Political plight of EU’s disenfranchised Brexit Brits

Political plight of EU's disenfranchised Brexit Brits | INFBusiness.com

A survey last year found that 60 percent of British citizens in the EU feel politically unrepresented. More than three quarters of them became dual nationals after the Brexit referendum as a workaround solution (Photo: Wikipedia)

A year after Rishi Sunak and Ursula von der Leyen’s Windsor Framework imperfectly tied up the Brexit Northern Ireland issue, European citizens are getting ready to vote in a contest that reflects the same flawed understanding of the EU as a loose club of nations — while many British citizens paying taxes on the continent will get no representation at all.

The difficulties in managing the Irish border demonstrate the contradiction at the heart of the European project: while the EU is economically a single market, its political institutions are still built around the concept of sovereign states separated by clear borders.

  • Political plight of EU's disenfranchised Brexit Brits | INFBusiness.com

    Despite the 'Windsor Framework', Northern Irish citizens are still subject to EU law without having any representation in the institutions (Photo: Flickr – Downing street 10)

While the loose political ties are easy enough to sever in theory, the messy implementation of Brexit showed that the EU is in reality more integrated than its treaties would suggest — economically, but also in the areas of culture, belonging, and citizens’ rights.

Besides governing the movement of goods, the Windsor Framework also partially addressed the democratic deficit that was laid clear by Brexit.

It established an instrument through which 30 representatives of Northern Irish citizens can trigger a review of new amendments to the more than 300 pieces of EU legislation that continue to apply to Northern Ireland as part of the Protocol.

But the bigger issue — that Northern Irish citizens are still subject to EU law without having any representation in the institutions — was left unaddressed. Demanding a review of legislation from the outside is no substitute for sitting at the table when it’s being written.

Democratic deficit

British citizens living in the EU also face a deficit, having been abruptly stripped of their democratic rights on the continent where they live and work, in some cases for their whole careers.

A survey carried out by the University of Strathclyde last year found that 60 percent of British citizens in the EU feel politically unrepresented, and an additional 30 percent feel under-represented. More than three quarters of them became dual nationals after the referendum as a workaround solution.

But while the fallout of Brexit is the most obvious example, the EU’s democratic deficit affects all its citizens. What happens in Brussels has an increasingly direct effect on the lives of nearly half a billion people, whether in securing vaccines, deterring Russian aggression, regulating the internet or cutting carbon emissions. But the democratic mechanisms haven’t kept pace with reality and continue to filter and dilute citizens’ votes through national frameworks.

Brexit should have been a reflection moment for the EU.

The Conference on the Future of Europe, which ran from 2021 to 2022, offered a perfect opportunity to think about how Europe could build back better.

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One of the requests from the conference was the creation of a statute of EU citizenship rights, which would have granted certain rights to EU citizens directly, rather than through their nationality — and thereby protected them in the event of another member state leaving. In the end, though, the forces of inertia won out.

Similarly, the European Parliament’s constitutional affairs committee proposed the introduction of a transnational constituency for the 2024 elections, comprising 28 of the seats left empty by Brexit. This was eventually endorsed by a majority vote in parliament. But the proposal never made it past national leaders in Council.

Volt Europa, a new political movement for which I’m standing as a candidate in this year’s EU election, aims to change that. We aim to reform the council through ambitious treaty change, building on Parliament’s proposal, to empower EU citizens and create a strong Europe that can rise to the geopolitical challenges we face — rather than a weak and fractious club of small nations.

To get there, European elections have to become more European. Citizens need to claim our democratic right to hold the EU institutions to account.

Voters in Belgium can lead the way. We’re no stranger to overlapping identities, and we have ring-side seats to the EU institutions, warts and all. And we’re well aware of the shortcomings of Europe’s current political paradigm.

That’s why, after running in the UK against Nigel Farage in the 2019 European elections, I’m standing in 2024 as a candidate here in Belgium. The lesson of Brexit is that we’re part of an integrated continent, not a loose club of nations, and we’re safer and stronger because of it. It’s time to claim our rights as citizens so the EU can be run more efficiently and more fairly, in all our interests.

Source: euobserver.com

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