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.

View comments
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

The shadow of Brexit: Guessing the economic damage to the UK

Under a set of assumptions, this post concludes that UK real income and investment would have been 4% and 6% larger respectively had it not been for the shock of the Brexit referendum result. With somewhat audacious assumptions, the damages already incurred can be scaled up to guess the negative macroeconomic consequence of each of the three possible Brexit outcomes: no-deal, deal or no Brexit.

By: Francesco Papadia Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: March 21, 2019
Read about event More on this topic

Upcoming Event

Mar
26
12:30

Spitzenkandidaten series: Yanis Varoufakis

The first event in the The Road to Europe - Brussels Briefing Live: Spitzenkandidaten series. The series features the lead candidates for the European Elections of six parties and is jointly organised by Bruegel and the Financial Times in March and April 2019.

Speakers: Maria Demertzis, Martin Sandbu and Yanis Varoufakis Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels
Read about event More on this topic

Upcoming Event

Apr
2
12:30

Spitzenkandidaten series: Bas Eickhout

The second event in the The Road to Europe - Brussels Briefing Live: Spitzenkandidaten series. The series features the lead candidates for the European Elections of six parties and is jointly organised by Bruegel and the Financial Times in March and April 2019.

Speakers: Bas Eickhout, Guntram B. Wolff and Rochelle Toplensky Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels
Read about event More on this topic

Upcoming Event

Apr
3
12:30

Spitzenkandidaten series: ALDE

The third event in the The Road to Europe - Brussels Briefing Live: Spitzenkandidaten series. The series features the lead candidates for the European Elections of six parties and is jointly organised by Bruegel and the Financial Times in March and April 2019.

Speakers: Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels
Read about event More on this topic

Upcoming Event

Apr
4
08:30

Spitzenkandidaten series: Jan Zaradhil

The fourth event in the The Road to Europe - Brussels Briefing Live: Spitzenkandidaten series. The series features the lead candidates for the European Elections of six parties and is jointly organised by Bruegel and the Financial Times in March and April 2019.

Speakers: Jim Brunsden, Maria Demertzis and Jan Zahradil Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels
Read about event More on this topic

Upcoming Event

Apr
9
12:30

Spitzenkandidaten series: Manfred Weber

The fifth event in the The Road to Europe - Brussels Briefing Live: Spitzenkandidaten series. The series features the lead candidates for the European Elections of six parties and is jointly organised by Bruegel and the Financial Times in March and April 2019.

Speakers: Anne-Sylvaine Chassany, Manfred Weber and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels
Read about event More on this topic

Upcoming Event

Apr
11
12:00

Spitzenkandidaten series: Frans Timmermans

The sixth event in the The Road to Europe - Brussels Briefing Live: Spitzenkandidaten series. The series features the lead candidates for the European Elections of six parties and is jointly organised by Bruegel and the Financial Times in March and April 2019.

Speakers: Frans Timmermans and André Sapir Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels
Read article More on this topic

Blog Post

The European Union must change its supervisory architecture to fight money laundering

Money laundering scandals at EU banks have become pervasive. The authors here detail the weaknesses the current AML architecture's fundamental weaknesses and propose a new framework.

By: Joshua Kirschenbaum and Nicolas Véron Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: February 26, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

The EU needs a Brexit endgame

Britain and the EU must try to preserve the longstanding economic, political, and security links and, despite the last 31 months spent arguing over Brexit, they should try to follow a new path toward convergence.

By: Jean Pisani-Ferry Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: January 31, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

What does a possible no-deal Brexit mean?

With Brexit getting closer, it is still extremely difficult to predict which one of the possible outcomes will materialise. Guntram Wolff examines what exactly it would mean for the UK to 'crash out' of the EU, for both parties.

By: Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: January 24, 2019
Read article Download PDF More on this topic

Policy Contribution

Equity finance and capital market integration in Europe

Facilitating the financing of European companies through external equity is a central ambition of European Union financial regulation, including in the European Commission’s capital markets union agenda. Against this background, the authors examine the present use of external equity by EU companies, the roles of listings on public markets, and the regulatory impediments in national laws. They assess to what extent EU market integration has overcome the crucial obstacle of shallow local capital markets.

By: Inês Goncalves Raposo and Alexander Lehmann Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: January 17, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Podcast

Podcast

Director's Cut: The economics of no-deal Brexit

Bruegel director Guntram Wolff is joined by senior fellow Zsolt Darvas to rake through the possibilities and probabilities inherent in a no-deal Brexit scenario, covering trade, the Irish border, citizens' rights and the EU budget.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: January 16, 2019
Load more posts