How The British
Media Lied And Tricked Us Into Joining The EU
A growing number of British newspapers are now questioning
the value of the European Union. Slowly, but steadily, it is becoming
fashionable to question the value of the EU, the European Parliament and the
Commissioners. The rejection of the new EU constitution by European voters seems
to have given fresh courage to commentators. Very few of these commentators
bother to point out that it was the British media which helped trick the
electorate into supporting Britain's entry into the Common Market. And once we
had been taken in, it was the press which encouraged that Britons voted `Yes' to
stay in the Common Market.
By 1971, it was obvious that most British
newspapers were wildly committed to Britain becoming a member of the EEC. Only
the Express titles were not clamouring for membership.
Times and the Daily Mirror had both been strong advocates of
membership from the early 1960s, but politicians took to the idea a little
The first Prime Minister to try to lead Britain into the EEC was
Harold Wilson who, from 1966, was convinced that Britain could not survive
outside the EEC. His Government's application to join, in May 1967 was vetoed by
General de Gaulle, the French president, whose life and career had been saved by
the British during the Second World War but whose loyalties were first to
himself, second to France and not at all to Britain. Actually, French President
Charles de Gaulle rejected Britain's application to join the Common Market
twice. In public he argued that Britain, a traditional island nation, was not
suited to be part of a European superstate. That was just political flim-flam.
In reality he rejected Britain (despite everything that Britain had done for him
and France during the Second World War) because he wanted to delay Britain's
entry until the Common Agricultural Policy (designed to give huge subsidies to
French peasant farmers) had been properly set up. Once the CAP was in place the
loathsome de Gaulle suddenly decided that Britain's island history no longer
mattered, and he became enthusiastic about Britain joining the Common Market.
Naturally, he really wanted Britain to join the Market in order to help pay for
the costs of running the CAP and keeping French farmers satisfied. There are a
lot of French farmers, and they have always been a powerful voting block. Right
from the start of the EU Britain has been used by both America and France. And
it is still happening.
Three years later, when the foul and repulsive Ted
Heath got into Number 10 Downing Street he began negotiations again, and a
treaty was agreed in January 1972. This was the infamous treaty in which the
treasonous Heath lied to everyone and betrayed his country.
months prior to Heath's betrayal the British public had not been convinced that
they wanted their country to enter the EEC. Many, perhaps, simply didn't trust
the politicians' claims that membership would be merely a commercial
convenience. One opinion poll in early 1971 showed that the British people were
against entry by the astonishing ratio of three to one. This opposition came
despite the expenditure by the European Commission Information Service of around
£10 million on trying to persuade opinion formers of the benefits of membership
of the EEC.
With it looking as though joining the EEC might be political
suicide the Government became desperate. Heath's Government paid for the
distribution of propaganda extolling the virtues of membership, and produced a
White Paper which was full of unsubstantiated claims for the EEC and which
deliberately omitted any mention of the costs of membership or the fact that
joining the EEC was the first step towards a federal states of
Heath only got away with his Great Betrayal because the press had
decided that entry was a `good thing' (for them and their proprietors), and so
did not question any of the claims made by Heath's Government.
and columnists slavishly obeyed the dictates of their proprietors. If the press
had done its job properly (and had investigated and analysed the purpose and
value of the Common Market) Britain would have almost certainly never joined the
EEC and would now be a considerably wealthier and more powerful nation.
The Financial Times, the Times, the Guardian, the
Daily Telegraph, the Sunday Times, the Observer, the Daily Mail,
the Sun and The Economist were all wildly enthusiastic about Britain joining the
EEC. (As, indeed, most of them still are.) Throughout the run up to the day of
our joining, the daily news in Britain was delivered with a preposterous pro-EEC
slant designed to suppress the truth and to convince the public that without
membership of the EEC neither they nor their country had much of a future. Only
occasionally did the papers admit that the politicians were spinning like tops.
The Times remarked that Geoffrey Rippon, the Cabinet Minister responsible
for negotiating Britain's entry, was behaving `almost as though he has something
to hide'. (He certainly did.) The Daily Mirror (which, at the time, had
by far the largest sale in Britain) was unrelenting in describing the prizes of
membership as immense and warning readers that if they voted against membership
of the EEC they would become `mere lookers-on from an off-shore island of
When Prince Philip took his foot out of his
mouth long enough to claim that the EEC's Common Agricultural Policy was an
example of bad management, the Daily Mirror called him a `chump'. (So,
now who's the chump?)
The pro-EEC line appeared on news and feature
pages and was supplemented with huge numbers of full page advertisements paid
for by the European Movement.
