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

Parliamentary Testimony

European Parliament

The role of independent expertise in legislative process

Testimony before the European Parliament Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO).

By: Zsolt Darvas and J. Scott Marcus Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, European Parliament, Testimonies Date: July 18, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

A Brexit deal is still not achieved

The UK paper should be seriously considered. While it breaks a number of European red-lines, it is also an attempt to solve some issues. The question is whether the EU will be ready to seriously negotiate. Geostrategic considerations suggest that it is time for the EU to do so.

By: Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 13, 2018
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

Designing a new institutional framework for UK-EU relations

Finding the right way forward for the EU and the UK.

Speakers: Raphael Hogarth, Jill Rutter and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: July 13, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

Ubu ou Machiavel?

L'administration Trump veut imposer une approche transactionnelle des relations économiques gouvernée par le rapport de force bilatéral en lieu et place du contrat multilatéral. Un défi d'une ampleur inédite pour l'Europe.

By: Jean Pisani-Ferry Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: July 6, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

EU income inequality decline: Views from an income shares perspective

Over the past decade, the income share of low earners has increased in the EU while that of top earners has slightly declined. Although the upward convergence of the impoverished central European population is impressive, the southern European poor have faced a major setback while the southern European rich have hardly suffered.

By: Zsolt Darvas Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 5, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

Griechenland braucht einen Neuanfang

This was first published by Die Zeit. Acht Jahre nach Beginn des ersten Hilfsprogramms für Griechenland ist es soweit – Griechenland soll wieder auf eigenen Füßen stehen. Die Eurogruppe soll heute das Ende des dritten Hilfsprogramms beschließen und die Modalitäten für die Zeit danach definieren. Ziel sollte es jetzt sein, einen tragfähigen Ausstieg aus dieser für alle Seiten […]

By: Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 3, 2018
Read article

Blog Post

Trading invisibles: Exposure of countries to GDPR

This blog post identifies provisions of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that affect foreign companies, and discusses implications for trade in services with the EU. The authors provide a novel mapping of countries’ relative exposure to these regulations by a) measuring the digital maturity of their service exports to the EU; and b) the share of these exports in national GDP.

By: Sonali Chowdhry and Nicolas Moës Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Global Economics & Governance Date: June 28, 2018
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

Euro tragedy: a drama in nine acts

This event will feature a presentation by Ashoka Mody of his new book, which argues that the Euro is at the root of the problems the European Union faces today.

Speakers: Maria Demertzis, Ashoka Mody and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: June 27, 2018
Read article More by this author

Parliamentary Testimony

European Parliament

The potential impact of Brexit on ICT policy

Testimony before the European Parliament's Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE).

By: J. Scott Marcus Topic: European Parliament, Innovation & Competition Policy, Testimonies Date: June 27, 2018
Read article Download PDF More on this topic More by this author

Working Paper

EU financial services policy since 2007: crisis, responses and prospects

This paper presents a holistic overview and assessment of the European Union (EU)’s financial services policy since the start of its financial crisis in mid-2007. Its emphasis is on public policy initiatives and developments at the European level, including those specific to the euro area.

By: Nicolas Véron Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: June 21, 2018
Read article Download PDF More on this topic

Policy Contribution

Is the European Semester effective and useful?

The authors study whether and to what extent EU countries implement recommendations on macroeconomic imbalances given by the EU in the so-called European Semester. Overall implementation of recommendations by EU countries has worsened in the last few years, in particular when it comes to recommendations addressed to countries with excessive macroeconomic imbalances.

By: Konstantinos Efstathiou and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: June 13, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

« Mieux vaudrait laisser les gouvernements libres de tenter les politiques de leur choix »

Les peuples ont le droit de faire des erreurs: Selon l’économiste Jean Pisani-Ferry, l’Union européenne doit accepter les aspirations légitimes à des politiques disparates, tout se prémunissant contre la contagion de leur corollaire : la possibilité d’une faillite souveraine.

By: Jean Pisani-Ferry Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: June 12, 2018
Load more posts