Ireland’s voting weight at the European Council could suffer serious setback after Brexit – Hayes
Brian Hayes MEP today said that Ireland’s voting weight within the European Council could be hit badly with the loss of the UK as a key ally.
“The European Council is subject to Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) rules whereby two conditions must be met for a legislative proposal to pass – this is known as the ‘double majority’ rule. Under QMV, 55% of Member States and a 65% representation of the total EU population is required to pass a vote in the European Council. In practice, the 55% means that 16 out of 28 Member States need to approve legislation in the Council for it to pass and those 16 states must represent more than 65% of the EU’s population.
“The ‘double majority’ rules were brought in through the Lisbon Treaty to bring the voting weights closer to population size. According to these QMV rules, a blocking minority to a proposal can be formed either through an alliance of 12 Member States or an alliance of Member States representing more than 35% of the EU population.
“The loss of the UK will raise a number of interesting and challenging issues. For Ireland, the UK’s eventual departure represents not only the loss of a key ally at the Council table but also a loss of a 12% of the EU’s population, a sizeable voting proportion. The key question is: who will Ireland depend on to form a blocking minority into the future?
“Research has shown that the loss of the UK will favour a more southern protectionist bloc of countries which includes France, Italy and Spain over the Northern liberal bloc of countries which includes Ireland, Sweden and Netherlands. The ability of Ireland to form blocking minorities without the UK as a big Member State will be much more difficult into the future. Ireland has always counted on the UK’s population size of 12% which can fill a big chunk of the 35% population blocking minority.
“Although about 80% of Council decision are passed through consensus, in areas which are key for Ireland such as financial services or single market harmonisation, we could be left very exposed.
“The other question we have to ask ourselves about the new voting regime into the future is whether or not there should be a Treaty change? Any change to the QMV system will formally require a Treaty change but there will be massive resistance to a Treaty change and certain Member States will want to keep the current system in place. But we have to ask ourselves, will the UK’s departure cause such a significant shift in the voting balance that a Treaty change will be needed to make the system fairer?
“The voting system in Council should ultimately give smaller Member States the ability to protect their rights. The loss of the UK hands more power to a small number of big Member States. Ireland needs to look closely at the balance of construction of QMV in a post-Brexit world and assess whether the right safeguards are there for smaller Member States.”