Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Sun Says... a load of old bollocks, apparently

Page two of today's Sun - Britain's biggest-selling newspaper, owned by the eurosceptic Australian tax-dodger Rupert Murdoch - is dominated by a huge banner headline about the proposed EU constitution stating "EU DEAL END FOR POUND". Considering page two of pretty much every tabloid is used for burying "boring" political news, the headlines are all that most Sun readers will have noticed - distracted as they are by the pert bosoms of some Essex slapper on the opposite sheet. (and yes, I know this makes me sound like an intellectual snob - but I was the one reading The Sun in a pub at lunchtime...)

In other words, this Sun headline - the size, the positioning, the alarmist language, everything - is deliberately designed to be taken on face value, and make the paper's three and a half million readers start fretting that their beloved coinage is in imminent danger of abolition.

This is, of course, total nonsense. Not only has Blair already stated that there are no plans to switch to the euro before the next general election - a significant step back from the last decade of "wait and see" uncertainty - but the constitution doesn't actually have anything much to say about the EU currency of choice.

In fact, should any of the Sun's readers be able to tear themselves away from the "charms" of the buxom lovely on page three, they'd see in the very first paragraph that the headline is entirely unrepresentative of the actual "story". A story which is, perhaps unsurprisingly, based on some propaganda from the newly rebranded "No" campaign (which made the utterly implausible claim on Newsnight last night that "none" of its members advocated withdrawal from the EU) - propaganda based on a "No" campaign-commissioned ICM poll of just 1000 people.

The story is the somewhat depressing but altogether unsurprising one that the British public are sorely uninformed about the EU, and specifically about the constitution:

"SEVEN out of ten people believe the Pound will be axed if Britain signs the EU constitution... They are convinced backing the EU’s new diktats will automatically kill off Sterling. They say Britain will be dragged into the euro whether we like it or not."
This is, of course, palpable nonsense - but then, it is the "Great British Public (TM)" who are allegedly saying it. Even if the constitution did have anything concrete to say about takeup of the euro, all three major parties are committed to holding a referendum over joining - another prime example of the buck-passing insanity of the damn things, but that's beside the point.

The Sun's article quotes the constitution's Article III-69 - which they say states "
The activities of the member states shall include . . . a single currency, the euro".

This is a slight misquote, due to a misplaced ellipsis. It actually says (with The Sun's quote in italics) "
the activities of the Member States and the Union shall include, as provided in the Constitution, the adoption of an economic policy which is based on the close coordination of Member States' economic policies, on the internal market and on the definition of common objectives, and conducted in accordance with the principle of an open market economy with free competition. 2. Concurrently with the foregoing, and as provided in the Constitution and in accordance with the procedures set out therein, these activities shall include a single currency, the euro"

The implication they are trying to make is that the constitution says that all member states must adopt the euro, and specifically adopt it as the national currency rather than merely for the purpose of trade within the bloc - lest we forget, inclusion and adoption are very different things. Of course, the vagueness of this particular article (as with the whole damn constitution) is such that that could be one interpretation, but - and vitally importantly, considering this is a legal document we are dealing with - there is no explicit statement that EU member states must adopt the euro as their sole or even primary currency - merely that the euro will play a part in the EU's economic activities.

Now I'm not going to try and deny that it is in the interests of the EU for every member state to adopt the Euro at some stage. Nor shall I deny that this is what the clause is hinting at. But there is - vitally - no timescale on the takeup of the euro mentioned anywhere in the constitutional text.

All the constitution says is that the euro will play a part in EU-wide economic activities (as will, surely, every currency of every member state - but the euro is the most logical one to use for intra-EU trade). There is nothing about member states having to adopt it as the currency of the high street, and the fact that Britain has partially been trading with euros ever since it came into being as the shoddily-named Ecu is, the way The Sun and the "No" campaign have presented their scare story, not important.

To those who are against the whole thing, what is apparently more important than what the constitution actually says - and allowing the British public to form their own opinions based on fact - is scaremongering headlines, selective quotation and partisan poll results designed to make the thing out to be forcing the country to adopt measures about which the constitution actually doesn't have an awful lot to say.

