Blog Post

Does the European Parliament miss an opportunity to reform after Brexit?

While Brexit negotiations are beginning to progress, the European Parliament is preparing to vote on the possible reallocation of seats following the UK's departure. With many of the current proposals reflecting Member States' concerns about losing seats, this paper advocates for options that could better achieve equality of representation even within the constraints of the EU treaties.

By: , , and Date: January 10, 2018 Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance

On 18 January 2018, the European Parliament (EP) will vote on its new distribution of MEPs per Member State after Brexit. In the UK 73 MEPs are elected, and these seats can either be dropped or reallocated across countries or even in a transnational list.

In an earlier paper, we calculated the implications of various reallocation options for measures of the representativeness of the European Parliament. We showed that while the European Parliament is highly unequal in its representation of EU citizens, significant improvements can be achieved while remaining within the constraints set by the EU treaties.

In this post, we present the political choices that the EP is currently negotiating and show what they mean for equality of representation. We conclude with our own proposals.

The proposal currently negotiated within the Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) aims to fulfil three objectives:

  1. No smaller state is given more seats than a bigger state and no smaller state has a higher ratio of population per seat than a bigger state. This is necessary and sufficient to satisfy degressive proportionality, a requirement from the European treaties.
  2. No loss of seat by Member State, a political wish.
  3. Minimum reallocation of the vacant British seats, in order to cut the costs of the European Parliament (a political wish – even though the numbers do not add up to much).

While degressive proportionality was satisfied for the 2009 elections, the reallocation of seats decided for the 2014 elections did not respect that principle anymore, focusing instead on limiting each Member State’s loss of seats. Given the different growth rates of national populations over the past four years, the situation has worsened and more states do not respect degressive proportionality.

AFCO has seven amended versions of the new seat-allocation proposals currently under discussion. The implications of all proposals across countries are presented in the table below. But what are the implications of the proposals for equality of representation? We present two measures regularly used by political scientists; the voting Gini coefficient and the index of malapportionment. The former measures the degree to which representation differs from equal representation, i.e. one man one vote. Malapportionment measures the percentage of seats that must be reallocated in order to achieve equality of representation.

In all the proposals made by members of the committee, the new composition of the EP ends up more electorally unequal than the pre-Brexit situation, by both measures (cf. Table 1)! For example, the base AFCO proposal is 3.0% and 4.8% more unequal than the current situation when measured by malapportionment and voting Gini respectively. While it is designed to satisfy degressive proportionality as mentioned above, it actually results in more inequality than simply withdrawing the 73 British seats from the Parliament (also proposed). When comparing the different proposals among themselves, we see that the one by Guy Verhofstadt (proposal in Amendment 141) performs the best by far in terms of electoral equality.

 Table 1: Comparison of reallocation proposals

Source: Bruegel analysis, click on the image to access table data.

 

While all these versions ensure that no Member State loses any seat, there is a lot to gain from more courageous proposals. Kalcik & Wolff (2017) have shown that without any Treaty change, the EP could achieve inequality scores much lower than the current situation. After updating their widget with new population data, we likewise find that the Parliament could be up to 26.8% less unequal when allocating seats in order to minimize malapportionment. When allocating seats to minimize the voting Gini, we can find an allocation 19.7% less unequal. Both allocations respect the constraints of the EU treaties and are based on a Cambridge Compromise formula, widely accepted by experts as a basis for allocation proposals. The resulting compositions are detailed in the columns “Minimizing Voting Gini” and “Minimizing Malapport.” in Table 1 below.

This would however require several Member States to lose more than 1 seat, a politically difficult bargain. Still, when limiting each Member State’s loss to 1 seat maximum and a total size of 700 seats – as in the base AFCO proposal – the EP’s malapportionment can shrink by 13.7% and its voting Gini coefficient by 8.3% without any change to the EU treaties. This approach also improves on the current situation by correcting some of the existing divergences from degressive proportionality. The resulting composition is detailed in the column “Limited Loss” in the table below.

Other compositions are of course possible, each more or less politically feasible and performing differently against inequality measures and other criteria. The updated widget is available below so that readers can compare and compute other proposals. It also enables exploration of proposals that would require change in the European treaties, as might be the case for the 2024 elections, and also allows users to design a transnational list.

