Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The 'Euro-myth'.

For the uninitiated, a 'euro-myth' is a story, usually in the Eurosceptic press, which is either wholly untrue, a deliberate distortion of the facts, a misunderstanding or taking an individual idea from a working paper and presenting it as a fixed decision.

In my work as an MEP I frequently come across examples of such stories when alarmed constituents get in touch, when I am asked about them myself by the press or when I come across them in the daily press summaries my office puts together for me.

Some of them beggar belief. For example, did you hear the one about 'barmy Brussels bureaucrats' working on secret plans to ban supermarkets and off licences from selling alcohol from Monday-Friday (Daily Star, 21 February 2005)?

Or how about the EU's ban on busty barmaids? The Sun (4 August 2005) was livid that Brussels bureaucrats had ordered Britain's barmaids to get rid of low cut tops in a bid to cut skin cancer rates. Sticking to the barmaid theme the Daily Star (1 April 2008) warned that under anti-discrimination legislation chatting up barmaids would result in fines, and the Sun (1 April 2008) and the Daily Mail (31 May 2008) were equally outraged that unelected bureaucrats in Brussels had imposed this on an unsuspecting Britain.

It really must have been a quiet month for the papers in April last year as the tabloids got really desperate for news and ran the story about the evil EU's secret plot to abolish Britain itself in response to some maps drawn up for regional cooperation programmes! (Daily Mail, The Sun, Daily Express, Daily Telegraph 23 April 2008).

Of course all of these stories are Euro-myths and are deliberate distortions. I personally cannot believe that the authors of these articles seriously believe their stories are true but then why let the facts get in the way of a good Euro-myth?

Whilst most are highly amusing, there is a more serious side. The blatant bias and euro-scepticism of some of the newspapers involved goes a long way to explaining why so many Brits are so hostile to the European Union.

If I believed everything I read in the British media I think I would be a UKIP voter too! I would think that 'Brussels' has the power to do whatever it likes and that decisions are taken by faceless, loopy, unelected bureaucrats in isolation, and somehow imposed on the UK, against our wishes, from one day to the next.

But of course they are not. The EU can only act in very specific areas where the treaties say they can. Vital issues for national sovereignty such as defence, healthcare, taxation, social security, and education remain primarily national competences and rightly so. This does not mean that we cannot cooperate in certain areas where it is clearly in our national interest to do so.

And where the European Union does have the competence to act, it's true that the procedure is complicated, but dealing with big global issues is complex – there are few easy answers and I believe British voters understand this . However what follows is a short guide for those who are interested.

The European Commission (the civil service of the EU) drafts proposals at the request of the national governments and MEPs, as well as overseeing fair and equal implementation of agreed legislation. The actual decisions and votes on legislation are taken by the democratically elected national governments in the Council of Ministers and by democratically elected MEPs in the European Parliament. The UK, as one of the largest countries in the European Union is a major player in this decision-making process with both the UK government and Labour MEPs punching way above our collective weight.

It is this basic understanding of how decisions are made that I wish more journalists would understand before putting pen to paper. Of course not everything that we decide upon is perfect and we must all have a sense of humour. I am prepared to engage in real debate about real issues surrounding the decisions we take in the European Union. However the tabloid focus on barmy Brussels bureaucrats and all the weird and wonderful Euro-myths does a grave injustice to our country's important membership of the European Union and is an affront to serious debate.


  1. If those were the myths, perhaps you could point out where they were factually incorrect ?

    It really isn't constructive simply to say "that isn't true" or "that is a distortion" without following up with a description of the reality of the situation.

  2. Thanks for your comment. You can see the reality of the situation along with many more Euromyths on this website here:

    I would have included all the whys and wherefores in the original post but length was an issue.

  3. Describing these supposed myths as "distortions" isn't very reassuring, as that word implies there is substance behind each even if the exact details may be unclear (quite probably due to EU secrecy). In other words, one can only distord what is already there in similar shape.

    Why is it the British Government seems determined to impose EU standardisation in every area of our national life, while constantly carping on about diversity and allowing regional variations? To take just one example of many, why was the ancient office of Lord Chancellor abolished and replaced by the sinister sounding and unbritish "Justice Ministry"?

    Also, why has such a determined effort been made to set up regional assemblies, ignoring the negative results of referenda, if not to break up Britain for easier assimilation into the EU?

  4. I think OwlHoot might be a little bit paranoid. The EU forcing the UK Government to rename the Lord Chancellor's office and demanding regional assemblies in order to spell the end of Britain? Is this really serious? There was a negative vote in the only referendum for an elected assembly held in the North-East and therefore it did not go ahead. As far as the non-elected regional assemblies go they have no formal decision-making power and my understanding is they will be abolished next year!