It's actually a very cunning approach. There isn't - apart from the headline - a single actual lie in the entire article. But it is, nonetheless, an opinion piece dressed up as a news story with a large and misleading headline which deliberately shepherds any unwary readers to accept that opinion as fact. We're going to be seeing a lot more of this sort of thing - from both sides - over the coming months. My advice - when it comes to debates over the EU, don't accept anything at face value.

13 Comments:

Anonymous Hew BG said...

Nosemonkey,

An excellent post: You are right to be cross. This sort of gutter journalism helps no-one.

There is enough to argue the toss about without having to resort to lies of this sort.

How do we campaign for the formation of a properly independent "facts" body of the form the Irish used for their Nice referendum?

We are desperately going to need it if the Sun is stooping this low already.

5/19/2005 04:10:00 pm  
Blogger Andrew said...

Yes, fair points, but the fact is that we're looking to win. All's fair in love, war, and politics.

It isn't as if the 'Yes' side don't fight dirty, with their constant refrain of the Constitution just being a tidying up exercise, amongst other things.

It would be wonderful if both sides could actually argue the facts about the Constitution, rather than what it may or may not imply. It would also be unprecedented in modern political debate.

5/19/2005 04:18:00 pm  
Blogger ken said...

How on earth could you reach the right conclusions by your arguments, the ones you chose do not disprove the headline you quoted, it matters not, what Blair and the rest have promised, if the Constitution says the states must accept the Euro as their currency, that will undercut any assurances made, and do we still belive in politicians promises.

In fact the Constitution does make it clear that each member state must adopt the Euro as its currency, (ARTICLE I-8), it also establishes a method and a timetable of sorts for reaching the goal of adopting the Euro (ARTICLE III-197), followed by (ARTICLE III-198).

However annexed to the Constitution are the protocols; Part Three
Chapter 13 is quite clear that United Kingdom shall not be obliged or committed to adopt the euro without a separate decision to do so by its government and Parliament; (ARTICLE 1) and (ARTICLE 3) the UK retains its powers on monetary policy.

So you are quite right that ratifying the Constitution will not force acceptance of the Euro. If the opt out has any relevance and if it remains a legal matter and not political, there is no way we could be forced to adopt the Euro. I do not know if that is a big “if “or not.

5/20/2005 01:04:00 am  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

Ken, the point is the constitution doesn't EXPLICITLY state anything at all about the euro having to be adopted as daily currency, which is what the Sun's article was trying to imply. As I acknowledge, there are hints that the euro should be adopted at some stage, but there is nothing remotely concrete.

As for your stated Articles which supposedly would force the euro on unsuspecting signatories of the constitution, have you checked them? (and forgive me here if I've misunderstood which ones you mean):

Article I-8 deals with EU citizenship, not currency. It doesn't mention the euro at all.

Article III-197 provides for setting up an EU Minister for Foreign Affairs, and again says nothing about the euro.

Article III-198 discusses procedures for member states' relations with the Council of Ministers, and again doesn't mention the euro once.

But I'm afraid that after your final paragraph I'm not sure if that is what you were claiming or not.

5/20/2005 10:30:00 am  
Blogger snooo said...

I wonder who will step up in the mainstream media to counter this kind of balderdash? Anybody?

This may be bad - but the campaign to follow will be 10 times worse.

5/20/2005 11:55:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bollocks piled on bollocks, bollocks squared, bollocks to you too. Fact is The Sun is quite right to point this up - the Constitution clearly aims at a unified economic policy, and by implication obligatory membership of the euro. The fact that 70% of the British people have sniffed this out, and you haven't, proves two things - the wisdom of crowds, and that you are an idiot.

5/20/2005 12:38:00 pm  
Blogger Alex said...

Anonymous, you have left neither a URL nor an email, in order to avoid replies. Therefore, you are a coward and a troll. If you cared about facts, you would remember that the Maastricht Treaty provided for a unified economic policy and a single currency, thirteen years ago. Well - here we are, still sans euros. How do you explain that?

I'll offer an explanation. In fact, two. Either you don't know what you are talking about, in which case you should shut up, fuck off, and return when you do know what you're talking about - or you do know what you are talking about, but you're a liar. In which case, you should shut up, and fuck off.

