is a UK journalist, ex-Fleet Street editor, financial industry consultant and political communications special advisor
Having suffered humiliation from the UK, Poland and Hungary, the EU is scrapping its own voting rules in favour of measures to strip funding from member states that choose to follow their own path, not the one decreed by Brussels.
In the mother of all ironies, as the clock ticks down to Brexit, it’s not the Palace of Westminster hit by a bombshell this Guy Fawkes Night, but the European Parliament which has been metaphorically blown out of the water.
On a day that should now forever be remembered for the death of any semblance of democracy across the EU, the unelected European Commission, packed with chauffeur-driven, pampered establishment lifers and their cronies from across the bloc is scrapping the unanimity required to block budget payments to what it alone will determine are “rogue” governments.
That’s a euphemism for Poland and Hungary in case you weren’t paying attention. The most ill-behaved of all, the British, are out the door already… almost.
The money at stake includes not just the payments made from the EU’s seven-year budget, but also, and with some question to my mind about the morality of it, from the nearly one trillion Euro coronavirus recovery fund. How that sanction quite fits in with the ever-closer union, ‘one Europe for all’ ideal, and linked-arm singing along to ‘Ode to Joy’ under a shared blue flag with 27 stars, I’m not so sure.
At the risk of failing to adhere to the democratic ideals of the European Union, I’d actually suggest it all stinks to high heaven of the foulest-smelling hypocrisy.
Now, any nation that the European Commission decides has developed ideas above its station and steps out of line can have the payments stopped on the say-so of a simple qualified majority of member states – just 15 of the now-27 member states representing just 65 per cent of the bloc’s population of 450 million.
In the past, Hungary and Poland protected each other with the veto under a voting requirement of unanimity. But that’s no longer an option as the rules of the game have certainly changed.
It’s exactly the sort of high-handed, nanny-knows-best attitude that fully explains the motivation behind Brexit, although that will be no consolation to the governments of Warsaw, Budapest and elsewhere who don’t exactly see eye-to-eye with Brussels or the EU way of doing business.
The Commission has long been seeking the means to force those errant eastern Europeans to toe the line on issues such as interference with the judiciary, LGBTQ attitudes and the whatever-you-want-it-to-be alleged failure to maintain “democratic standards”.
The sovereignty of national governments takes second place to the political demands of their true masters at the European Commission.
One Euro MP, Christian Terheş, from Romania’s Christian Democratic National Peasants’ party told me that the new deal was unacceptable. The deal still needs approval by the EU members but under the modified arrangements, again, only by a qualified majority and then it needs to be voted through the Parliament, unlikely to cause any problems to the rubber-stampers of the hemicycle.
Mr Terheş said, “The people of Poland and Hungary and right across the EU for that matter, have a right to national sovereignty when it is not an issue of EU competence according to the EU treaty.
“But here we have Brussels acting like a schoolyard bully to force everyone to bend to its will, ignoring States’ own constitutions and parliaments which they should be respecting. It is despicable.”
Strong stuff from a democratically elected MP. But the Commission officials will just shrug it off, after all, the deck of cards is stacked in their favour.