There are 3 main institutions involved in the EU:
- The European Parliament, which represents the EU’s citizens and is directly elected by them;
- The Council of the European Union, which represents the governments of the individual member countries.
- The European Commission, which represents the interests of the Union as a whole.
This blog post will focus on the European Parliament on what role the UK holds in it.
The European Parliament holds three main functions.
1) It debates and passes European law alongside the Council
2) It scrutinises other EU institutions, particularly the Commission, to make sure they are all working properly
3) Debates and then (hopefully) adopts the EU budget, alongside the Council.
The number of members each Member State has is correlated to how big their population is, although no state can have less than 6 MEPs. The UK has 72 MEPs who represent different parts of the UK. So for example, if you live in the South East of England you have 10 MEPs representing you. This is your direct link into the European Parliament. Most laws that are passed in the EU now require ‘co-decision’ (this basically means both national governments in the Council and the European Parliament needs to approve them). This means from issues varying from agriculture to immigration, the European Parliament has to pass them for them to become law. There are some areas such as foreign policy where this is not the case.
The European Parliament also acts as a check and balance to the other EU institutions and how the EU operates in general. So for example, no new country can join the EU without the Parliament agreeing to it. The EU budget has to be approved by the Parliament. Perhaps most significantly, it has a number of different processes it can go through to keep the Commission (and the Commissioners) in check.
You can find out more about the European Parliament, including who your MEPs are here.