Monday, 14 January 2013

Countering the Euro-sceptics

Euro-scepticism is on the rise in the UK, and primarily it's because those against the current set-up are winning the arguments hands down. By instinct I'm pro-Europe, but at the moment on the fence, because whilst, time and again, I've heard the reasons to leave the EU, those in favour of it seem to have no coherent strategy for getting their point across.

UKIP's current success is of course down to more factors than just their Euro-scepticism - and the increased Euro-scepticism is due to many factors other than UKIP - nevertheless they have been a significant catalyst in this change in perception.

Why? Well firstly they are passionate. Not just in the way everyone says they are these days ("passionate about insurance"), but genuinely. On the day of the 2010 election UKIP leader Nigel Farage was involved in a crash whilst flying in a plane towing a UKIP banner. At the time I remember joking that he would do anything to grab column inches. Time after time he appears on "Have I Got News For You" knowing he is going to be torn apart and just smiles through it. Time after time on "Question Time" he links the social and political problems of the day back to our membership of the EU. Say what you want about his party being "closet racists" (Cameron) or NIMBYs (various), but you cannot argue that Farage passionately wants the UK out of the EU.

Let me put it another way. Have Clegg, Cameron and Milliband shown anything like the passion that Farage has about, well, anything? The only person I can think of who is passionate about Europe is comedian Eddie Izzard.

The second reason that UKIP is gaining traction is that they have their communication strategy sewn up whereas the pro-Europeans just have a few disparate threads.

Listen to anyone from UKIP for long enough and they will tell you a story of how the EU is wasting our money. They will give you the figures about what the EU costs us. They will express those figures in terms people understand and care about, such as how many hospitals could be built for one year's EU membership.

In contrast, all the pro-Europeans do is talk disconnectedly about how it will cost British business, or how the business community is behind it. These are poor, incoherent, arguments. The evidence of how it will cost us, and what it will costs us has not been communicated with anything like the clarity of the cost of being part of the EU has. Will leaving the EU really mean no-one wants to buy our aeroplanes (Farage's crop-dusters aside)?

Furthermore, wealthy, business leaders are hardly flavour of the month. And dragging out old-timers like Ken Clarke and Peter Mandelson just reinforces the impression that this isn't really an issue that the major parties care about.

So having been pro-Europe for most of my life, I'm now on the fence. I don't want to be. I'm trying to pay attention, but until the pro-European lobby get their act together (and if they really have all that British business behind them, they really should have the money to) then the argument is going to continue being lost.

No comments:

Post a Comment