Open Europe Blog

In this week’s Spectator, Peter Oborne and Frances Weaver trail their forthcoming book, “Guilty Men”, which, judging by today’s article, does a comprehensive job of lampooning the UK’s pro-euro lobby. It will certainly make uncomfortable reading for those, including Mr Clegg, who still claim that “no one could see this coming”.

The opening paragraph is the premise on which they make their argument:

“Very rarely in political history has any faction or movement enjoyed such a complete and crushing victory as the Conservative Eurosceptics. The field is theirs. They were not merely right about the single currency, the greatest economic issue of our age — they were right for the right reasons. They foresaw with lucid, prophetic accuracy exactly how and why the euro would bring with it financial devastation and social collapse.”

There were of course those on the Labour side who made similar arguments but Oborne and Weaver hold no punches, especially when it comes to institutions of the establishment such as the FT and the BBC (We made our own attempt to highlight the folly of the pro-euro arguments in “They said it” last year):

“Even as late as May 2008, when the fatal booms in Ireland and elsewhere were very obviously beginning to falter, the paper retained its faith: ‘European monetary union is a bumble bee that has taken flight,’ asserted the newspaper’s leader column. ‘However improbable the celestial design, it has succeeded in real life.’ For a paper with the FT’s pretensions to authority in financial matters, its coverage of the single currency can be regarded as nothing short of a disaster.”

Oborne and Weaver’s research illustrates just how far the ‘EU ideal’ had permeated much of the political and media establishment – to the extent that those who disagreed where dismissed as “cranks”.

“As Rod Liddle, then editor of the Radio 4’s Today programme, said: ‘The whole ethos of the BBC and all the staff was that Eurosceptics were xenophobes and there was an end to it. The euro would come up at a meeting and everybody would just burst out laughing about the Eurosceptics.’ Liddle recalls one meeting with a very senior figure at the BBC to deal with Eurosceptic complaints of bias. ‘Rod, the thing you have to understand is that these people are mad. They are mad.’”

And, in this respect, there is also an important warning for the future:

“One urgent lesson concerns the BBC. The corporation’s twisted coverage of the European Union is a serious problem, because the economic collapse of the eurozone means that a new treaty may be needed very soon — plunging the EU right back into the heart of our national politics.”

We would perhaps add that the EU is already at the heart of national politics, something of which we’re now reminded daily. Regardless, with the flaws of the eurozone now plain for all to see, more open-mindedness than in the past is a necessity when it comes to future debates about the best model for European cooperation, as well as UK’s relationship with Europe – which faces a defining period in the coming years.

Blind faith is no longer an option.

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