But Catherine Bearder, a Liberal Democrat MEP for South East England, explains why she has launched her Euromyth Buster campaign to make sure fact is not substituted for fantasy.
Let’s face it, is it any surprise people in the UK get exasperated by the European Union? They are swamped with erroneous tales of alleged devious directives and barmy plans from ‘meddling Brussels bureaucrats’. I have my favourites.
- There was the ‘fear’ sparked amongst the European male population after the story of the German man who claimed to have been made impotent by Euro coins.
- And even the rational were left reeling at news the EU was proposing to liquefy corpses and flush them down the drain.
- More recently we had a minor storm caused by suggestions jam makers were going to be BANNED from reusing jars to sell their sweet spreads at charity events.
For the record: none of it was accurate.
How can we ever expect to have a reasonable debate without the real facts? It’s a rhetorical question. We can’t.
Many British view the European Union with unnecessary doses of scepticism and fear. The media is happy to peddle these stories and drop crooked tit-bits into debate without facing a grilling.
You can take two stances: ignore, and let the drivel seep into the public subconscious, in the way grossly exaggerated tales of bendy bananas managed. Or, go armed with the truth, tackle myth-making when it crops up in the media and query suspected fabrication
When a headline screams ‘EU disgrace’ or ‘look at what them lot are doing now’ (insert exclamation mark for extra anger), stick your hand up and question detail. It is a relentless job, but one which those of us who believe in an effective place in the union must do.
Rebutting falsehoods uttered about the European Union has become a full time job. The European Commission has introduced a policy of tackling negative coverage it regards as being distorted… or, just plain wrong. It gets hit hard, often because many UK tabloids seem to forget their journalistic duty to contact the commission for a comment on many of their stories.
I struggle to imagine other scenarios in which that would be the case. If a local newspaper is running a story criticising a council plan, they go to the Town Hall for comment. If a police initiative is being scrutinised, a leading officer is asked for a quote. If a school is cutting classes, the headteacher or education authority is called upon to speak up.
I took part in a radio debate last month, during which one caller said she wanted Britain out of the EU because it preached holocaust denial to school pupils. The most surprising part was the polite acceptance of the viewpoint (?) from the presenter. No attempt was made to question what was clearly rubbish.
Those who pour scorn on our place in Europe are not keen for a frank and straightforward debate on the facts. The ‘Britain Out’ brigade do not want arguments about the true economic nuts and bolts, cluttering the Euromyths and the bilge in some UK papers. It is fairly obvious why.
I am not, and never will be, a walking PR machine for the European Union. There are many pluses it brings to the British people, but there are also things it could do better and I have a privileged place at the table to ensure this happens. I will, however, not allow the continued conveyor belt of lies to keep rolling.
My Euromyth Buster campaign is not just to poke fun at the ridiculous nature of this scaremongering. It is a serious bid to right some wrongs.
I am aware this is just one small part of the armoury which will be needed to combat the anti-EU beast as it sharpens its claws. Better education about how the EU works would be a help. Till then there is facebook. My Facebook page is a great forum to discuss the Euromyths of the day. Get involved. Here is the link to the Facebook campaign page.
Let’s make sure facts form the basis of the debate and not fantasy.
* Catherine Bearder is MEP for South East England and Liberal Democrat spokesperson on International Trade in the European Parliament