It may be the silly season, but the latest Euromyth to ruffle right-wing feathers takes silliness to a whole new level. The Express, Mail, Sun and Telegraph unanimously announced at the weekend that Brussels wants to remove the royal crest from British birth certificates and replace it with the hated EU flag. The Mail declared Brits would be “stamped with the EU flag from the cradle to the grave” while the Sun led with the rather lame “B-EU-rths ‘n deaths”.
They gave generous space to Eric Pickles, who fumed:
This imposed Euro-law is part of an aggressive propaganda campaign to bully councils and public institutions into flying the EU flag at every opportunity.
In fact, the Commission simply proposed (back in April) that EU countries recognise each other’s basic documents –such as birth, marriage or company certificates – without the need for translations and special stamps. It also proposed offering people the option of a standard format European certificate when registering a birth or marriage, so they don’t have to translate their documents elsewhere in the EU.
Anyone who’s been through the hassle of translating or legalising certificates for foreign administrations will welcome the move with open arms. Around 1.7 million Brits live in another EU country and around 1 in 8 marriages in the UK are among bi-national couples. The Commission’s proposals would save time, energy and an estimated £280 million a year in legal and administrative fees.
As with most Euromyths, the proposal is not yet law and has to be agreed by national governments and MEPs before becoming so. Even then, the EU format certificates will be purely optional, and no common format – with or without the EU flag – has yet been agreed.
No matter that the proposal was the result of a lengthy public consultation back in 2010, in which the House of Lords, Law Society and others took part. No matter that, according to polls, 74% of Brits are in favour (pdf) of standard formats for civil status documents in all EU member states. No matter that the Conservative Europe Minister had already cautiously welcomed the initiative. All these facts would have stood in the way of a cheap and malicious pop at the EU that was just too good to miss.
We in the UK are of course used to low standards and biased reporting by our press on European matters. In fact we are less likely to trust our national press than any other EU country. Just 18% of Brits say they trust the press while 79% distrust it, less than half the average level of trust in the EU.
But the worst part is that, this time, the Eurosceptic media were not the chief culprits. The whole story was cynically fabricated, spun and sold by a member of the Cabinet to acquiescent journalists to score political points. The Guardian was alone in picking up on and exposing his tricks. Of course, Pickles’ porkies are just the latest unrefined attempt by an ambitious Tory minister to pitch to the UKIP gallery. After Theresa May’s ‘go home’ van, we can sadly only expect more of this nonsense.
* Giles Goodall is a Lib Dem European Parliamentary Candidate for South East England.