The Independent View: How do you know what to say about Europe?

Rightly or wrongly, the Liberal Democrats are as seen as the most pro-European of the three main political parties. The UK debate on the European Union is often framed in terms of “Europhiles v Eurosceptics”. However, it’s my experience, after 2 and a half years as the European Commission’s head of media in the UK, that most people don’t really have much of an opinion either way. They care about things that affect them personally, and probably don’t see the EU very present in their daily lives. European debates, either in the UK or at EU level, have a tendency to be about process rather than content, which is really only interesting to Euronerds. So when you’re on the doorstep, being asked what the UK gets out of its membership of the European Union, how do you know what to say?

This is a question that we at the European Commission’s UK office have grappled with for a while, and is why we developed the website www.theEUandme.org.uk. This gives some practical examples of what the average Brit gets out of the EU, from booze cruises to pet passports. It also deconstructs some of the most persistent Euromyths, such as the EU forcing the UK to go metric. You can use the site to check out the water quality of the beach next to your holiday hotel, or find out how much you will be charged for using your mobile abroad.

Not all the EU issues that come up in the media are on www.theEUandme.org.uk, so if you want to keep an eye on EU coverage, our “In the Press” site regularly carries letters to editors and brief rebuttals of inaccurate press coverage. One of them was even featured on LibDem Voice!

We’re also very active on Twitter and Facebook so are always ready to help you answer any questions about the EU you might get.

Antonia Mochan is Head of Media, Representation of the European Commission in the UK.

The Independent View‘ is a slot on Lib Dem Voice which allows those from beyond the party to contribute to debates we believe are of interest to LDV’s readers. Please email [email protected] if you are interested in contributing.

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This entry was posted in Europe / International, Op-eds and The Independent View.
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11 Comments

  • The EU are too inflexible, e-books and virtual worlds with their own economies attract VAT, the former makes a mockery of the UK’s VAT free status on books and the latter makes Europeans uncompetitive when they try and run a business via a virtual world because those who don’t have to pay VAT have a massive advantage, but the EU is a horribly slow and inflexible organisation.

  • Great post Antonia, thanks. It’s so hard sometimes to find solid facts about how the EU is helping different parts of Britain… the anti-EU media are too often content to dish out lies or half-truths without first checking their voracity, and the pro-EU media just stay quiet.

    And thank goodness the Lib Dems are in government, able to restrain the anti-EU tendencies of the Conservatives… another plus point about the Coalition.

  • @Antonia, it’s because e-books and virtual worlds all come under the electronic services umbrella, for which VAT is charged, the reasons for that legislation were fine in 2003, European businesses found themselves disadvantaged because even with lower wholesale costs their end user costs were higher than those of a business outside of Europe.

    However that was seven years ago and things have changed, within a virtual world the legislation creates the exact situation it was designed to eliminate.

  • Andrew Suffield 9th Jan '11 - 2:22pm

    How can a citizen of the UK vote to replace a corrupt representative from a different country; and if this isn’t possible, how do you defend the EU from accusations of democratic deficit?

    Well, I don’t. Euroreformist, not Eurosceptic. We need to fix that stuff, and we can’t do that by quitting.

  • Antonia Mochan 21st Jan '11 - 4:08pm

    Thanks for all the comments, I will certainly pass these on as a flavour of the debate here.

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