Mainly because of the 50th
item on the Independent
's 50 reasons to love the EU - which is Lists like this drive the Euro-sceptics mad
. However, I live but to serve, and someone had to do this I suppose.
1. The end of war between European nations. Apart from the wars in Yugoslavia, and the rebellions in Czechoslovakia, Hungary etc - all of which took place on the EU's watch so to speak. The peace between Western nations since 1945 can be more fairly put down to two factors - the presence of a common enemy, and the military and diplomatic presence of the US.
2. Democracy is now flourishing in 27 countries. To an extent, see above. The prime cause for democratic expansion was the collapse of the Soviet bloc - not notably a triumph of the EU. We'll come back to this one...
3. Once-poor countries, such as Ireland, Greece and Portugal, are prospering. Fair enough, up to a point, though the prosperity of Ireland is due more to a low tax business ethos that runs counter to standard EU practice.
4. The creation of the world's largest internal trading market. Or to put it another way, the world's largest protectionist zone - imposing poverty throughout Africa. Not great for Britain particularly either - given that we run a trade deficit with the rest of the EU.
5. Unparalleled rights for European consumers. Kinda vague this one don't you think? Just what are we talking about here - without any further explanation it's as meaningless as saying unparalleled weather for European consumers.
6. Co-operation on continent-wide immigration policy. Like at Sangatte presumably... Or alternatively like the complete mess over Eastern European immigration.
7. Co-operation on crime, through Europol. I'm prepared to stand corrected, but I thought Interpol existed before Britain's entry into the EC. In any event, I'll let this one slide...
8. Laws that make it easier for British people to buy property in Europe. Terrific - though I do remember the likes of Peter Mayle, Eric Newby and Gerald Durrell seeming to rub along somehow...
9. Cleaner beaches and rivers throughout Europe. Chalk one up for the good guys! Although this is more of a exhortatory EU power - with censure being the only weapon. Still, credit where credit's due.
10. Four weeks statutory paid holiday a year for workers in Europe. Although what concern private business contracts between individuals are of the EU I'm unconvinced.
11. No death penalty (it is incompatible with EU membership). Two points - this is supposed to be about why Britain should be grateful - and we abolished the death penalty in the 60s. Secondly - doesn't this rather conflict with the democracy point above? If a sovereign state wishes, through the views of its people, to enact such a policy, isn't that its democratic right? Moving on...
12. Competition from privatised companies means cheaper phone calls. Are we suggesting here that privatisation was an EU project? You don't think you could chalk this one down to Thatcher perhaps?
13. Small EU bureaucracy (24,000 employees, fewer than the BBC). I'm assuming this refers only to the European Commission - the total number employed by the EU might come to a rather higher figure, higher even than that paragon of under-staffing the BBC.
14. Making the French eat British beef again. If that's the best you can do... The French ignored EU rulings on this for years, having previously bullied the EU into destroying the British beef industry. Not a plus, in my view.
15. Minority languages, such as Irish, Welsh and Catalan recognised and protected. Well thank God for that eh? Or, as the Welsh would say ffrdg sfguig wyfyfg.
16. Europe is helping to save the planet with regulatory cuts in CO2. Run for your lives! ManBearPig is here!
17. One currency from Bantry to Berlin (but not Britain). Why don't you ask the Italians how that one's working out huh? Or the Germans.
18. Europe-wide travel bans on tyrants such as Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe. Except when Mugabe is invited to EU conferences of course. And, in any case, name me another!
19. The EU gives twice as much aid to developing countries as the United States. The EU is, of course, very generous with other people's money. The US gives far more charitably of course - but that's only people so it doesn't count.
20. Strict safety standards for cars, buses and aircraft. Because without the EU, Britain's car's would be made out of string and asbestos, and it's German-made buses would spontaneously burst into flame - oh no, wait, they did!
21. Free medical help for tourists. Hurrah - but didn't the NHS do that anyway? Isn't that rather problematic with 'tourists' from sub-Saharan Africa for example? Anyway, carry on...
