How Euro-sceptic journalism works

A relatively inexpensive (£1.1 million) project kicked off in 2007.  The idea was for local authorities on each side of the English Channel to work together for mutual benefit in some specific and limited areas.

As the Espace Manche Development Initiative website explains:

Identification of the challenges in the Channel area and publication of a document defining the strategic orientations for the horizon 2007 – 2013;

Deployment of tangible initiatives structured around five themes:

* Tourism: creation of a common database on target tourist populations.
* Fishing and fish resources: constitution of a consultative regional council for fishing in the Channel area.
* Integrated coastal zone management: definition of a joint approach for improved reconciliation of various activities in the Channel.
* Maritime safety and intermodal transport: development of joint initiatives in support of local and regional ports, reinforcing cooperation on maritime safety issues.
* Higher education, research and development, technology transfer: networking of research centres with French and British enterprises.

Project members include four county councils (Kent, West Sussex, Hampshire and Devon), two city councils (Brighton Hove and Southampton) and the five French regions bordering the Channel.

So far, so worthy and so dull.

But now we add to the recipe a teaspoon of frothing europhobia, a cup of Daily Mail journalism and a sprinkling of complete disregard for the facts.

So in April 2008, the Daily Mail screamed

EU officials [have] revised a map wiping out the country and the Channel.

The claims are supported by some quotes from tame Tories – odd since most of the English authorities involved are, and were, under Conservative control, but then consistency never was one of their virtues.

Eric Pickles, the Conservatives’ communities spokesman, said: “We already knew that Gordon Brown had hoisted the white flag of surrender to the European Constitution.

“Now the Labour Government has been caught red-handed conspiring with European bureaucrats to create a European superstate via the back door.

“Gordon Brown literally wants to wipe England off the map.”

But back in 2008, the Mail did at least tack on the real explanation to the end of the article

“It is about support for business, helping boost employment and turning around deprived areas… helping firms in Kent do business with people in Northern France or promoting joint tourism initiatives between different countries.”

Now fast-forward to 4th April 2010 and journalists at the Mail on Sunday have made an amazing new discovery. What could it be?

The English Channel is to be wiped off the map and replaced with the name ‘the Anglo-French Pond’ under plans by Brussels to bolster the notion of an EU superstate.

A new map to be distributed to schools and bureaucrats will downgrade the English Channel dividing Britain and France and rebrand it at a cost of £1.1million.

Britain is parcelled off to different parts of the continent under the Espace Manche Development Initiative, which phases out national boundaries to foster greater EU integration.

But hold on a minute – that doesn’t sound quite hysterical enough. How can we make the claim even more absurd?

Southern England, from Cornwall to Kent, is joined with northern France and becomes known as the TransManche zone. Its capital is Paris and it has its own socialist president, Alain Le Vern.

Yep, that should do it.

Surely, though, there isn’t a Tory daft enough to go along with this nonsense. After all, it’s still their own councils involved in this project.

Caroline Spelman is up to the task, saying

Now British taxpayers’ money is being used literally to wipe our nation off the map, erase a thousand years of history and downgrade the English Channel to the insulting status of a pond.

Hard-working families and pensioners will be outraged. A Conservative government will scrap these Euro plans and save the English Channel.

Quite why it’s only hard-working families and pensioners who are outraged is anyone’s guess.

Luckily, Lib Dem politicians appear not to be quite as gullible as Ms Spelman – Graham Watson MEP was pointing out the, erm, innocent mistake in the Mail’s reporting last year.

The English Channel will stay called the English Channel (for us, at least). The English south coast isn’t about to be ceded to France and ruled from Paris, and this modest project may even do some good.

Will that make the slightest difference to how it’s reported in the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday? The odds seem against it.

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This entry was posted in Europe / International and Op-eds.
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