Principles of Democracy and the Rights of the Electorate

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 3:40 pm on 26th September 2019.

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Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker Conservative, Wycombe 3:40 pm, 26th September 2019

I am talking about both. I am talking about the principle of democracy, which is the stability that comes from both the Government and the system enjoying democratic legitimacy expressed through the ballot box.

My second point is about the European Union. I am here today, although I care about many things, because of the way that the European Union constitution was handled. It was put to referendums in Lithuania, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Spain, Austria, Greece, Malta, Cyprus, Latvia, Luxembourg, Belgium, Estonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Germany and Finland, all of which said yes. I had read the constitution and I knew that when the referendum came I should vote against it because it was too bureaucratic and therefore, I thought, likely to be inhumane. When it went to France and the Netherlands, they said no, and so referendums were cancelled in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Sweden and, yes, the United Kingdom.

But what did the European Union and those who govern it do? They did not change course and say, “It turns out we can’t get this system through the democratic consent of the peoples of Europe, so we must take another course.” As anyone who has read Open Europe’s side-by-side comparison of the Lisbon treaty, which replaced the European constitution, next to that constitution will know, they are functionally equivalent. What they did was an absolute democratic outrage. They changed the constitution of France to avoid a referendum and they made Ireland vote twice. That is why I am in politics.

The fundamental issue at stake today—