The Truth about Europe

I had the opportunity to visit the EU Parliament in Brussels last week with a group of PPCs. We were hosted by Sir Graham Watson, former Lib Dem MEP (1994-2014), and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation. Our group heard informative talks by the EU Commission’s Director General of Trade, by the Senior Advisor to Renew Europe (former ALDE) and by the Research Director from the European Policy Centre, amongst others.

Representing a constituency which voted Leave in the EU Referendum, I thought it would be useful to post some of the information sources on the workings of the EU. So much of the 2016 Referendum was shrouded in hearsay and untruths, here are the facts.

There is a great resource online, “What the EU does for me” which has information on EU projects in your area, briefings on EU policies, and a large section on how the EU affects various aspects of daily life. This website is a great place to start.

An issue which came up several times in our discussions was how to combat fake news. There are several websites which tackle the myriad untruths:

And here is a download of the June 2019 report on the EU’s action to fight fake news.

The ‘EU Citizenship Portal’ contains information about people’s rights and how to get involved in EU policy making. The ‘Have Your Say’ portal on the Europa website is for citizens and stakeholders to send their concerns and interests directly to policy-makers and decision makers.

European Citizens’ Initiatives (petitions) allow citizens to initiate legislation themselves, such as was the case with the Right2Water citizens’ initiative. The European Commission responds to all citizen correspondence it receives, in the language of the citizen contacting them.

We all know that in campaigning, emotional appeal works better than facts and figures. So for stories on how the EU makes a difference in people’s lives, check out the #EUandME campaign which includes short films highlighting European values and experiences.

The press releases and fact sheets of the European Commission are published in a searchable database. It can be found here. The policies, information and services supported by the European Commission are found here

The Commission organises townhall-style debates across all Member States, more info here.  I participated in one of these debates in Worcestershire back in 2016 after the referendum. It was held in a packed pub, and there was a lively discussion about the pros and cons of Europe, mostly centring on trade and border issues.

There is information on the various EU trade agreements here, with UK specific fact sheets and infographics. For example, “EU-Japan trade in your town” website has a map which shows where businesses are benefiting from the EU-Japan trade agreement, with a link at the bottom of the page for more info on UK trade with Japan. There is similar information for CETA, the EU-Canada trade agreement, with a helpful document showing UK benefits.

As a UK taxpayer, if you wish to contact your representative to the EU Commission, or find out more about what the EU does for the UK, you can look here for info. There is also the EU Parliament office in the UK with details here. The EU has information centres across the UK, with further information on the Europe Direct UK website

Happy reading!

* Kirsten Johnson was the PPC for Oxford East in the 2017 General Election. She is a pianist and composer at www.kirstenjohnsonpiano.com.

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47 Comments

  • Lorenzo Cherin 3rd Jul '19 - 1:09pm

    A useful thing to do this, for all of us to have as a reference for the future.

  • Dilettante Eye 3rd Jul '19 - 1:16pm

    For heaven’s sake, this fake news about ‘EUFunding’, and ‘regional EU funding’ was roundly discredited three years ago.

    EU Funding, is in reality, UK taxpayers cash ‘skimmed’ by Brussels, and re-cycled (with leveraged EU borrowing), back to us with the false title of EU Funding, when it’s nothing of the sort.
    We put about £19 billion in, and get back about £9 billion, and you remain’ers still have the sheer audacity to call it (our own money), EU Funding.

    Where do you seriously think the EU gets it’s money, if it’s not leveraged borrowing from the Net member contributors.
    The EU has NO money, it isn’t even a valid legal recognised country. It leeches cash from it’s member states, like a blood sucking vampire

    When will this remain-er fake info and blatant rubbish stop ?

  • Noorderling 3rd Jul '19 - 2:26pm

    Put you down as a ‘ maybe ‘ in a second referendum?

  • Yeovil Yokel 3rd Jul '19 - 2:57pm

    It’s shocking, isn’t it Dilettante Eye, what did the EU ever do for us? After all, all that money we send to Brussels could be spent on our NHS instead.

  • nigel hunter 3rd Jul '19 - 3:26pm

    When you join a club you pay your dues so that members get benefits. However a club costs in wages ,admin fees etc. You never get all your money back. You get the benefits that you originally joined the club to get. However the club, to encourage members to stay will always look for benefits for them to grow. You leave a club you loose the benefits and then have to search for another club to join with the same or better prospects whilst the one you have left is expanding. Time consuming searching around with no certainty of a better deal. The EU is not perfect but is there one better?

