The British Eurosceptic press constitutes a “serious problem” for any British government that tries to engage with the EU, argues Charles Grant, director of the London-based Centre for European Reform, in a December 2008 paper.
Indeed, the British government “often opposes measures coming out of Brussels because it fears the reaction of the British media,” the author says.
The UK press is particularly influential on account of the fact that 75 percent of daily newspapers sold “generally impose a rigidly Eurosceptic line on their journalists,” Grant asserts.
Moreover, journalists “get away with writing factual inaccuracies because they are accountable to no one but their bosses and they face no sanction,” the author claims.
Nevertheless, Grant admits that the actions of the EU institutions have also helped the British tabloids to “portray the Union in a sinister light,” given the annual refusal of the Court of Auditors to give unqualified approval to the EU accounts and the fact that the Common Agricultural Policy still consumes almost half the EU budget.
Indeed, the “inability of the EU institutions to explain simply and clearly why they do what they do, and how EU policies and programmes help ordinary citizens, is legendary,” he states.
Grant argues that the British press has a “big influence on the way ministers present policy”. “They regularly brief the tabloids that they are fighting nefarious schemes dreamed up by the Commission,” yet “such stories bear very little relationship to what the minister concerned has in fact said in the Council of Ministers,” he observes.
While the CER director does not expect the influence of the Eurosceptic press to die down anytime soon, he remains “optimistic” that its influence will decline in the long run. Grant believes the issues that will shape the way the EU develops in the coming years, including climate change, energy security and terrorism, “are of huge interest to the British people”.
If the EU increasingly focuses on these substantial issues, “the Eurosceptics will be deprived of their most powerful arguments,” he declares.
“An EU that delivers real benefits to the British people will become more popular, despite the best efforts of some newspapers to tarnish its image,” Grant concludes.