Brexit proponents have long called the EU undemocratic. In truth, the EU has strong democratic elements. It has a parliament. It has a court. It has an executive appointed by the government’s of member states. And it allows further member state government recognition the form of the Council of Ministers.
Immigration and sovereignty played significant roles in the EU referendum, but the perceived lack of democracy undoubtedly played a part.
As stated, the EU is democratic, however, it is worth noting the UK is called democratic despite its unfair voting system, the unelected, over-bloated House of Lords and the fact we have a hereditary head of state. Democracy is a continuum rather than one part of a binary set of options.
Therefore, there are two things the EU must to do improve its democracy. If there is to be more fiscal integration after Brexit leaves, there needs to be better democracy.
Firstly, while the EU has a parliament that scrutinises proposals from the EU commission, MEPs lack the ability to introduce legislation from scratch. This is an obvious wrong that needs reformed to allow MEPs to propose, vote on and adopt legislation rather than merely scrutinise and rubber-stamp Commission proposals.
Secondly, related to this is the Commission itself. This is where many Brexiteers have a serious problem with the EU as members are appointed rather than elected. There is a logic to having commissioners appointed by member states, but if MEPs are to propose laws, something that could even improve turnout at EU elections by making votes actually matter, this has got to change. One alternative would be to create a parliamentary executive like in the UK or Germany where MEPs from the parliament form an EU "government". MEPs from different parties in a country already sit with their counterparts from other EU states so this change would be a minor step forwards and would result in coalitions and executives being created to propose legislation.
As the EU is a supranational body, there would need to be a provision for any coalition created to be made up by MEPs from at least two-thirds of member states of similar. For example, at the 2014 elections, no super party would have been able to form a majority and create an executive, but a grand coalition could have been formed between the centre-right EPP and the centre-left S&D.
The EU is not a perfect democratic institution, but neither is the UK.
Both should strive to better themselves.