OPINION: Euroscepticism is just a way of British life

Nothing, it seems, ever changes. If you sit around long enough, history, like fashion, will repeat itself. I refer to the majestic complaint by Geoffrey Martin, head of the European Commission’s London office, about the ’jingoistic’ and ’paranoid’ reporting of the EU in the British press.

Nothing, it seems, ever changes. If you sit around long enough,

history, like fashion, will repeat itself. I refer to the majestic

complaint by Geoffrey Martin, head of the European Commission’s London

office, about the ’jingoistic’ and ’paranoid’ reporting of the EU in the

British press.



I have been here before. For much of the time since our entry in 1973,

Europhiles have been complaining about the British media’s handling of

Brussels.



In the late-1970s and early-1980s, the FCO used to go puce at the

thought of a Labour activist - in the days before Labour discovered it

could import far more socialism through the Brussels back door than

through the Westminster entrance - feeding out eagerly snapped-up tales

of Brussels’ and Strasbourg’s passion for Euro-standardisation. Now Mr

Martin accuses the press of misleading the public over Europe and more

’mythomania’ for suggesting that Brussels wanted to get rid of Mr

Crapper’s ’great British toilet’, ordering London to give theatregoers

more leg room and preparing to harmonise the size of condoms. Well, it

makes a change from demanding straight cucumbers.



Mr Martin shows conclusively that this is no longer, if it ever was, a

minority newspaper sport. He names, but fails to shame, 13 out of the 19

national daily and Sunday newspapers. He is particularly brassed off

about British journalists portraying the EU as ’a foreign body trying to

impose its will on a hapless and helpless’ Britain, even though the EU

seeks in a myriad of ways to impose itself - and extend that imposition

on the British people. Romano Prodi has portrayed his unelected

Commission as a European government and one of the arguments for joining

the euro is the fear of what our so-called partners would do to us if we

stayed out.



After attending 31 consecutive European summits, I concluded - and my

view has been reinforced in the ten intervening years - that Brussels,

like the Irish, simply does not understand the British. We are

infuriatingly lethargic and notoriously difficult to arouse, but

confusingly determined not to be imposed upon beyond a certain point and

fundamentally awkward.



We are also independent, far from Euro-minded and find it difficult to

see the EU as anything other than undemocratic, bureaucratic, expensive

not to say profligate, protectionist, riddled with fraud, horribly

pretentious in foreign affairs and defence and about as much use in an

international crisis as President Clinton would be in a marriage

guidance clinic.



In other words, we are not inclined to see Europe though rose-coloured

spectacles. Mr Martin makes two fundamental PR errors: he does not

understand his product or the market in which he is trying to flog it.

If he did, he would shut up. The British press are going to have him for

mincemeat.



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