU law-making sausage factory from the public. But no court case was pushed by our righteous Recess-liberators over that.

The level of threadbare parliamentary ignorance, despite decades of EU membership, is quite remarkable. How many, one might ask, should know better for being former ministers who have attended an EU ministerial council, 80% of which is now agreed by Qualified Majority Voting and where they would have been the only MP in the room? Of those, how many are even simply aware of what A and B Points are, and how they are reached (clue: they get thrashed out in 150 Council working parties, invariably without ministers in attendance, and often end up just being nodded through). 

Ex-MEPs will at least be aware of the horse-trading in the European Parliament between the different political groups, and between MEPs and the other institutions. Some may recall first hand the brain-dripping anaesthesia of the committee stages. Others, the farce of the disco dancing voting system – and the ability to travel back in time to change the record of your vote. They should also have some awareness of the immense machinery of the 11,900 registered Brussels lobbyists. 

Most ridiculously, I doubt any of the Supreme Court botherers have heard of, let alone contemplated how to hold to account, the eurocrats charged with drafting the legislation in the first place; or simply know who sits on the Expert Groups summonsed to offer advice to the relevant backroom drafting supremo. Last time I checked, there were 267 Commission Committees, and many hundreds more sub-committees, that do the donkey work on coming up with 98% of EU legislation. 

Who amongst these MPs then has ever glanced at the agenda of the Co-ordination Group for Biodiversity and Nature, or the Expert Group on Sustainable Consumption and Production? Who has attended a meeting to comment on the drafts of the Rural Network’s Steering Group or the Passenger Ship Safety Expert Sub-Group? Who even knows who were the UK attendees at the last meeting of the RAPEX National Contact Points or the face of the EU official penning the last draft law that came out from consultations with the Standing Forestry Committee?

Parliament is as distant from here as Queen Victoria was from the Emirate of Bukhara. At best some British quangonaut or lobbyist might get a seat at the relevant table, if they know it exists and scrabble to get on it. I doubt, though, that parliamentary Remainers are even aware of the clauses in May’s Withdrawal Agreement that obliquely circumscribe even existing UK input into these hidden founts of EU law-making.

As for the supremacy of Parliament, I may be wrong, but I also recall no complaints from any of these querulous lawmongers during the Convention on the Future of Europe and the Lisbon Treaty debates, when the ambition to give national parliaments an individual veto over bad EU laws was dropped, and the Red Card was replaced by an impractical Yellow Card and Orange Card system of improbable likelihood and trivial effect. 

So I would suggest some of these pretended democracy crusaders have got their jihads back to front.

MPs are relevant at best to perhaps the last 1% of an EU law’s life. By that stage they are as inconsequential as a Senator under Diocletian. Their role is to give form to the agreed substance, which they can neither block nor change.

The function of parliamentarians is little more than turning up at the hospital and standing next to the midwife. MPs are simply democratically irrelevant in the EU system, as the case studies of recent Italian and Greek parliaments most markedly and tragically revealed. Worse than that, they provide a veneer, hiding where true power and genuine decision-making reside.

Brexit provides an opportunity to genuinely take back control. But for clueless MPs railing against the prorogation from their twelve star comfort blankets, or pan-Europeanists rooted in Brussels’ anonymous corporate collectivism, perhaps that is precisely what they fear.