 


Republishing and referencing

Bruegel considers itself a public good and takes no institutional standpoint. Anyone is free to republish and/or quote this post without prior consent. Please provide a full reference, clearly stating Bruegel and the relevant author as the source, and include a prominent hyperlink to the original post.

Read article More on this topic
 

Blog Post

Do citizens care about Europe? More than they used to

The level of interest of European citizens in the European Union is increasing, but still lags behind EU economic and policy integration.

By: Enrico Bergamini, Emmanuel Mourlon-Druol, Francesco Papadia and Giuseppe Porcaro Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: April 26, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Podcast

Podcast

[LIVE] The idea of Europe: more than a feeling?

What can 70 years of news(paper articles) and how we talk about 'Europe' tell us about pan-European identity? Is there even such a thing as a European public sphere?

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: April 16, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Blog Post

New EU insolvency rules could underpin business rescue in the COVID-19 aftermath

Corporate bankruptcies are set to rise in the context of COVID-19. EU countries should speed up adoption of recent insolvency reforms and, in addition, offer consistent treatment to restructuring finance.

By: Alexander Lehmann Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: March 24, 2021
Read article Download PDF More on this topic
 

Working Paper

Interest in European matters: a glass three-quarters full?

Everything that increases the interest of European citizens in the EU, independently of whether it has a critical or a supportive character, will serve to move the EU closer to its citizens.

By: Francesco Papadia, Enrico Bergamini, Emmanuel Mourlon-Druol and Giuseppe Porcaro Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: March 23, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Podcast

Podcast

Keeping momentum on good governance

Transparency, human rights and good governance: a conversation with Katalin Cseh MEP

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: March 17, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Blog Post

Financial services: The Brexit dust begins to settle

The phase of greatest Brexit-related uncertainty for the European financial sector ended on 1 January. Although too early to discern more than the broadest contours of the future landscape, it is increasingly apparent that London will be less dominant than before.

By: Nicolas Véron Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: March 11, 2021
Read article Download PDF More on this topic More by this author
 

External Publication

When and how to unwind COVID support measures to the banking system?

Study of regulatory measures and supervisory practices that have supported public guarantee schemes and moratoria in euro-area countries prepared for the ECON committee of the European Parliament.

By: Alexander Lehmann Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: March 9, 2021
Read article Download PDF More on this topic
 

Working Paper

Talking about Europe: exploring 70 years of news archives

This paper aims to contribute to the understanding of Europe as reflected in European media.

By: Enrico Bergamini and Emmanuel Mourlon-Druol Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: March 2, 2021
Read article Download PDF
 

External Publication

European Parliament

The impact of COVID-19 on the Internal Market

Study assessing the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the European Union's Internal Market and consumer protection prepared for the European Parliament.

By: J. Scott Marcus, Niclas Poitiers, Lionel Guetta-Jeanrenaud, Monika Grzegorczyk, Sophie Buckingham, Fernando Hortal Foronda, Norman Röhner and Jacques Pelkmans Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, European Parliament, Testimonies Date: March 1, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Blog Post

The double irony of the new UK-EU trade relationship

The Trade and Cooperation Agreement signed between the European Union and the United Kingdom goes against six decades of UK efforts to avoid being economically disadvantaged in Europe. Tracking the evolution of the EU-UK relationship over the last 60 years can help in understanding this.

By: André Sapir Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: January 12, 2021
Read article
 

External Publication

European Parliament

Data flows, artificial intelligence and international trade: impacts and prospects for the value chains of the future

In-depth briefing and analysis on the issues of digital trade and the geopolitics of trade provided to the European Parliament.

By: Dennis Görlich, Michèle Finck, Georgios Petropoulos, Niclas Poitiers and André Sapir Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, European Parliament Date: November 26, 2020
Read article Download PDF More on this topic
 

Parliamentary Testimony

European Parliament

Socio-economic effects of digital trade and artificial intelligence on EU industries including their value chains and EU imports and exports with major trade partners

Testimony before the European Parliament on the subject of digital trade.

By: Georgios Petropoulos and André Sapir Topic: European Parliament Date: November 16, 2020
Load more posts