Catherine Bearder MEP writes … The British media is in love with the Euromyth

The invented tales about European Union policy have the ability to amuse and terrify the public.

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 the Liberal Democrat MEP for the South East

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16 Comments

  • Old Codger Chris 27th Nov '12 - 10:18am

    Excellent idea.

    While an often irresponsible and untruthful press peddles nonsense and I’m sure half the population blame the EU for what they think are the evils of the Human Rights Act and the European Court, the case for staying in the EU goes by default. Why aren’t businesses shouting from the rooftops that investment will migrate to continental Europe if we pull out?

    I used to think that the UK was in danger of becoming Amreica’s 51st state. But it’s worse than that, with the rise of China etc the US would ignore us as well. Still, we’ll be able to pretend we’re important by waving our pointless Trident missiles and shouting – assuming we can still afford any armed forces at all.

  • Simon Titley 27th Nov '12 - 10:57am

    Congratulations to Catherine for this much-needed initiative. There are a number of resources online that provide responses to the myths the British media publish.

    Catherine is too modest to mention that she has a ‘Euromyths’ page on her website here:
    http://bearder.eu/en/page/euromyths

    Andrew Duff also has a ‘Euromyths Debunked’ page on his website:
    http://andrewduff.eu/en/page/myth-index

    The European Commission Representation in the UK has an ‘EU Myths’ page here:
    http://www.the-eu-and-me.org.uk/eu-myths
    and also posts its replies to press untruths here:
    http://ec.europa.eu/unitedkingdom/blog/index_en.htm

    Finally, it is notable that, while the BBC and quality dailies have reporters permanently based in Brussels, not one of the tabloids has. Instead, they make things up in an office in London.

  • Old Codger Chris 27th Nov '12 - 11:32am

    Although Andrew Duff’s Euromyths page is excellent he’s so keen on a federal Europe that, unfortunately, he provides amunition to the Europhobes.

  • Good piece, and plenty of chortle material in there. But whilst we might be distracted by sad, bent bananas stories, the real ‘bent’ remains unnoticed. Am I right in thinking no firm of accountants will sign off an audit of ‘the Euro books’, (for the last 15 years or so), or is that an urban myth too, Catherine?

  • George Lees 27th Nov '12 - 1:51pm

    I would like to believe you that the ban on the recycling of jam jars is incorrect. However, that is not true, the EU law is clear that businesses can not reuse glass (or othermaterial ). It may be true that individuals are exempt, it may be true that everyone agrees it is silly, but it remains a fact that the law could catch a bussiness reusing a jamjar – why not clear up the problem by legislating. All it needs is one officious official to prosecute someone.

    So this is a lie: “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.”

  • To John Dunn “Am I right in thinking no firm of accountants will sign off an audit of ‘the Euro books’,” Yes that certainly has to be a myth. I think you will find plenty of accountants willing to sign off almost anything. Greece had no difficulty in finding such accountants for example.

    You obviously know the truth on this one, there was an article about this on this website quite recently I seem to recall. I assume it is just a rather childish wind up. For the record this refers to Eurostat, who use stricter criteria than the UK government does for its own finances and Eurostat are critical of national governments oversight of money. This includes the UK. Brussels own administration gets a clean bill of health.

  • Dave Eastham 28th Nov '12 - 8:34am

    @ George Lees 27th Nov ’12 – 1:51pm

    I rather think you have proved the point of the whole article. See http://tabloid-watch.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/ec-labels-ban-on-re-using-jam-jars.html. I’m afraid it is your good self who is in error on this one. I’ll stop now, before I give into the temptation to crack some truly bad jokes about Jam and futures.

    Dave Eastham

  • Michael Parsons 28th Nov '12 - 11:33am

    Disappointment can lead to over-reaction, but perhaps the great EU is not what we had hoped for? Sitting on our hands while the absence of a euro exit clause reduces great nations to poverty and despair and even subjects them to the anti-democratic imposition of government by bankers is not something to be especially proud of., If we had joined the euro our plight would now be dreadful. Perhaps euro-humility is needed among those of us whose earlier enthusiasm was perhaps rash, to say the least. Especially when at this time membership seems to rely on the spirit of Indifference and shoulder-shrugging? Or are we going to imitate USA and destroy our Southern States rather than negotiate secession? That was hardly a triumph of peaceful democracy was it. At least better than putting the banking criminals in unified central control pending the final collapse of their ponzi-scheme existence..
    Perhaps our euro-MPs would be better engaged in publicising the very sensible schemes available for Greek (et al) euro-exit as a public service? such as reversion to old currencies on a one-for-one basis, debt cancellation (it won';t be paid anyway) and a period of limited assistance, which would mean genuine European unity wouldn’t it?

  • Don’t believe me read the evidence: Legally you can not reuse jam jars, milk bottle are ok as designed to be reused, there might be only a small chance of prosecution but it does exist so the risk is put on the person using/selling them: It was badly written EU legislation.

    From the FSA to the Church of England:

    “I have consulted colleagues in our Food Safety Group who have advised that EU food contact materials legislation only permits re-use of packaging if the food contact material is specifically manufactured for that purpose. Jam jars are not manufactured for re-use.”

    A Parliamentary answer:Jam: Storage

    Mr Spellar: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the Government’s policy is on the re-use of jam jars by individuals; and if he will make a statement. [123376]

    Anna Soubry: We are advised by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) that there is European Union legislation in place, that applies to food businesses, that are designed to protect consumers from the migration of materials that may be used in the manufacture of containers used to store food. These rules do not apply to subsequent re-use by individuals.
    The FSA is not aware of any evidence that reusing jam jars presents a food safety concern for consumers in terms of materials which may migrate from jam jars into food. Separately, good hygiene needs to be observed in cleaning jars and food preparation.

    It is for local authorities to decide how they enforce the rules with respect to charities and the like. The FSA’s view is that the legislation needs to be applied with common sense and it is clear that local authorities are doing so. The FSA is not aware of any prosecutions for reusing glass jars for jam making since the legislation was introduced in 2004.

    http://www.churcheslegislation.org.uk/files/publications/CLAS_Food_hygiene_and_old_jam-jars.pdf
    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm121022/text/121022w0004.htm

  • Dave Eastham – you should read your own EU Commission propoganda which reads : “There is indeed a body of EU food safety and hygiene legislation – notably so that the UK and other countries can be confident that food imported from or bought elsewhere in the EU is safe and of high quality. But these rules apply only to business operators ” how confident are you that the WI or Cof E are not businesses? There is legislation banning the reuse of jam jars, with some ill defined exemptions for individuals and a vague promise not to enforce it. Why should we take a chance against an officious bureaurocracy? If someone catches a bug from a jam jar you can bet who the EU and lawyers will come after…

  • Michael Parsons 1st Dec '12 - 6:29am

    What have we come to! You can’t have your own currency, you can’t run your own budget unsupervised, you can’t have your own banking system, you can’t protect your own fish stocks and rights, you can’t check for incoming undesirables, you can’t have accounts that balance or an anti- corruption commissioner who does very much, you can';t resist expenditure growth without being a spoil-sport, you can’t have feet and inches and we have to worry about our jam jars for fear of Brussel’s busybodies and forget the bananas and cucumbers and the very real attempt to stop us pricing in pounds! I thought “muddling through” (or not) was supposed to be only the British way.

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