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MEPs look to shrink Euro-Parliament after Brexit

MEPs look to shrink Euro-Parliament after Brexit

European Parliament - Photo © European Union 2014 - source EP

(STRASBOURG) - The European Parliament should be reduced from 751 to 700 MEPs, an EP committee urged Monday, with 22 British seats being re-distributed among the remaining 27 EU countries.

The Constitutional Affairs Committee was debating the re-distribution and shrinking of Parliament's seats after the UK has left the EU to make room for new member states and pan-European electoral lists.

The proposal 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's text avoids a loss of seats for any EU country. It would also only apply once there is legal certainty and the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the EU becomes legally effective.

MEPs note that until Brexit has actually 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.

"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 co-rapporteur Ms. Danuta Huebner MEP.

Degressive proportionality means that while the subdivisions do not each elect an equal number of members, smaller subdivisions are allocated more seats than would be allocated strictly in proportion to their population.

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.

"We should bear in mind that the current distribution of seats is unfair ", said Pedro Silva Pereira MEP. "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".

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