  • chris moore 3rd Jul '19 - 3:28pm

    And what’s more, all those services the EU provides with our money, we’re going to set up on a stand alone basis.

    That won’t cost any money at all, of course, and they’re going to be much much better than what the EU does,

  • @Dilettante – We don’t put in £19 billion and never have.

    And, as every international organisation has a membership “fee”, then according to your logic we should leave all international organisations (eg the WTO, UN etc) unless we are net recipients from them, right?

  • Dilettante Eye 3rd Jul '19 - 8:18pm

    “We don’t put in £19 billion and never have.”

    Then using your logic, they won’t miss the £39 billion that they don’t get either.?
    Thank heavens we only have 16 more weeks of this outright nonsense to put up with.

  • Yeovil Yokel 3rd Jul '19 - 9:28pm

    “Thank heavens we only have 16 more weeks of this outright nonsense to put up with .” Finally, we agree on something, Dilettante Eye – although I don’t think it ‘s going to be the outcome you were hoping for.

  • David Garlick 4th Jul '19 - 10:15am

    Such a shame that the British press, radio and TV never read this from the EU or they might cover it and we, the great British ,might be better informed

  • William Wallace 4th Jul '19 - 10:15am

    A significant proportion of the UK net contribution to the EU budget has been going to the former socialist states of central and eastern Europe, both those now in the EU and neighbouring states: thus, an investment in shared regional security. I heard a government minister promise yesterday that the UK would increase its financial support to states in the Western Balkans when we leave – without saying that will replace what we already provide collectively through the EU budget. We have also paid our share for common agencies, which we now have to replicate by creating national agencies (for medicines, etc.) after we leave. So we were not just handing over money; we paid into a common budget for shared benefits.

  • David Garlick 4th Jul '19 - 10:18am

    Dilettante Eye. Calm down you will do yourself a mischief…

  • Peter Martin 4th Jul '19 - 10:54am

    @ William Wallace,

    “A significant proportion of the UK net contribution to the EU budget has been going to the former socialist states of central and eastern Europe….. thus, an investment in shared regional security.”

    Only if it is well spent to develop these regions. But not if it is being used to shield a decline. There’s a severe depopulation problem in Eastern Europe.

    https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/welcome-to-bulgaria-the-world-s-fastest-shrinking-nation-1.3658819

  • Peter Martin 4th Jul '19 - 11:11am

    “The Truth about Europe”

    We always should be sceptical when someone insists “this is the truth” ! It’s usually what they are keen to want us to believe. No doubt I’d be reassured about the democratic credentials of the EU if I express some scepticism.

    However, it’s easy enough to find out what really goes on behind closed doors when top EU jobs are being handed out.

    Isn’t this the truth , too?

    https://www.theglobeandmail.com/world/article-convoluted-battle-for-eu-posts-shows-there-has-to-be-a-more-democratic/

  • nigel hunter 4th Jul '19 - 12:04pm

    Did any other ‘alt right ‘ party do a ‘brexit derriare’. ?If not they respect the EU as a benefit to them.

  • The truth about EU is that it’s a political unification project few voters were actively asking for and that it is under 26 years old. Other truths include low voter turn outs for MEPs and the Continent of Europe not being synonymous with the EU as not every European country is member state or is interested in being a member state.

  • Peter Martin 4th Jul '19 - 12:19pm

    @ nigel hunter,

    These Canadian women turned their backs on Justin Trudeau not too long ago so it’s not just an EU thing!

    https://nationalpost.com/news/politics/dozens-of-women-turn-their-backs-on-trudeau-in-the-house-of-commons-as-he-addresses-daughters-of-the-vote

  • John Marriott 4th Jul '19 - 12:44pm

    As I ave said before, I’m not a great fan of the EU’s current direction of travel; but at least the U.K. has at present the kind of opt outs needed to avoid the degree of integration that some, but not all, members still seem to desire (but for how much longer?). I’m also a realist, who believes that a minnow like us would struggle to survive in the kind of shark infested waters that currently go for world trade, without staying close to a whale for protection. I reckon that I know on which side my bread is buttered. Yes, in the words of ‘Glenn’s’ sparing partner, ‘frankie’, if that makes me a ‘tagalong’; I can live with that.

    As a contributor to the Guardian’s Letters asked today; “Can anyone explain just what is so awful about the EU that any price is apparently worth paying to get out of it?”

    Over to you, Messrs Martin, ‘Glenn’ and ‘Eye’!

  • It’s about having that Shackleton/Scott spirit of exploring the frozen reaches of the Empire, John. Haven’t you got any get up and go about you, man ? Wouldn’t you like to put a Union Jack on top of an igloo at the South Pole before it melts ?

