'Widening gap' between voters and EU institutions

Published on Monday, 28 April 2014 09:43
Written by Govtoday staff

Three in five people (59%) believe that the European parliament does not represent the views of voters, according to a new ComRes poll commissioned by the Electoral Reform Society.

The finding confirms the existence of a significant disconnect between British people and European politics. The ERS today publishes a report setting out what can be done to tackle this 'democratic deficit'.

Commenting on the poll results, Katie Ghose, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: "This year's European elections are receiving an unusual amount of attention. With UKIP's rising popularity, the TV debates between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage, and the Conservatives' promise of an in-out referendum, European politics has seldom been so prominent.

"And yet these results show that people still feel alarmingly distant from European affairs. We already know that nearly three quarters of Britons feel their voice doesn't count in the EU, and it looks like the problem is getting worse, not better. It's time to tackle the growing disconnect between the British people and European politics."

Older people are the most discontented - more than two thirds (68%) of those aged 55 and over say the European parliament does not represent the views of voters. But at the same time, young people are the least likely to actually turn out to vote. Some 57% of 18-24 year olds are not planning to vote next month, and nearly half (49%) say it's not worth voting at all in European elections.

These results come as the ERS releases a report showing how distant Britons have become from the European institutions. Close the Gap gives 12 practical solutions designed to tackle this 'democratic deficit', ranging from strengthening the UK parliament's role in European affairs to giving citizens a more direct say in forming European legislation.

Ghose said: "There is an ever widening divide between the European institutions and the British people. We are members of the European Union, yet most of us don't feel part of it or able to shape its policies.

"This so-called 'democratic deficit' makes next month's European elections much less significant for people than they ought to be. And when you consider how much European politics affects people's day-to-day lives, that's a serious failure of democracy. There is more talk than ever about Britain's relationship with the EU, yet when it comes to citizens' chance to have their say, most are choosing to walk away.

"As long as we're members of the EU, we should be doing everything we can to make sure people have real influence over European affairs. The EU has to be more representative and more accountable, and it should be designed to encourage participation rather than putting people off.

"There are practical, achievable things we can do to close the gap between the EU and the British people. The commission should be made more accountable, the European parliament should be more representative, and there should be ways for people to participate directly in European lawmaking. Above all, we need to strengthen the role of the UK parliament in both forming and scrutinising European legislation.

"On 22nd May only around a third will turn out to vote in the European elections, and not many of them will feel particularly enthused about doing so. But we can change that. It's time we tackled the European democratic deficit, and closed the gap between the EU and the British people."

Source: Electoral Reform Society

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