EU outrage: Bloc ‘not operating in democracy’ as cracks over ‘secret governance’ emerged

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Critics of Brussels this week blasted the bureaucratic nature of the bloc following the delay of its mass vaccination programme. It came as European civil servants raced to rectify its poor start after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen threatened to cut vaccine supplies to Britain and trigger Article 16, creating a hard border on the island of Ireland. Following momentous backlash, Ms von der Leyen backtracked, and assured that no such “vaccine nationalism” would take place.

It left many countries in the EU exasperated and still without adequate vaccine supplies to kick-start what should have been the beginning of the end of the pandemic.

This was made all the worse as vaccines produced in the Netherlands and Belgium by AstraZeneca make their way to the UK, while states within the bloc watch on and wait.

Britain’s Leave campaign was based on much of what has transpired in the past week, with bureaucracy at the heart of the matter.

But there is more to the red tape filled system, Robert Tombs, the renowned British historian, told

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He said the EU is “governed in secret” by leaders across the continent who, in effect, are not accountable to the people they represent.

Professor Tombs said: “We don’t know if the EU can progress, and I can’t see, and don’t know, that anybody has a blueprint for how it can become more acceptable to its people.

“The way it’s governed is in a sense in secret, by politicians from all the different countries coming together and meeting in secret and coming up with decisions in secret, which is not democracy.

“With democracy you have to know what’s being done and who’s doing it and who’s responsible for it.

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“The EU is the opposite of that.”

Elections to the European Parliament take place every five years among member states, in a process that is considered the second largest democratic election in the world.

Once in, politicians vote on various matters, but the people who voted for those politicians have little say in what goes on behind the scenes.

Prof Tombs added: “The Parliament is essentially a facade: It doesn’t sign things or choose who governs Europe.


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“People who defend it say, ‘But all the governments are democratic and the governments meet together’.

“But when they meet they cease to be democratic in the sense that they cease to be unaccountable because there’s no opposition; there’s no way in which things can be devoted and people can make their voice heard, because they don’t know what’s going on.

“It’s just a bureaucracy.”

In 2003, the BBC drew an amusing parallel with the influence in which the British public had in Europe, reporting: “In the UK, 11 million votes were cast in the 1999 European election, while 23 million were cast in the third series of Big Brother in 2002.”

At the time, one British eurosceptic wrote the people had voted for “the wrong Big Brother”.

Yet despite Prof Tomb’s harsh words, many who have themselves worked within the European Parliament say they enjoyed considerably more input than in Britain.

Chris Davies, Liberal Democrat MP and former MEP for North West England, previously said that he had “far more” influence as an MEP than as an opposition MP in Westminster.

Others, like Paul Embery, a leading trade unionist and Labour members, told that the UK can now “repatriate” vast powers and focus on reviving manufacturing and industry, and also being free to pursue state aid measures previously blocked by Brussels.

He said: “Now, we’re free to do those things in the future if we want to, and I think that’s the key point.”

‘This Sovereign Isle’ by Robert Tombs, published by Allen Lane, is out now.

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