Much has been heard from the anti-Europeans, but supporters of the community have been very quiet in pushing the benefits of being part of Europe. John Shannon reports
The recent launch of a direct marketing campaign by Sir James Goldsmith’s Referendum Party is the latest manifestation of an increasingly high-profile and sustained effort by the Euro-sceptics to question the nature of Britain’s relationship with Europe.
The pro-Europe lobby has so far been less active or vociferous, and arguably less effective in explaining the benefits that European Union membership has delivered.
Now, led by the European Movement, the Europhiles are beginning to put their case by encouraging pro-European MPs to speak publicly in support of a closer relationship with Europe. But there is still much to be done in terms of explaining the EU to a confused and possibly apathetic public.
In many re-spects the pro-Europe camp has a compelling case to put – broadly, that the Union of European states has brought 50 years of peace across the Continent; improvements in working conditions and pros perity; greater influence in world markets; and, for this country, un-paralleled inward investment which has led to the creation of many thousands of new jobs.
Other tangible benefits for citizens are higher environmental standards; the right to healthcare across the region; better safety standards for consumer products; cheap and easy international travel; and the freedom to live and work in member states. Benefits such as these are powerful arguments in favour of Britain continuing to build strong ties with Europe, but to date they have not been effectively and consistently projected.
In the more specific case of the communications and marketing industry, EU membership has generated tremendous opportunities through its encouragement of pan-regional business, and major networks in particular have benefited through a rising incidence of pan-European assignments.
Of course, EU initiatives may not always be universally welcomed. One particular concern of our industry has been the inflexibility and questionable validity of some proposed cross-border communications legislation. But as with all areas of EU policy-making, influence can only be exerted from within.
At present it is impossible to predict whether a referendum will be held on Europe.
Nevertheless it is imperative that the real issues at stake are clearly delineated and effectively presented by both sides to the British public.
To date, this has not been ach-ieved and emotional rather than rational arguments have tended to predominate.