You may have seen this article in yesterday’s times by Poland’s Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski.
A veteran of the Solidarity generation, Mr Sikorski ticks, in his own words, “every box required to be a lifelong member of the Eurosceptic club”. He is even acknowledged by his heroine Margaret Thatcher in her book “Statecraft”.
Yet he believes in the modern European project and emphasises that Poland will do its utmost to make it succeed.
Mr Sikorski is, of course, in the European mainstream. This is yet another example of just how isolated the British Conservatives find themselves.
Mr Sikorski goes much further in his article, busting seven myths about the EU regularly peddled in Britain.
Myth 1 – Britain’s trade with the EU is less important than its trade with the rest of the world.
In fact half of UK exports go to the EU. Until recently Britain traded more with Ireland than Brazil, India and China put together. In 2011 the UK trade deficit with China was £19.7 billion. Between 2003 and 2011 Britain’s exports to Poland increased threefold.
Myth 2 – The EU forces Britain to adopt laws on human rights that are contrary to the British tradition
In fact these rulings come from the European Court of Human Rights, which is not part of the EU but part of the Council of Europe, originally set up by the UK and pre-dates the EU.
Myth 3 – The UK is bankrupting itself by funding Europe
In fact, the EU budget is a mere one per cent of the GDP of all EU member states. The UK’s annual net contribution to the EU is £8 – 9 billion a year, similar to that of France and less than Germany. It equates to just £150 a year for each person in Britain. Moreover, UK companies have benefitted enormously from EU cohesion fund investments in Central and Eastern Europe. These are new markets for this country. The British Government estimates that every household “earns” between £1,500 and £3,500 from the single market – between five to fifteen times the UK’s budget contribution.
Myth 4 – The UK is drowning in EU bureaucracy
In fact there are 33,000 people working for the European Commission compared with 82,000 at HM Revenue and Customs. Spain has nearly three million bureaucrats.
Myth 5 – Britain is being taken over by EU legislation
In fact EU Directives are not imposed on high from Brussels. British elected representatives and officials in the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers approve and sign off EU legislation.
Myth 6 – The European Commission is a hotbed of socialism
In fact there are many examples of the EU helping to dismantle monopolies and maintaining competition regulations, for example the Open Sky and the subsidies to business.
Myth 7 – The EU stops hardworking Britons working longer hours than feckless continentals
In fact the average Pole works 40.5 hours a week, the average Spaniard 38.1 and the average across the EU is 37.2. In the UK we are slightly under the EU average at 36.2 hours a week.
Mr Sikorski has given us valuable information on the reality rather of the EU rather than the fantasies we hear all the time. Maybe we are also seeing the beginning of a more mature and sensible attitude to the European Union by some of those sections of the British media who have in the past been somewhat economical with the truth about our membership.