Heath took Britain into the EEC with the
help of the nation's press and without ever giving the electors a chance to say
whether or not their country should become part of the European `project'.
Only the Daily Express `stood alone - with the people' against
membership of the EEC. They praised Philip's scepticism about the Common
Agricultural Policy announcing that `The People applaud his good sense...and
wish it were more widely shared by our rulers.' But once the vote for membership
had been won even the Daily Express capitulated and accepted the verdict.
When, at the next election Heath was thrown out by an unusually
discerning British electorate the subsequent Prime Minister, crafty pipe sucking
Harold Wilson, agreed to the unprecedented idea of asking the British people for
their view on membership; he announced that there would be a referendum to
decide whether or not Britain should remain in the EEC. (The referendum appeared
in the Labour Party's 1974 election manifesto and may well have one of the
reasons for Wilson's victory.)
This was the first and last chance the
British people had to express their views on the EEC. (For the record I am
delighted to report that I voted `No' - against the EEC. It seemed to me pretty
obvious that the politicians were lying and planning something considerably more
sinister than a trading partnership.)
The question to be asked in the
referendum was simple: `Do you think that the United Kingdom should stay in the
European Community (the Common Market)?'
The referendum vote took place
in June 1975 and virtually the whole of the British press joined in to extol the
virtues of membership of the EEC. Even the Daily Express abandoned its
scepticism and joined the other papers in support of the EEC. Of Britain's
national press only the Morning Star campaigned against the EEC.
During the run up to the referendum, the press either supported the
`Yes' vote campaigners or ignored the campaign completely. When Tony Benn
accurately revealed that almost half a million jobs had been lost in Britain
since the country had entered the Common Market, and correctly predicted that
many jobs would be lost if we stayed in, the papers dismissed his claim as
nonsense. The Daily Mirror sneered about `lies, more lies and those
damned statistics'. The Daily Telegraph nauseatingly talked about `an
intellectual, moral and spiritual value' in the EEC. The Financial Times
predictably quoted John Donne (`no man is an island') and argued that to leave
the EEC `would be a gratuitous act of irresponsible folly'. The Guardian
described the referendum as `a vote for the next century'. The Daily Mail
told its readers to `Vote YES for Britain'. The Daily Express announced:
`The Express is for the market'. The Sun told readers: `Yes for a
future together. No for a future alone.'
In the days before the crucial
vote the national papers had, between them, a total of 188 front pages.
Disgracefully, only 33 of those front pages were devoted to the most important
vote in Britain's history.
On the day of the vote the Daily Mail
(which now, for the sake of convenience, likes to portray itself as a committed
opponent of the EU) didn't even put the referendum on its front page. The
Daily Mirror's front page on polling day screamed: `A Vote for the
Future'. Inside, the Mirror had a picture of nine pupils at an
international school in Brussels, one child from each EEC country. Eight of
these wretched pawns stood together, cuddling and cosy; warmed by one another's
presence and support. The ninth child stood alone, isolated and sad. `He's the
odd lad out,' said the Mirror. `The boy beyond the fringe. The one whose
country still has to make up its mind. FOR THE LAD OUTSIDE, VOTE
The vast majority of the material printed in the national press was
supportive of the EEC and dismissive of those who questioned the value of
membership. There was no debate and the result, therefore, was a foregone
conclusion. The political establishment, big business and the press conspired to
suppress the truth and to `sell' the electorate a ragbag of lies.
was, in my view, the beginning of the end for the independence and integrity of
the British press. Newspaper proprietors have always used their papers to
promote their own views, often for their own commercial advantage, but this was
I believe the first time that the British press had united to support such a
sinister and dishonest purpose. If editors did not know that they were
encouraging the British people to hand over their independence they were
incompetent and stupid. if they knew but did it anyway then they were as guilty
of treason as Heath, Rippon and the long tawdry line of British Prime Ministers
and Ministers who have followed them. If any of the journalists responsible for
that great betrayal are still alive they should be publicly flogged.
result was a foregone conclusion.
Conned, tricked, lied to and spun into
a world which bore no resemblance to reality, the British people voted to stay
in the Common Market. A total of 17.3 million voted `yes' and 8.4 million voted
`no'. The establishment, aided and abetted by the press, had turned suspicion
and disapproval of the common market into a massive level of support.
was the British press which helped lying, cheating, conniving politicians trick
the electorate into accepting membership of the EEC.
How many people
would have voted for the EEC if they had known the truth?
Coleman is the author of The Truth They Won't Tell You (And Don't Want You To
Know) About The EU (published by Blue Books in paperback at £9.99) from
which this feature is taken. The book is available from the webshop on this site
and from all good bookshops everywhere.
Copyright Vernon Coleman