22. EU peacekeepers operate in trouble spots throughout the world. Apart from the European countries of Bosnia and Macedonia (sterling examples of how the EU eradicated war in Europe) the only other place EU soldiers operate is the DRC. Worthwhile mission and all that but three countries sounds less impressive than throughout the world doesn't it?
23. Europe's single market has brought cheap flights to the masses, and new prosperity for forgotten cities. Compare and contrast with no. 16 above.
24. Introduction of pet passports. Per-lease.
25. It now takes only 2 hrs 35 mins from London to Paris by Eurostar. The EU - making trains run faster!
26. Prospect of EU membership has forced modernisation on Turkey. While I do agree that the prospect of membership has a salutary effect on possible members, lets see how this one goes shall we?
27. Shopping without frontiers gives consumers more power to shape markets. Meaningless drivel! As in: this sentence means literally nothing.
28. Cheap travel and study programmes means greater mobility for Europe's youth. While all in favour of a mobile youth (stop sniggering), I think you have to question whether a massive supra-governmental body is the best way to achieve it...
29. Food labelling is much clearer. All hail the EU and its marvellous clearer food labelling!
30. No tiresome border checks (apart from in the UK). Hurray for the end of border security eh? Marginally more convenient until you get killed by a crack dealer.
31. Compensation for passengers suffering air delays. Also see no. 23 about cheaper flights. Ignore the fact that the one is scuppering the other.
32. Strict ban on animal testing for the cosmetic industry. Fine. Though as with the death penalty, might there not be queries as to democratic sovereignty?
33. Greater protection for Europe's wildlife. Which, given Britain's reputation as animal haters, is enormously relevant to us.
34. Regional development fund has aided the deprived parts of Britain. So, we give them vast amounts of money annually, they give us back a small proportion of this, and we're supposed to be grateful?
35. European driving licences recognised across the EU. With, as they say, hilarious consequences! Any suggestion that, say, Polish driving licences are less rigorously obtained that British ones is xenophobic nonsense.
36. Britons now feel a lot less insular. Than when? 1972? And the only reason is the EU? Not the Internet, the spread of satellite TV, the spread of globalisation generally? No? Just the EU then.
37. Europe's bananas remain bent, despite sceptics' fears. Oh my aching sides...
38. Strong economic growth - greater than the United States last year. In France, the UK, Germany and Italy? No? Oh, so Ireland, Poland and the like... There aren't many in Italy who believe the EU has done all that much to stimulate growth.
39. Single market has brought the best continental footballers to Britain. And helped to destroy the English county cricket scene thanks to the Kolpak players. Swings, roundabouts.
40. Human rights legislation has protected the rights of the individual. You pays your money and you takes your choice on this one. I dislike the practical effects of 'Human Rights Law' but there you go.
41. European Parliament provides democratic checks on all EU laws. Ho ho. What was it Daniel Hannan was saying about each MEP having 90 seconds to speak?
42. EU gives more, not less, sovereignty to nation states. Than what? Full sovereignty? It bloody doesn't you know. Seriously, I'd love to know how this one was worked out - any thoughts?
43. Maturing EU is a proper counterweight to the power of US and China. Boo to the rotten old US anyway (they're swankpots anyway). But I assume this doesn't mean militarily.
44. European immigration has boosted the British economy. Debatable, but anyway...
45. Europeans are increasingly multilingual - except Britons, who are less so. Good point - the EU has entrenched English as the European language.
46. Europe has set Britain an example how properly to fund a national health service. Europe has? Not much to do with the EU then is it? Funnily enough, the two are not co-terminous.
47. British restaurants now much more cosmopolitan. I hadn't realised India and China were even in the EU.
48. Total mobility for career professionals in Europe. Ish - there's still the barrier to movement created by having to move countries/families and all that (by the way I love career professionals - as opposed to what? Hobbyist professionals?)
49. Europe has revolutionised British attitudes to food and cooking. They're stretching it! Europe/EU again - are we really suggesting that we need to surrender legal sovereignty in order to learn about olive oil?
50. Lists like this drive the Eurosceptics mad. And to prove that this is the only wholly correct point of the 50, I will now stick two pencils up my nose and say 'wibble'.
UPDATE: See also Tim
, and, most fully, Scott
for alternative take-downs.