There are many, many good arguments to be used against the EU. Scores of them, in fact. In places it’s massively inefficient. In places there are strong indications of what seems like systemic corruption. Some of the policies it has introduced have been hugely harmful to both people and the planet.
But do the eurosceptics use these as their main lines of attack? No. Instead they wander off into the realms of fantasy to spew out hilariously inane nonsense like this glorious example from leading Daily Mail columnist Peter Hitchens – easily the most stupid article I’ve read about the EU in years. Read the comments as well and it’ll swiftly become clear why some people assume that all eurosceptics are loons.
Eurosceptics aren’t loons, of course. At least, not all of them. Many eurosceptic complaints are largely valid and – as I’ve argued before – should be paid attention to.
But the maniacs tend to shout the loudest, and in the process end up doing the eurosceptic cause no end of harm. UKIP’s Nigel Farage realised this, hence his attempts to gradually cull the more verbal conspiracy theorists from the party over the last few years and associate with more intelligent and thoughtful critics of the EU like Jens-Peter Bonde and Marta Andreassen. The anti-EU crowd in Ireland have also no doubt realised this now – because one of the major reasons for the huge swing to the Yes camp was undoubtedly because the Irish people were so annoyed at being taken in by the baseless conspiracy theories that the No groups were spewing out last time around.
Because if – as Hitchens does in the article linked above – you wander off into the realms of hyperbole (e.g. the wonderfully idiotic claim that “Increasingly, the provinces of Europe, which until today were countries, will need its permission to exist at all” or the pathetic “Shouldn’t somebody have pointed out that in the recent history of the Continent, yellow stars call up only one dismal image, the mass murder of Europe’s Jews?” – that last especially awful considering the Mail’s support for the Nazis), all you end up doing is discrediting yourself.
Just as if I claimed that the EU’s great because it’ll give us all magical ponies that can fly and shit gold, you’d not pay attention to anything else I said as I was obviously a delusional liar, so do a lot of us get switched off every time a leading eurosceptic makes such obviously stupid remarks as those that run throughout Hitchens’ piece.
There are all sorts of genuine problems with the Lisbon Treaty. There are all sorts of entirely legitimate reasons why the Irish shouldn’t have held a second referendum, and why they should have voted no.
The thing is, I’ve hardly seen *any* of them brought up in the dozens of eurosceptic pieces that I’ve read over the last few days. Instead, eurosceptic arguments still seem largely to revolve around vague emotional appeals to patriotism and national myths, topped off with objectively false misrepresentations of what it is the EU does and is doing. Anyone with half a brain who looks at these arguments for half a minute will write them off as the nonsense that they are – and the eurosceptic cause takes yet another hit.
Every time you make such wild claims – and they turn out to be unfounded – you are alienating potential allies. When Lisbon comes into force and life in the EU continues much as before, proving all the claims that this treaty is in any way significant to be objectively false (because no matter what many eurosceptics claim, Lisbon *is* just a tidying-up exercise) – when member states continue to run themselves, when the threatened abortion clinics and enforced involvement in military campaigns fail to materialise – then anyone with half a brain will be able to see that the claims of the eurosceptics were false, and so stop paying them any further attention.
So come on, eurosceptic types – for your own sake start with the *proper* arguments against the EU. Stop all this hyperbolic emotional guff that’s characterised so much of the debate over the last couple of decades, and make with the convincing critical analysis. Stop with all the pathetic and blatantly false comparisons to dictatorships past and present. End the “EUSSR” meme – that only makes everyone who uses it look like a moron.
Instead, try pointing out what’s *actually* wrong with the EU, rather than make up nonsense about Lisbon ending Irish neutrality, forcing abortion, ending national sovereignty, creating a superstate and so on. You’ll find that you’ll win a lot more support – whereas at the moment you’re just preaching to the converted (as the comments to Hitchens’ piece perfectly prove).
It’s not like it’s a difficult target – the EU’s got so much wrong with it it’s like blasting away at the proverbial fish in a barrel. No one with any critical faculties can look at the EU and think it’s perfect. There’s simply no need for all the nonsense that Hitchens and co like to spew.
(And yes, I know that not all eurosceptics use the sorts of silly arguments noted above. The point is that as long as a vocal minority of eurosceptics do, the entire cause is going to continue to be damaged by association.)