    Shame on you….. but don’t linger at the Service Station when you buy over priced rip off petrol to help to melt it.

  • Laurence Cox 4th Jul '19 - 1:19pm

    @Dilettante Eye
    We put about £19 billion in, and get back about £9 billion, and you remain’ers still have the sheer audacity to call it (our own money), EU Funding.

    Well, let’s take your argument to its logical conclusion; let’s look at the UK itself. Back in 2015 (when the Daily Telegraph article I reference was written) London was paying £34 billion more in taxes (income tax, corporation tax, stamp duty, Vat, etc) than was spent on public services in London (about the same as the total income tax take from Londoners):

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/11376569/If-London-treated-Britain-like-Germany-treats-the-eurozone-Londoners-would-pay-no-income-tax.html

    So, as Brexiteers admit that a no-deal Brexit will make the country poorer, why should Londoners (who voted Remain) continue to subsidise those parts of the UK who voted for Brexit. By your argument, taxes on Londoners are Londoners’ money.

  • Peter Martin 4th Jul '19 - 1:31pm

    @ John Marriott,

    “Can anyone explain just what is so awful about the EU that any price is apparently worth paying to get out of it?”

    “Any price” ? Would that include sacrificing all first new born babies?

    If we do stay on the EU train, we should do so on the basis that we are fully aware of your “EU’s current direction of travel”. We’ll either end up as part of an integrated United States of Europe or the train will derail on the way. Maybe even before the next station stop if the dispute between the EU and Italy blows up big time.

    Both are good reasons for getting off now. IMHO.

    Sorry about the loss of all those firstborns though!

  • Laurence Cox
    Londoners did not vote remain. The vote was counted in parliamentary constituencies for the sake of convenience and nothing more. Remainers keep pddling the utter nonsense that the referendum was in any shape or form like a parliamentary vote to create divisions. No area vote leave or remain. It was a one person one vote head count with every vote counting exactly the same no matter where the vote was cast. . Plus nearly 40% percent of Londoners voted leave and in some areas that pattern was reversed. Also the notion that Londoners are paying for the rest of the county ignores the reality that a lot of Londoners live some of the most deprived areas in the country and contribute little to the economy. I would also point out that had it been a parliamentary election using electoral boundaries, then the Leave win would actually have been more decisive.

  • Glenn: Yes they did and as you say about 40% voted to leave. As I understand it the vote was counted in each London Borough of the County of Greater London and the total for the whole County was Remain 60% and Leave 40%. You are just nit picking which I suppose says all we need to know.
    I think many people do not have enough to do.

  • John Marriott 4th Jul '19 - 2:42pm

    @Peter Martin
    Sorry, old son, you haven’t really answered the question posed by the Guardian letter writer. All this ‘first born’ stuff is frankly beyond me. I assume it’s a biblical reference or something. So I guess you must equate the EU with the Anti Christ. Roll on Armageddon then?

    Call me naive if you wish; but I always thought that we still had the ‘Get out of Jail’ card in the event of our being expected to sign up to all the federal stuff. It’s a bit like being gay. I‘ve got no problem with it as long as it doesn’t become compulsory!

  • Peter Martin 4th Jul '19 - 3:39pm

    @ John Marriott,

    I’m sorry but I would say I’m very unlikely to be your ‘old son’. I look too much like my real dad for that 🙂 You’re partially right on on the ‘first born’. But nothing to do with the Anti Christ! That’s New Testament. All the child sacrifice stuff is Old Testament – so you might want to brush up on your Biblical studies.

    We do have a “Get out of Jail” card. It’s not quite free though. £39 billion is the usual figure. My guess is we’ll have to double that. But we need to use it now or we be incarcerated forever!

  • Acland
    I’m not nit picking. It was a nationwide one person one vote head count, not an election based on electoral boundaries. This is a fact.
    And as I said if it had been an election based on the current boundaries 52% and where the votes were cast would have produced a landslide leave victory..

  • Peter Martin 4th Jul '19 - 6:53pm

    @ Glenn,

    You are quite right about dividing up the vote. If the result had gone the other way the argument would, no doubt, have been that the UK as a whole had voted to stay.

    We could split the Scottish independence vote into regions too. Or even the voting on the contests for the Tory leadership and the Lib Dem leadership.

    It’s all quite pointless. All that matters is the vote as a whole.

  • John Marriott 4th Jul '19 - 6:59pm

    @Peter Martin
    The ‘old son’ was my obviously feeble attempt at being less confrontational. By the way, the reference to the Anti Christ was another obviously feeble attempt on my part at linking the biblical reference of yours to a story I have told before on LDV.

