The battle for Britain's euro entry lies in exploding the myths of Brussels' power

Click to follow
Indy Politics

The battle for votes on the issue of Europe has thrown up a confusing legacy of claim and counterclaim. Here are the myths and the realities behind the arguments:

Myth: The EU constitution would lead to British taxes being set by Brussels.

Reality: It does not give EU states a power to fix or harmonise direct taxation. Britain has indicated it would block any future proposals on this matter.

Myth: The constitution would allow the EU to alter the welfare system if a majority of member states voted in favour of it.

Reality: All decisions on social security must be made by unanimous voting by member states. Since Britain has a veto in the EU council of ministers, Brussels' law-making body, we could always rule this out.

Myth: Once the EU constitution is ratified, the British legal system will be harmonised and a European public prosecutor would take charge of criminal cases in this country.

Reality: This is an option, but it would have to be voted on. All 25 member states - including 10 new accession countries joining in May next year - would have to agree to the proposal.

Myth: The EU is poised to take hold of Britain's multimillion- pound oil reserves, and seize hold of "energy supplies". Brussels would be able to transfer control of North Sea oil, gas and coal to an EU state if there is a global energy crisis.

Reality: Article III-152 of the draft treaty aims to preserve the environment while maintaining a single market. It is a restatement of existing rules, which UK ministers already agreed to. The clause would not allow Brussels to seize Britain's oil stocks.

Myth: The EU constitution would stop the Queen being head of state.

Reality: There is no truth in this. A permanent President of the Council of Ministers is to be appointed. The president will not have law-making powers. Also, the EU is not a state.

Myth: The euro is holding back living standards, and countries that joined the single currency have lagged further behind the US economy.

Reality: Over the past three years, GDP per capita has risen by 5.9 per cent in the EU, but only 1 per cent in the US.

Myth: Joining the euro has hampered investment and not boosted eurozone growth.

Reality: Cross-border investment in the eurozone is rising as a result of a common currency. Since the euro was launched, foreign investment in Britain has fallen sharply.

Myth: Who Wants to be a Millionaire? is to be scrapped because of a looming EU ban on competitions with prizes of more than £70,000.

Reality: An amendment to a proposal that "individual prizes awarded in promotional games may not exceed €100,000" was tabled in the Council of Ministers. But it would have nothing to do with Who Wants to be a Millionaire? because the quiz is not a "promotional game".

Myth: Britain will be flooded with immigrant workers after EU enlargement.

Reality: Ten states are to join next year. There is no evidence that Eastern Europeans will want to work in Britain. There were similar predictions when Greece joined the EU in 1981, but they proved wrong. The right to work and live in another EU state is reciprocal.

Myth: Smokey-bacon flavoured crisps are to be banned under new Euro regulations.

Reality: The EU Parliament wants to take action because they may contain cancer- causing agents. The proposed directive would establish a testing system, but not a ban on safe products.

Myth: The European Commission will abolish the .uk on British internet addresses.

Reality: A .eu domain name will not replace the .uk, but it will be an option.

Myth: Fish and chip shop owners could be forced to sell fish using their Latin names.

Reality: The Commission wants clearer labelling on fish products. The measure will stop retailers passing off cheaper fillets for cod or plaice. All labels will be in living languages.

THE PITCH 'THE INDEPENDENT' ASKED ADVERTISING AGENCIES TO PRODUCE A SLOGAN TO SELL THE EURO

"THE SMARTER MONEY IS ON THE EURO"

"This would be a testimonial campaign picturing a captain of industry together with an everyday person, such as a waiter, a farmer or a cleaner, who both are united in their positive view of the euro," says John Barradale, managing director of the advertising agency Edge Ideas, whose clients include the Conservative Party. "One would be talking about how 'My business could run better' and the worker would say, 'Yes, and it means my job is safe.' That way we show the effect on business as well as on the everyday lives of ordinary people. The juxtaposition of those two people in one ad, kept very simple, could be very simple, and people will be able to see themselves in it, whoever they are. The slogan is acknowledging that both people are smart."

"BE BRAVE... COUNT ME IN"

"This strategy deliberately acknowledges that choosing the euro is a tough call and carries a weight of responsibility," says John Barradale. "The thinking here is that if we ignore that, people will retrench back into a 'Britain for Britain' and all that. But like a lot of 'be brave' feelings, there is actually nothing to fear. You take that big step and it wasn't so bad. And with a lot of tough decisions, the benefits come later. The proposition, by going for something generic, also enables a number of other issues to be addressed under a cohesive campaign thought, such as the risks of isolation and currency fluctuations, the fact that inside the euro we will not be battered by the world economy so much. We have underpinned all that with a strap line of 'Count me in'. The rationale behind that is that it is a strong call to action to vote yes and it credits the public with the intelligence to weigh up the argument."

"THE EURO - MONEY MADE EASIER"

"In the end, the only issue is convenience," says Mark Wnek, chairman of Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper, whose clients include Peugeot, Cadbury and Argos.

"Our front message is you want to go on holiday, you want to do this and that, and you don't want to have to change your currency.

"I don't think you can deal with fears in a slogan. You've got to put your best foot forward and take your best shot with your most salient quality. We think that to allay all the worries about losing the Union Jack, the Queen off the notes, all the Little Englander stuff, you've just got to be quite thrusting and talk to the working man.

"We are convinced that if there were a big think tank of advertising agencies, it would come down to convenience."

Reports by Vincent Graff

Comments