Constitutional Affairs Committee MEPs debated shrinking the Parliament after the UK has left the EU to make room for new member states and pan-European electoral lists.
A new proposal on the re-distribution of Parliament’s seats, discussed by the Constitutional Affairs Committee on Monday evening, suggests cutting 51 of the 73 UK seats from the Parliament after Brexit, bringing the institution down from 751 to 700 elected representatives. These vacated seats would then be kept in store in case of a future EU enlargement, and could also be used for the envisaged pan-European lists of Parliament members.
The remaining “minimal fraction” of 22 British seats could be re-distributed among the remaining 27 EU countries, to better take into account the principle of “degressive proportionality”.
The proposal, drafted by Ms. Danuta Hübner (EPP, PL) and Mr. Pedro Silva Pereira (S&D, PT), ensures that the new distribution of seats will not mean a loss of seats for any EU country. This suggested distribution method would also only apply once there is legal certainty and the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU becomes legally effective, according to the text.
MEPs note that until Brexit has taken place, “the most viable solution providing legal certainty to Member States would be to maintain the same distribution of seats in Parliament as the one applied for the 2014-2019 parliamentary term”.
While there are clear references to a pan-European constituency in the proposal, MEPs highlight that a successful reform of the current European electoral law will be mandatory to make transnational voting lists in the EU a reality.
”Brexit limits legal and political certainty. In spite of this situation, a European decision should be finalised by Summer 2018 to provide certainty to Member States and to organise the elections. So, until legal certainty is possible, we can’t have a redistribution of seats and we propose the status quo. Once Brexit has happened, we propose to redistribute some seats among Member States to meet criteria like the “degressive proportionality” to comply with the Lisbon Treaty”, said Ms. Danuta Hübner. On joint constituencies, she added “there is no legal base for now”, but co-rapporteurs agreed to repeat the plenary’s recommendation in this report.
“We should bear in mind that the current distribution of seats is unfair “, said Mr. Pedro Silva Pereira. “It only partially respects the principle of “degressive proportionality” of the Lisbon Treaty. We know the issue is sensitive. It requires a unanimity in the European Council and for many Member States, there is a balance to ensure between their representation in the EP and the voting system in the Council. (…) This new distribution is reasonable, reduces the size of the EP and is politically viable”.
According to the Treaty on European Union, the number of Members of the European Parliament cannot exceed 750, plus the President. It provides for representation to be “degressively proportional”, with a minimum threshold of 6 members per member state, and that no member state is to be allocated more than 96 seats.