    It came from a long standing MEP and concerned the background of a former Tory MEP, who was brought up in a sect that believed that the establishment of the EU was the first stage of the coming of the Anti Christ, which would ultimately bring about the battle between good and evil. Powerful stuff, hey?

    @Glenn
    I see that we are back to ‘the will of the people’ again. Am I the only person, who actually is not really sure what the will of the people was or is even now? Being a simple soul, I just can’t get my head around the idea that a clear majority voted for anything. If you take the electorate in June 2016 as a whole, around 38% voted to leave, while around 35% voted to remain.So, what do we do with the remaining 27% who didn’t express an opinion? Ignore them? Logic would indicate that they either, like my younger son, couldn’t make up their mind or they weren’t bothered either way. When in doubt I would say you stick with the status quo ante. But, what do I know?

  • Peter Martin 4th Jul '19 - 7:36pm

    “So, what do we do with the remaining 27% who didn’t express an opinion? Ignore them?”

    Yes.

    Just like Lib Dem members will be ignored if they choose to vote for neither Jo Swinson or Ed Davey!

    What else can you do? Track them down and refuse to leave them alone until they express an opinion one way or another.

  • John Marriott
    Show me where I said anything about the will of the people? If people didn’t vote they can’t be counted. And of course no one at all got a vote on Maastricht. or the Lisbon treaty. I suspect because pro-EU types thought they would loose big, as there was no, and still isn’t a, wide scale demand for the European political unification project in the UK. We’ve only been part of it this long because no one put it to a vote, we have so many major opt outs we’re only half in it anyway and attempts to introduce the euro thankfully went nowhere. Can anyone else remember when the Euro was circulating and shops were supposed to accept it as legal tender, but never did ?

  • @ Glenn “Can anyone else remember when the Euro was circulating and shops were supposed to accept it as legal tender, but never did ?”

    No, but do please remind us when this was.

  • David Raw
    There are still a few shops that will accept Euro notes but not coins. Perhaps I just happened to be near one of them back in the 90s and assumed it was more wide scale. My bad.

  • Well, 1999 or early 2000 or so.

  • John Marriott 4th Jul '19 - 9:28pm

    I speak pretty good German, passable French, the odd phrase in Spanish and Italian, perhaps not up to the Nick Clegg level of multilingualism. I’ve visited most of the Cold War EU countries and I’ve studied and worked in at least two. So, am I a big fan of the EU? No. Do I want us to leave the EU? No. Am I crazy? Probably yes.

    You see, having experienced life on several continents, I think I know where I am better off. Do I want to be part of a buccaneering Britain, struggling to keep afloat in ever more treacherous seas, or a Singapore style little island economy trying to undercut the EU, licking the backside of an isolationist USA or, heaven forbid, sucking up to Russia or China? No.

    Haven’t we learned the lesson of Suez? We live in a world of superpowers, where population size, GDP and access to raw materials counts for much more than history or tradition or simply shuffling money around in the City. You can con the people some of the time; but you can’t con all of the people all of the time!

  • Peter Watson 4th Jul '19 - 9:45pm

    @Glenn “And of course no one at all got a vote on Maastricht. or the Lisbon treaty. I suspect because pro-EU types thought they would loose big …”
    Actually the Lib Dems did want a vote, not just on the Lisbon Treaty (Tim Farron had to step down from the front bench for supporting that) but an In/Out vote on EU membership.

  • @ Glenn ” supposed to accept it as legal tender,”

    Come on, Glenn, time to admit you got it wrong. Don’t wriggle you’ll just make things worse. It never happened.

    Time to promise you’ll remove it from your anti EU collection of hymns ancient and modern sheet.

  • Peter Martin 4th Jul ’19 – 6:53pm
    If the result had gone the other way the argument would, no doubt, have been that the UK as a whole had voted to stay.

    Which would have been entirely correct. The question on the ballot paper was this…

    Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?

    We were asked to make a decision for the United Kingdom as a whole.

  • Peter Watson
    From the safety of being nowhere near power and judging by the current stance probably not really.

  • I’m not trying to wriggle out of it. I distinctly remember being able to spend Euros in London (where I was living at the time) in some shops and not in others in about 2000 or so. Plus I already said I may have assumed it was more widespread, admitted I got it wrong with the phrase “my bad” and unlike you do apologies and acknowledge apologies when I they are proffered.

