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10th Dec 2022

Report: UK sidelined in EU decision-making

  • The UK government wanted to be able to say it had been outvoted, researchers argue (Photo: European Parliament)

The UK has marginalised itself in EU decision-making bodies in recent years, a study of the British voting record in the European Parliament and European Council has suggested.

The report by Brussels-based think-tank Votewatch Europe said the UK was the most outvoted country in the European Council between 2009 and 2015, being on the minority side 12.3 percent of the time.

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However, the UK has supported more than 97 percent of the EU laws adopted in the last 12 years, the report discovered.

However, the UK was in favour or at least did not abstain on more than 97 percent of the EU laws adopted in the last 12 years, the report discovered.

Votewatch chairman Simon Hix said British governments had chosen to vote against proposals as a way of defending UK interests.

“The UK has been gradually isolating itself,” he told EUobserver after a discussion launching the report in Brussels on Tuesday. “It is now coming back to haunt them.”

Hix said the previous Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition wanted to go on the record to say they had lost in the council. He said the reasons were unclear, but it could have been to please vocal, eurosceptic backbenchers.

That fed into the perception that the Franco-German decision-making structure in the EU worked against the UK, he added during the discussion.

The report also suggested that British opposition to EU policies was especially marked on budget, foreign policy and foreign aid issues.

The UK could often rely on the support of Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands in the council, and these countries would lose an important partner if the UK left the EU.

British in powerful positions

Another phenomenon that has reinforced the perception of the UK being sidelined from EU mainstream politics was that British MEPs have been outvoted in one third of so-called “roll call” votes since 2009.

In the European Parliament, voting happens along party lines, and the British Conservatives left the biggest parliamentary group, the European People’s Party (EPP), in 2009.

The Tories’ group, ECR (European Conservatives and Reformists) was on the winning side 56 percent of the time in the previous EP and has been on the winning side 58 percent so far in this session, the report showed.

There are only 20 Labour members in the Socialist and Democrats group out of its 190 MEPs, and one British liberal member in the EP.

Nevertheless, the report also highlights that British MEPs have captured “many powerful agenda-setting positions”, such as chairmanships in the internal market committee, which the UK has held for the last 12 years, and in the justice and home affairs committee.

Reason vs emotion

On the recently launched official campaign for the referendum on UK's EU membership, Hix said: “The momentum is with the Leave campaign, and support for the Leave camp is growing.”

He said that while the Leave campaign was focusing on “groundwork”, going door to door and engages voters on immigration, the Remain camp focused on the less effective “air campaign” with radio and TV, and talks about the dire economic consequences of the exit.

He added that the key battle would be about the turnout of young people.

MEP David McAllister, a German politician with a Scottish father, said there needed to be more focus on emotions in the Remain campaign, rather than solely trying to target the “head” of the voters with reason.

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