Conservative and libertarian Britons are pretty uniformly hostile towards the European Union. While the EU deserves plenty of criticism, our dear British colleagues frequently go over the top, or go after Brussels for abuses of power that actually were perpetrated by the British government.
This obsession with the allegedly diabolical European Union seems mostly due to the almost uniformly hostile coverage of the issue by most of the British press.
The Economist, which opposes the European Constitution (as do I), reports this about said coverage:
That more critical tone [in the press of other European countries – RG], however, will have little in common with the feisty, fantastical coverage of the treaty in the British press.
Of the 30m Britons who read a daily, about a quarter read papers which, though broadly pro-European, print much that criticises the EU. The remaining three-quarters read papers that are unremittingly hostile to France, Germany and “Brussels”. This camp includes broadsheets as well as tabloids: The Times and the Daily Telegraph virtually never print an opinion piece that presents the EU in a favourable light.
A flavour of the Sun’s likely style during the referendum campaign can be gleaned from its already published “Guide to the EU constitution’’: “Our army will have to follow EU orders”; “We will be ordered what to say at the UN: the new EU foreign minister will speak for Britain at the Security Council”; “We will lose control of our borders and have no say in who enters the country.” There is no truth in any of those statements: all armies will remain under national control; the EU foreign minister will not be able to speak for Britain unless every country (including Britain) first signs up to a common policy; and Britain has an opt-out from EU policies on borders.
British journalists get away with such factual inaccuracies because editors and proprietors encourage them, and because they face no sanction. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the constitutional treaty (The Economist has argued that it belongs in the dustbin), no fair-minded person can claim that the British press will cover the referendum in an even-handed way. Eurosceptics can justly argue that in other EU countries the media will lean towards the treaty. But the bias of the continental papers will lack the strident, visceral and mendacious style of the British press.
This mendacious style applies to all issues concerning the EU. For example, a staple is the ‘flood of rules and regulations’ the EU is allegedly afflicting on the member nations. The British press also likes to single out the most silly examples.
Guess what: All national governments are issuing an astonishing amount of rules and regulations, and if you put a similar spotlight on those you’d get comparable results. The EU also is replacing existing ones in the member states by its own, to facilitate the free flow of goods and services across Europe. This streamlining of the rules and regulations of the 25 members also saves companies and individual citizens from having to navigate an incredible bureaucratic thicket, every time they want to do business across national borders. Yes, the powers of the individual member states is curtailed, but more often than not this is in the interests of the individual citizens of said states.
Like I said above, there is much to criticize in the EU, but an honest critic will at least acknowledge the advantages it brings once in a while.