  • Peter Watson 4th Jul '19 - 10:45pm

    @Glenn “I distinctly remember being able to spend Euros in London (where I was living at the time) in some shops and not in others in about 2000 or so.”
    Still possible apparently: https://www.tripsavvy.com/spending-leftover-euros-around-the-uk-1662409, and I vaguely recall the practice being more widespread once.
    Though it turns out that “legal tender” has a surprisingly narrow definition. For example it would appear (courtesy of Google so usual caveats apply!) that Scottish banknotes aren’t legal tender in England or Scotland and that there are territories under British control in Cyprus where the euro is legal tender.

  • John Marriott 5th Jul '19 - 9:27am

    I don’t know about using Euros in the U.K. but I vividly remember the look on a cashier’s face a few years ago at a services on the A1 in Yorkshire when, returning from a holiday north of the border, I tried to pay with a Scottish £5 note!

  • Glenn etc:
    60% of the voters in the County of Greater London voted to remain and 40% vote to leave the EU. What London thinks today the country normally thinks tomorrow. In Wales the latest opinion poll shows a 55% – 45% majority for Remain.
    It was three years ago and if we can have 2 general elections in one year (1974) and several elections within 2 years – for example 1950 – 1951, 2015 – 2017 then we can have another referendum after 3 years – what is the difference apart from the Leavers being terrified of losing and Ann Widdecombe having to find something else to do to embarass everybody with her absurd comparison between EU membership and slavery or oppression by the upper classes. Who does she think is going to do the oppressing when we leave the EU. I think I know and it will not be people like me.

  • Acland
    “What London thinks today, the rest of the country usually thinks tomorrow ” is just a meaningless unsupported and unsupportable claim. I suspect you used it because it fits with the concept of historical determinism used to bolster the idea that a particular view represents “the future”. Personally , I think this flawed and that politics/history is more like evolution in that a lot of people think it shows a line of ascent when really it demonstrates things branching out with no fixed destination

  • Richard Underhill 6th Jul '19 - 9:48am

    4th Jul ’19 – 10:15am
    Theresa May has said that we will provide military support to the Ukraine, which is not a NATO member, nor (yet) an EU member state.
    Have the Foreign Secretary, or his predecessor, commented on Ukraine recently?

  • Glenn: Historically capital cities have been the leaders in political and religious movements. London in the struggle between Parliament and King Charles I and also in the Protestant Reformation. Other parts of the country resist for a while but eventually join in. Paris and St Petersburg were where the French and Russian Revolutions began.
    There is an interesting comparison with the 3 General elections which were held in 1922, 1923 and 1924 over the issue of free trade. The Conservatives who wished to end free trade won in 1922 and called another election in 1923 to gain a mandate for their policy which they lost to Labour and a resurgent Liberal Party but unfortunately the Labour Government, which was supported by the Free Trade Liberals collapsed and there was another election in 1924 which the Conservatives won. The period was not a happy one and Free Trade was eventually scrapped by the National Government in 1932 when the Free Trade Liberals left the National Government. All this saw a change in the political party set up.
    You may be right but few could deny that there has been progress from the time when most people in Western Europe lived under repressive governments and in poverty compared to today.
    Someone wrote in the Metro that the Brexiteers were turning their backs on the preservation of peace in Europe, on international friendship and cooperation, on the social progress made, on an inclusive society, on truth and on the future.
    The political system in Western Europe makes it the most attractive place in the world and it is under threat from those who despise it, the three big powers, including the US. We have to hang together or we will hang separately.

  • @Dilettante Eye –
    re: EU Funding, is in reality, UK taxpayers cash ‘skimmed’ by Brussels, and re-cycled
    The same can be said about UK government ‘investment’ – its just your money, collected by HMRC, ‘skimmed’ by Westminster and recycled. I suggest you take a look at the UK governments funding of third-sector organisations, comparing what gets put in at the top and what actually gets distributed to third-sector organisations…

    But I suspect you aren’t familiar with how things were (in the UK) before (a sovereign) Westminster decided to allocate the responsibility for some forms of funding to the EU. Basically, after Brexit expect regional funding to become highly political and thus inconsistent and unpredictable, plus hope your regional investment in reducing deprivation say, doesn’t get trumped by the NHS…

    Yes, there is no reason why Westminster couldn’t do things differently, but given the madness the Conservative government and party have been exhibiting these last few years, I suspect today’s’ Westminster will be even more overtly political in the distribution of what the politicians clearly see as largesse…

  • nvelope2003 6th Jul '19 - 9:23pm

    David Raw: Oh dear you got that one wrong ! (4th July 2019 – 9.49 pm) I remember when some shops took Euros too.

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