EU cross-party Q&A in Hungerford

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Answering questions about Europe in Hungerford this evening (Monday 20th June):

Judith Bunting (Chair – Liberal Democrat)
Richard Benyon MP (Conservative)
Jonny Roberts (Labour)

Thank you to all who came along to the debate in Hungerford this evening. We were faced with a great set of questions and had at least one clear conversion in the room.

A couple of follow up notes: 

* Re EU borders, new members and Turkey: Yes, Britain has a veto. Accession of any candidate state must be approved unanimously by the Council of the EU, which is made up of representatives from each member state, and ratified by all national parliaments. 

* Re Democracy in the EU. People say the EU is led by people who are unelected, call it a dictatorship, say it’s undemocratic. To build on answers given this evening explaining how this is not the case:

1/ The Council of Europe sits at the top of the tree. It’s members are government ministers from each EU country according to the policy area to be discussed – ie: for us, MPs elected in the UK. In the Council, these government ministers from each EU country meet to discuss, amend and adopt laws, and coordinate policies. The ministers have the authority to commit their governments to the actions agreed on in the meetings.

2/ The European Parliament is the directly-elected EU body with law-making, supervisory, and financial responsibilities – ie: this is where EU law is made, where international agreements are decided, where the people WE elect as MEPs sit to represent us and supervise policy motions that come down from the Council of Europe (see above).

3/ The European Commission: The European Commission proposes new laws, manages some policies and represents the EU in trade agreements. Most staff of the Commission are akin to our civil servants. They number approx 33,000, a group about the size of Birmingham City Council.

The Commission is led by a group of Commissioners, 1 from each EU country, each of whom has responsibility for one area of governance eg Energy, Environment, Trade. Yes, these people are unelected, but a) they are effectively senior civil servants and b) each is appointed by the elected government in the member state. Britain’s current Commissioner is Jonathan Hill, appointed by David Cameron in 2014. He is Commissioner for Financial Stability in the EU and Financial Services.  

If you have a question there wasn’t time to ask, do drop me a line at judithbunting@wbld.org.uk. 

 Phot from Hungerford Lib Dems

This event was hosted by the Stronger IN Campaign

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