5/20/2005 12:50:00 pm  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

It would seem, charming anonymous person, that you missed this bit:

"I'm not going to try and deny that it is in the interests of the EU for every member state to adopt the Euro at some stage. Nor shall I deny that this is what the clause is hinting at. But there is - vitally - no timescale on the takeup of the euro mentioned anywhere in the constitutional text."

Of course the consitution aims at a unified economic policy. The old term "European Economic Community" was a bit of a hint, don't you think? A single currency would certainly help that come to pass, but is by no means essential, and the constitution says nothing explicit about non-Eurozone countries having to adopt the thing.

The Sun's article was heavily implying that Britain would HAVE to adopt the euro if we were to ratify the thing. It doesn't, merely mentioning it as a useful intra-EU trading tool (which it is) and hinting that it MIGHT be helpful for intra-EU economic co-operation for more member states to adopt it as their daily currency (which it would be).

Therefore The Sun is spouting bollocks and I am not. QED.

5/20/2005 12:58:00 pm  
Anonymous Toby said...

Letter from Richard Corbett MEP to The Sun today:

http://www.corbett-euro.demon.co.uk/blog/2005/05/apparently-seven-out-of-ten-people.html

Chances of this being published in The Sun: zilch.

5/20/2005 01:08:00 pm  
Blogger ken said...

Damn! Don’t tell me I have been using the wrong copy which are you using?
I know they have changed the numbers but I thought I had the latest, it is called the final draft

European Communities No. 8 (2004)
Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe including the Protocols and Annexes, and Final Act with Declarations

Presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
by Command of Her Majesty December 2004

ARTICLE I-8 The currency of the Union shall be the euro
ARTICLE III-197
1. Member States in respect of which the Council has not decided that
they fulfil the necessary conditions for the adoption of the euro shall
hereinafter be referred to as "Member States with a derogation
ARTICLE III-198
1. At least once every two years, or at the request of a Member State
with a derogation, the Commission and the European Central Bank shall
report to the Council on the progress made by the Member States with a
derogation in fulfilling their obligations regarding the achievement of
economic and monetary union. ETC.

ARTICLE III-177 Member States shall conduct their economic policies in order to contribute to the achievement of the Union's objective

Anex protocols
Chap 13
ARTICLE 1
Unless the United Kingdom notifies the Council that it intends to adopt
the euro, it shall be under no obligation to do so.

ARTICLE 3
The United Kingdom shall retain its powers in the field of monetary policy
according to national law.

ARTICLE 5
The United Kingdom shall endeavour to avoid an excessive government
deficit.

Articles III-192(4) and III-200 of the Constitution shall apply to the
United Kingdom as if it had a derogation. Articles III-201 and III-202 of the
Constitution shall continue to apply to the United Kingdom.

Articles III-192 4. In addition to the tasks referred to in paragraph 2, if and as long as there are Member States with a derogation as referred to in Article III-197,
the Committee shall keep under review the monetary and financial situation
and the general payments system of those Member States and report regularly
to the Council and to the Commission on the matter.

ARTICLE III-200
Each Member State with a derogation shall treat its exchange-rate policy as a
matter of common interest. In so doing, it shall take account of the experience acquired in cooperation within the framework of the exchange rate mechanism

5/20/2005 02:35:00 pm  
Blogger ken said...

Sorry, I should have been clearer I was trying to say you are right the Sun is wrong, I thought that you could have shown the Sun to be wrong by using the opt-out in the protocols which are quite clear that Britain will not have to accept the Euro. Legally we have an opt out, but the decision to join or not will be a political one.

5/20/2005 02:43:00 pm  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

Ken - no worries. I think we must be on different versions.

The EU constitution causing massive confusion, eh? Who'd have thought it? ;)

5/20/2005 02:56:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I should 'fuck off', should I? I am a 'coward and a troll'? Oo-er, scary! I am tempted to say fuck off to you too, you traitorous Europhile halfwits, but I shan't, cause I feel sorry for you. You're losing the EU debate bigtime, and I suppose you must be a little sore. There there...

5/23/2005 11:54:00 am  

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