Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Is The United Kingdom Fairly Represented In Europe?

In November, across the Atlantic, there is a very important vote which could have a major impact on the USA's future.

I am referring, of course, to the Puerto Rican vote on statehood. Could this become the first new state since Hawai'i?

Now, there would be one effect of statehood that I want to look at. Puerto Rico would, like every other state, be entitled to 2 Senators- probably a Class 2 one (those elected in November 2008) and a Class 3 one (those elected in November 2010). The Senate would, as the Constitution requires, be enlarged to 102 members.

The House of Representatives is limited- not by the Constitution, but by federal law- to 435 members. Puerto Rico would be entitled to 5. There are two possible ways this could be done:

  • Simply follow the method used when Alaska and Hawai'i got statehood, and enlarge the House till the next reapportionment (which comes into force at the November 2022 election)- so the House has 440 members, and the Electoral College has 545 members (up from the current 538)
  • Keep the House at 435 members (with the Electoral College having 540), with 5 states- California, New York State, North Carolina, Texas and Washington State- losing one seat and having to be redistricted to reflect this.
  • The House of Representatives uses a method to allocate the number of seats a State has, and I was looking at what would happen if we applied it to the European Parliament.

    Under the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Parliament is due to have 751 Members (MEPs). The original plan was for there to be 750- however, there was a long-standing tradition that France, Italy, the United Kingdom and West Germany always had to same number of MEPs as each other. With the election of June 1994, after German reunification, this ceased to apply, as Germany had more MEPs, but the principle remained that France, Italy and the United Kingdom were equally represented.

    Under the Lisbon plans, there was going to be 750 MEPs, with an upper limit of 96 per nation (Germany elected 99 in June 2009) and a lower limit of 6 per nation. France and the United Kingdom, as the second and third largest member nations, were due to see their representation increase by 1 to 73, while Italy- the fourth largest- was to stay at 72.

    Italy objected and in the horse-trading that followed, it was decided that the Parliament would have 751 MEPs, with 73 of them being from Italy.

    Note that one complication is that Croatia is due to join the European Union in July 2013.

    There are calls for this to be put on a statutory basis rather than endless horse-trading between nations.

    Maybe this could be Eurostat producing official population figures (not electorate, as this differs from nation to nation) and there being some organisation that then produces a binding apportionment of seats.

    If we used the American House of Representatives method, then the number of MEPs (allowing a ceiling of 96 and a floor of 6) and the change from the Lisbon figures would be:

  • Germany- 96 (unchanged)
  • France- 96 (up 22)
  • United Kingdom- 92 (up 19)
  • Italy- 89 (up 16)
  • Spain- 68 (up 14)
  • Poland- 57 (up 6)
  • Romania- 28 (down 5)
  • Netherlands- 25 (down 1)
  • Greece- 17 (down 5)
  • Belgium- 16 (down 6)
  • Czech Republic- 16 (down 6)
  • Portugal- 16 (down 6)
  • Hungary- 15 (down 7)
  • Sweden- 14 (down 6)
  • Austria- 12 (down 7)
  • Bulgaria- 11 (down 7)
  • Croatia- 10 (up 10)
  • Denmark- 8 (down 5)
  • Slovakia- 8 (down 5)
  • Finland- 8 (down 5)
  • Irish Republic- 7 (down 5)
  • Lithuania- 6 (down 6)
  • Latvia- 6 (down 3)
  • Slovenia- 6 (down 2)
  • Estonia- 6 (unchanged)
  • Cyprus- 6 (unchanged)
  • Luxembourg- 6 (unchanged)
  • Malta- 6 (unchanged)
  • So, the big winner would be France, closely followed by the United Kingdom, while many of the middle-sized member nations would see their representation fall by what, for them, is significant amount- especially Lithuania seeing its representation halved.

    But fair's fair. Equalising representation involves winners and losers.

    Would there be any way to placate those nations who would see their representation slashed? There is one way, looking back to the Connecticut Compromise.

    In the early days of the USA, one question was representation. The larger states, generally, wanted a legislature where representation was based on population. The smaller states, generally, wanted one where each state had the same number of legislators.

    How to resolve the impasse? Treat it as a both-and instead of an either-or. Have two chambers.

    Would this be a way forward? One model is the German Bundesrat with a Land's delegation ranging from 3 (for the smallest, Bremen) to 6 (for the largest, Nordrhein-Westfalen). Germany has 16 Lander, and a total delegation of 69, so on the EU as a whole, such a system would have 121 delegates.

    So, would a European Senata be the way forward, with its members from each nation elected by- and drawn from- national legislatures?

    We could actually get 121 delegates by giving the 4 largest nations (Germamy, France, the United Kingdom, Italy) 6 each; the next 7 (Spain, Poland, Romania, the Netherlands, Greece, Belgium, the Czech Republic) 5 each, the next 11 (Portugal, Hungary, Sweden, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Slovakia, Finland, the Irish Republic, Lithuania) 4 each and the final 6 (Latvia, Slovenia, Estonia, Cyprus, Luxembourg and Malta) 3 each.

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