THE BLOG

Time to Banish the Euromyths

08/04/2013 15:12 BST | Updated 08/06/2013 10:12 BST

The Euromyth has fuelled journalists for many years. Some of the stories have been ludicrous, some have been genuinely funny. Plenty have been disingenuous.

The invented tales have the ability to both annoy and amuse the public. We may laugh at the colourful tabloid headline, chuckle at the chutzpah of the hack, but the drip-drip effect of such nonsense creates the impression of a circus.

Before you know where you are, a negative impression of Europe and the European Union is deeply entrenched in society.

Some reports poke fun at the European Parliament (EP) and MEPs. We're big and ugly enough to take it on the chin. That's not exactly new for politicians.

But my worry is other tales seep into the public conscious, branded with a screaming headline: 'NOW look what THEY are forcing us to do!!!'

Never mind the fact that THEY is actually WE, since the UK is a fully paid up member of the EU with bags of influence still, despite UKIPs best efforts to destabalise the UK's foreign policy through domestic scaremongering and misinformation.

The misreporting is often obscene. A personal report by a lone MEP sat on a small committee, suddenly becomes an agreed regulation or directive, signed, sealed and headed to the UK tomorrow.

Remember when we were going to be forced to have busts of Jacques Delors on motorway bridges, or the EU badge on England football shirts?

Last week the EU was going to 'force' Britain to change polling day to a Sunday, while the Commission was accused of churning out 'Soviet-style' propaganda because it had produced an EU guide for schools.

Actually I would like to stand up form that effort. My campaign has reinforced my belief that European politics - a key aspect of British political life whether we are in or out of the EU - should be taught in the classroom. I am shocked at the lack of European element to politics classes at some schools I have visited.

David Cameron's referendum pledge for the Conservative Party, should they win a majority at the next general election, should mean it's time to do away with the fantasy of the EU, the euromyth version, and get some real facts.

Otherwise, how can the British public be expected to make an informed decision? How can the public understand what serious and sensible consensus reform of the EU political system means, if either they don't understand the system or have it presented through misleading headlines?

Some Eurosceptic contributors to my campaign page point out it is insulting to suggest they are taken in by tabloid tales about the EU. On this we agree: We need honest reporting of the EU.

That means journalists going to the European Commission for clarification and comment, which is frequently omitted at the moment despite calls to Brussels press offices being within the budgets of most national or indeed local newspapers.

Yes, as the Leveson Report flagged up - whether you agree with all its conclusions or not - there is a clear need for Fleet Street to work much harder at properly sourcing EU stories. The laziness involved in not doing this is unbecoming to decent hacks and to my mind is wilful rather than negligent. Why let a good story get shot down in flames by a press office in Brussels?

There are faults with the way the EU system works, there is a need for constant reform, but is it not time for an honest debate based on facts whether you're in favour or against UK membership of the EU?