David Lidington, Minister for Europe, spoke recently in Berlin commenting that:
In Germany, you have had a difficult (but necessary) debate – in the Bundestag, in the media and at the Constitutional Court in Karlsrühe – over how much liability to take on for Eurozone debts and how much control to exercise over how German taxpayers’ money is spent in other countries.
The UK and other ‘Euro-outs’ have wrestled with a different set of issues around ensuring equal access to the single market. But ins and outs share a concern over fairness and control of economic decision making – in other words getting the relationship right between the EU at 27 and the members of the single currency at 17.
Now, some people might argue that the loss of trust in the EU is a temporary blip and is linked to the current crisis.
My experience tells a different story. Economic recovery will not solve the democratic deficit.
Politicians and academics talk about principles – about subsidiarity and proportionality. Our citizens put this in more practical terms. People question why the footwear and jewellery worn by hairdressers should be regulated at the European level.
Why they cannot determine shop opening hours locally in accordance with local traditions and practices.
Why it is that the EU needs to ban branding on cigarette packets or set quotas for women on company boards.
And they question why their local hospital or fire service no longer offers 24-hour cover due to judgments on working time rules made far away by the European Court of Justice.
In short, public dissatisfaction is not solely a consequence of the economic crisis, though that has of course emphasised the trend, but results from a longer-term and much broader sense that decisions at European level are remote from both citizens themselves and their interests.
At home, if people dislike the way their country is being run, they can throw out the government at the next election. In the EU it is not so simple.