The sceptics have had all of the most memorable stories about Europe, even if they did make them up.
The EU were to ban straight bananas, in fact measurements were only taken for categorisation. Firemen were to be banned from sliding down polls and truck drivers were to have their fry ups replaced with Muesli, but according to the European Commission both of these stories were based on health and safety guidelines not legislation.
David Seymour, Chief Leader Writer and Group Political Editor of the Mirror, accused the Sun of inventing anti-European stories, he said: “Trevor Kavanagh and George Pascoe Watson go around looking for things that they can write an anti euro story about and then they’ll do a leader and then they’ll write a comment piece off the back of it. They’re masters of it – they ought to get an honorary degree for completely made up stories.”
The negative framing of European stories is hammered home by the use of xenophobic language in many tabloids, which is tacitly accepted, and even celebrated, by readers. The Sun repeatedly refers to the French as Frogs and to Germans as Krauts without adversely affecting their circulation.
The Sun’s “Up Yours Delors” headline of 1 November 1990, a rebuff to the ecu, became infamous. A Labour M.E.P called for the paper to be prosecuted for its “Xenophobic racist attack”, while Margaret Thatcher’s press secretary, Bernard Ingham, took heart, he said: “It is expressing the prejudices and feelings of the average Brit.”
And newspaper circulation figures suggest he’s right.
According to the March 2009 ABC figures the Eurosceptic British daily press is more than three and a half times the size of the Europhile press. The Europhile press consists of the Guardian (340,952), the Independent (205,308.) , the Daily Mirror (1,340,131) and the Financial Times (431,900), and has a combined circulation of 2,318,291, compared with the Euroscpetic press, the Sun (3,068,035), the Daily Mail (2,162,462), the Daily Express (725,841), the Daily Star (819880), the Times (600,210) and the Telegraph (824,883), with a combined circulation of 8,261,311.
If newspapers do influence public opinion then it doesn’t take a genius to work out why Britons are so often Eurosceptic.