Tag Archives: UK

Who gets the UK’s 73 MEPs

UK-73

The UK will leave the European Union, most likely at the end of March 2019, two years after it invoked Article 50. Currently, the United kingdom has 73 seats in the European Parliament, representing England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar, but the question is what happens to these seats once the country leaves?

Three solution

One option would be redistribution among existing member states. Since there is no predetermined formula, the redistribution has to be agreed on like any other change, through negotiations within the European Council. I doubt the EC has the time and energy for this before the 2019 European elections.

Another option, favored by the French president as well, is to create a new 73-seat European constituency. While I am sympathetic to this option, I think the most likely outcome will be the one of least resistance: leaving the seats vacant until new members join the EU, who then gradually fill them up.

It is from this scenario that the current visualization was born, as a means to explore which countries could join before the 73 seats run out. By using population numbers, I estimated how many MEPs a country was likely to get, and on somewhat subjective criteria, I added what I considered the most likely scenario.

The Western Balkans

While the Western Balkans are at different stages of accession, from opened negotiations to “not-candidate-(yet)” in the case of Kosovo, they seem the most likely states to gain membership in the near to medium future, and I think the EU is also very interested in getting them under its wing.

Turkey

Given the way Turkish politics evolved in recent times, and adding to that the fact that many member states fear the addition of a Muslim state the size of Germany, one can safely assume its membership is frozen.

The Eastern Partnership

Things here oscillate between “impossible”, when it comes to Belarus and Azerbaijan, and “maybe, but not right now”, when it comes to Georgia, who made strong progress on its European path. I think smaller states such as Georgia, Moldova and Armenia might have an easier time getting EU membership than bigger ones, such as Ukraine.

Other countries

Iceland, Norway and Switzerland don’t seem too eager to join any time soon, and Russia is both too big, too undemocratic and too confrontational to consider for this thought experiment.

On a side note: I think there is some potential in an interactive tool that could explore various scenarios starting from this premise. A map were you could add/remove candidate countries, enable/disable automatic redistribution of seats (based on the Duff proposal), and create a custom European constituency of any size. Unfortunately, I have yet to master the art of JavaScript.

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Great Britain and the European Union of 27

EU27-UK Flow

This latest visualization has its genesis in this reddit thread. I wanted to represent the data therein in a way that would be easier to compare than a print-screen of an Excel table. As time went by, I found more detailed and accurate data, and I started looking at a way in which I could represent the relationship between the UK and the EU27 from the angle of the Four Freedoms :

1. Free Movement of Goods and 2. Services – The main focus of my visualization. Talk about Britain’s future relationship with the EU has often revolved around how free the trade will be and how high the risk of barriers will be. While the flow of goods has been much easier to free than that of services, and will be much easier to keep unrestricted in the post-Brexit world, I treated the two as somewhat two sides of the coin called Trade. A challenge of this infographic was to visualize both the absolute values, and the relative values to each other (imports vs exports, goods vs. services, UK-to-EU27 trade vs. global national trade)

3. Free Movement of People – Easily the most controversial of the Freedoms, at least in the United Kingdom, and a somewhat thorny subject in the early stages of negotiations, the size of Immigrant / Emigrant communities can inform on which countries might have strong incentives to protect their diaspora during negotiations.

4. Free Movement of Capital – By far the one I grasp the least, I limited myself to showing which countries are members of the Eurozone, and which ones still use their national currencies.

Made with Python (svgwrite module) and Inkscape. Data from Eurostat

EU freedom of movement (from East to West)

The Free Movement of People within the European Union has become one of the hot topics surrounding the whole Brexit debate, and the following graph was born out of the desire to explore the relationship between intra-EU work restrictions on new members, and the growth dynamics of the number of immigrants from these new Eastern European states.

The initial idea was to compare the evolution of the number of New EU citizens in the Old EU member states, and especially between the the Big Three – Germany, Britain and France -, who each imposed different levels of restrictions on the 2004 wave of new member states – the wave that gave the world the image of the infamous “Polish plumber”. I wanted to see how much the presence or absence of work-restrictions slowed down immigration from the East.

Here are some of the findings:

  1. The UK is the only country where immigrants from EU-8 (the 2004 wave) grew as fast as those from EU-2 (Romania and Bulgaria). This later wave tended to be bigger in all countries, except the UK (and the 2013 wave, i.e. Croatia, tended to be between the two when it comes to growth)
  2. Work restrictions don’t seem to be the only factor in the rate of growth, but accession is clearly a tipping point when immigration accelerates. The removal of work-restrictions however are noticeable only in some cases (in Austria most clearly)
  3. I was surprised to see much calmer growth post-accession into Germany and Italy, but that is also due to already having larger numbers of immigrants from said countries before those countries joined the EU. The UK and Germany both ended up with 1+ million Central Europeans after 9 years, but they started out out from different base populations (136k vs. 481k)

One immediate problem that prevented me from a broader analysis was the lack of available data in some countries due to different methodologies. France, for example, does not, to my knowledge, publish an estimate on a country by country basis, the EU immigrants being divided solely into “Spain, Portugal, Italy, rest of the EU”, while other countries don’t go far enough into the past to be useful. True to stereotype, the most rigorous seem to be the Germanic nations, which is somewhat fortunate since German-speaking countries and Scandinavian ones are preferred destinations of intra-EU migration. Also, the numbers in Italy after 2011 are based on the census of 2011, but the data before that year, overestimating the number of immigrants, hasn’t been revised, and I had to revise the data myself, so as to not have an odd sudden drop around 2011.

freedom-of-movement

Made in Python w/ Matplotlib (lineplots), LibreCalc (work restriction viz) and Inkscape.

UK’s trade with the EU

As the debate around the UK’s membership in the EU grows, an argument often used by the pro-Brexit side is that the EU will pursue a very pro-trade policy post-Brexit given that the EU exports more to the the UK than vice-versa, an thus, it’s in the rEU’s interest to give the UK a very generous trade agreement.

The counter-argument to this is that while the EU does indeed export more, its exports of goods to the UK represent only 15% of all exports, while the UK’s exports to the Union comprise 48% of its exports, a much bigger share, thus making the UK much more vulnerable in the case of a Brexit, given that it would be in rEU’s self interest to play hard-ball with the UK, in order to discourage its own disintegration.

The following 2 charts aim to visualize the above. The first chart compares trade in goods (for 2014) and services (for 2013) and the second one compares only the trade in goods, with the additional perspective of the intra-rEU trade between states.

Chart 1. Exports of goods and services of the rEU and UK

GoodsnServices

Chart 2. Exports of goods of the rEU and UK

Goods

Data from Eurostat. Made in Inkscape.