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An EU-free zone - almost

Posted by Richard Friday, May 07, 2004

Even the most ardent newspapers are struggling to find an EU-related story this morning. As Iraq dominates the headlines, the steam has temporarily gone out of the constitutional issue – never mind that we are supposed to be in the middle of the Euro-election campaign.

Tom Utley in the Telegraph tackles the Europhiles’ inability to present a coherent case for their constitution. They rely on slogans and metaphors rather than facts, of which he – and many others – are getting heartily sick.

The Scotsman picks on the scandal of £200 million going to upgrade the fishing fleets of accession countries, while British boats are being scrapped. This is repeated, with less detail in the Times and ignored by the Telegraph – which seems virtually to have given up on agriculture and fisheries, as well as news in general.

The Guardian is reduced to trailing a story about a meet between Chirac and Blair on Sunday – coincidentally Europe Day, when everyone will be out joyously waving their “ring o’ stars” flags, no doubt. The Independent has completely given up, but then it did that years ago.

But it is the Financial Times which comes up with a no-EU story with a difference. It reports on the outcome of four expert groups, set up last year to advise the European Commission on the practical benefits of the plans and "remaining weakness in the EU legislative framework" on financial regulation.

All four groups, which involved more than 90 experts from institutions such as Deutsche Bank, the UK Consumers Association, BNP Paribas and Fidelity, unanimously make clear they have little appetite for more upheaval. The groups say that we do not need a new onslaught of financial regulation, and the merits of its virtually completed financial services action plan have yet to be proved.

There is the theme for a no-EU day: don’t want it, don’t need it – but you’re going to get it anyway… roll on the referendum.