UK

Could Euroscepticism And Rise Of Anti-EU Parties Undermine European Democracy?

17/01/2014 17:31 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 21:01 GMT
Chris Radburn/PA Wire
File photo dated 01/05/13 of Ukip leader Nigel Farage, as the UK Independence Party leader said he backed the "basic principle" of the warnings about mass immigration made by Enoch Powell in his notorious "rivers of blood" speech.

A rapid uprising of eurosceptics could add an astonishing new dimension to the EU election, due to take place in May this year.

The popularity of far right parties such as the UK Independence Party (Ukip) are on the rise, and it’s anticipated a high proportion of the 751 seats will go to anti-EU representatives.

According to polls, Ukip’s popularity has almost doubled in just 12 months, a trend being seen across Europe with radical anti-EU parties attracting increasing levels of support.

Popularity of EU opposition party, the French National Front, took a drop in 2007 to just 4.3 per cent. But a poll taken during the last quarter of 2013 showed the far-right organisation had taken a staggering lead for the first time in their history, gaining support of an astonishing 24 per cent of the electorate.

Where Britain was once the leader in the anti-EU stakes, a report shows pessimism about the future of the EU is now the majority view in eight member states - the UK, Greece, Cyprus, Portugal, France, Italy, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. It also shows optimism is decreasing.

So what are the reasons for the ever-increasing euroscepticism within the EU’s parliamentary headquarters? And how are individuals who go against the fundamental principles of being in Europe, managing to win a seat?

Alan Johnson, Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull and Hessle, outlined his views. He said: “It’s a bad electoral system for a start. I support proportional representation but the way we do it here is with these closed lists.”

“Being from Hull, the former MEP was well known to the constituency.

“Now we have these people off these lists representing Yorkshire and Humber and I think that was a mistake.”

“They’re kind of anonymous and people don’t relate to them like they do to their constituency MP. That has partly led to the problem where we get very low turn outs, and very low turn outs mean that extreme parties can get elected.”

However, Eurosceptics with seats are in a prime position to disseminate the negative information on Europe which pro-EU parties would be keen to cover up.

And so one could speculate the 'antis' could also win votes from pro-EU voters who hold no esteem in the basic ethos of the opposition but are simply keen to get a balanced view of what’s occurring in the Belgian headquarters.

For whatever reason they’re elected, they’re there. And the eurosceptic congressional presence is only going to grow.

The rising threat of euroscepticism is forcing MPs and MEPs to voice their concerns on whether this will undermine the legitimacy of an EU government and make a mockery of the Euro-democratic process.

Speaking at the European Parliament in Brussels, Claude Moraes, Labour MEP for London said: “What I don’t want to see is a block of far right MEPs."

claude moraes

“They would block the sort of legislation I would want to see; progressive legislation that would help people back home - decent unemployment legislation decent legislation of consumer issues, environmental issues, etc.”

Ever-controversial Nigel Farage, leader of
 Ukip and MEP for the southeast, is being paid for holding a seat in Brussels whilst simultaneously campaigning for Britain’s withdrawal from Europe.

But pint-swilling Farage has very few victories under his belt thus far. So with no wins to speak of, is his MEP status hypocritical?

Yes he’s making a mockery of the institution by flouncing across Europe and spending his MEP salary on Belgian beer, but what is he actually achieving?

A statement on Ukip’s website reads: “Each of the establishment main parties are now so similar they offer voters no real choice. Only outside the EU can we start to solve the problems our country faces.”

So given the party line holds the most basic objective, it could be said the significant presence of the EU debate in parliament and in the media is a Ukip win in itself.

But Nathalie Brack, a researcher at the Université libre de Bruxelles, argues the presence of anti-EU MEPs could actually give a fuller representation of democracy.

She said: “Far from being a problem for European integration, the presence of eurosceptic MEPs actually has the potential to increase the legitimacy of the integration process by giving a voice to public opposition.”

Brack’s claims state eurosceptic MEPs could actually validate the position of radical antis in Brussels and promote the idea that EU parliament upholds a representative democracy, reflecting the views of both pro and anti-EU voters.

So should eurosceptic presence in Brussels rise as anticipated, in the far right’s efforts to undermine the European democracy, could anti-EU parties actually play a fundamental role in their future?