The EU is undemocratic, not by oversight, but because it was designed that way. The patriarchs of federalism – Monnet, Schuman, de Gasperi and the rest – understood that their scheme to merge the ancient kingdoms and republics of Europe would never come off if each successive transfer of power to Brussels had to be approved by the national electorates. That is why they designed a structure which vests supreme power with unelected civil servants. And that is why, in Brussels, the worst of all crimes is “populism” - which, when you think about it, is another word for “democracy”: the readiness of elected representatives to do what their constituents want.
The worst of it is the way national governments pick up bad habits from the EU. Although the 27 member states are all parliamentary democracies, their leaders are learning in Brussels to disdain their electorates. This was neatly encapsulated in one of Tony Blair’s final interviews as Prime Minister, in which, adapting Engels’ theory of “false consciousness”, he told The Guardian: “The British people are sensible enough to know that, even if they have a certain prejudice about Europe, they don’t expect their government necessarily to share it or act upon it.” Got that? We don’t want our ministers to do what we say. We want them to second-guess our true interests.
This is the single most objectionable aspect of the European project: the way it vitiates democracy, not just within its own institutions, but in its member nations, too. The 27 national leaders have, in effect, given up on their electorates. As the Secretary of the East German Writers’ Union put it following the 1953 anti-Communist riots: “The people have forfeited the confidence of the government”.