Letter: Democracy in a confederal Europe

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Democracy in a confederal Europe

Sir: Politicians are always calling for a great national debate on the future of Europe. Yesterday the Independent started one ("Britain and Europe: a proposal", 3 June), but as a debate is nothing without dissent, in that spirit I would make two observations.

First, your grounds for rejecting EMU - with all the benefits you admit it could bring - are unnecessarily defeatist.

Certainly, European monetary union will place restrictions on the monetary freedom of member states; it would not work if it didn't. Equally plainly, therefore, it must only go ahead with the consent of the public at large. That consent can be ascertained through a referendum. Uniquely, among the three main political parties, the Lib Dems have long supported a referendum on any major package of constitutional change proposed for Europe. Given a "yes" vote in such a referendum, there is no reason why EMU could not proceed.

Second, the Independent rightly identifies Europe's democratic deficit as its key failing, but then proposes a solution that would only make it worse. The heart of that democratic failure lies in the unaccountable Council of Ministers - the very body the Independent suggests should be strengthened.

To imagine, as you do, that this will boost national parliaments is simply bizarre. The Council of Ministers has always drawn its British members from the Cabinet, but this has done nothing to enhance the status or effectiveness of Parliament as a whole. Rather the reverse - as power has drained a way from Westminster, MPs have become ever more spineless in their ability to hold ministers to account. Giving yet more power to the Council of Ministers would only exacerbate that problem. It would mark a further shift away from democratic rule towards the rule by "experts" that you so rightly decry.

GRAHAM WATSON MEP

(Somerset and North Devon,

Lib Dem)

European Parliament

Strasbourg

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