How The British Media Lied And Tricked Us Into Joining The EU

Vernon Coleman

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.

The Financial Times and the Daily Mirror had both been strong advocates of membership from the early 1960s, but politicians took to the idea a little later.

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.

In the 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 Europe.

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.

Editors 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 dwindling insignificance'.'

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 YES.'

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.

This 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.

The 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.

It 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?

Vernon 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 2006