Richard North, 11/08/2004  

Congratulations to the Daily Telegraph for taking Denis MacShane head on, over his slur on Euroscepticism. It its editorial today entitled "Euro-scepticism isn't the same as xenophobia" it deals in a robust way with the issues aired in this Blog click here and here.

Referring to the interview with the Telegraph in which he tried to tax with xenophobia those who query the wisdom of closer integration with the European Union, the editorial states that "it would be easy to dismiss this smear out of hand". However, "there is enough evidence of xenophobic attitudes towards the EU, whether hysteria over the imminent invasion of Poles and Roma after enlargement or in some of the UK Independence Party propaganda, to persuade people that Mr MacShane is right".

Nevertheless, it goes on:

Those so inclined should look at our letter columns this week, where readers have made eloquently clear the distinction between the political goal of extending European authority over this country and hatred of foreigners. The blanket phrase "anti-Europe" used by the minister on the BBC's Today programme yesterday attempts to confuse one with the other.

In the broadcast, Mr MacShane accused "our anti-Europe press" of spreading myths and lies and of demeaning discussion of an important issue. That is an impertinent charge from a government that has sought to brush off the new constitution by likening it to the rules of golf club (Jack Straw, Mr MacShane's boss) or describing it as a tidying-up exercise (Peter Hain, when Downing Street's envoy to the body that drafted the document).

Labour in power has followed its Conservative predecessors in seeking to conceal the true impact of what it has approved in Brussels. As this newspaper has frequently pointed out, the constitution agreed at the June summit and now awaiting ratification is a major step towards deeper integration. It provides for an EU foreign minister, criminal court, prosecutor and police force, removes the national veto in many areas and gives treaty sanction to an outdated, over-regulated economic model.
The editorial then notes that MacShane said yesterday that "he wanted a 'political ding-dong' on the basis of facts". That, of course, The Telegraph would welcome. But so would we all. For too long now the Europhile response to criticism of its beloved EU is to rely on smear, innuendo, downright lies, and evasion. We all feel – and certainly on this Blog - that, in a fact-based argument, we cannot lose. Perhaps that is why the likes of MacShane claim to want one, but are at pains to avoid it.

Thus, while The Telegraph points out that, "as long as the Government unfairly smears opponents of its ambitions in Europe as xenophobes, while continuing to underplay the significance of what is at stake over the constitution and membership of the euro zone", such an argument will no be possible. “Such deviousness", it concludes, "is an insult to the electorate's intelligence". Such deviousness, we conclude, is all they have.

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