I had the somewhat dubious pleasure yesterday of going to Rotherham – the constituency of Denis MacShane – to be interviewed by BBC television with Anna Chester, the Yorkshire and Humberside representative of Britain in Europe.
Before I have even managed to open my mouth, the egregious Anna Chester was denouncing the "lies" and the "myths" of her opponents, and pledging to bring to the attention the consequences of voting against the constitution – the clear inference being that a "no" vote meant leaving the European Union.
What stunned me rather was the sheer aggression of this approach – the interviewer called it "passion" - and the total negativity. As usual, it was a pledge to tell people about the constitution, rather than actually telling people about it.
In response, I chose my words carefully, offering the line chosen by Mark Steyn in his piece for The Daily Telegraph on 22 June, when he suggested that the salient fact about the constitution was that "it’s the legal framework for a state".
It is a question of whether you want a self-governing country or want to be ruled by a state called Europe, said I, or words to that effect, only to have our Anna dissolve into paroxysms of indignation, denouncing my suggestion that the EU was becoming a "superstate".
Evidently so conditioned was this lady that she had not even listened to what I had said. I carefully avoided the term "superstate". As my colleague and I have observed frequently, while the EU is undoubtedly acquiring the trappings of a state, there is nothing at all "super" about it.
But then, it seems, a common characteristic of the Europhile fraternity seems to be its prickliness. For instance, the egregious Toby, on his Europhile site "straight banana" has taken exception to my lapse of good manners in my Blog, describing Steven Everts, senior research Fellow at the London-based Centre for European Reform, as a "dismal little cretin" for describing Eurosceptics as "anti-Europeans".
But my point is really quite a simple one. Either Everts doesn't know the difference between being "anti-EU" and "anti-European", or he is being deliberately provocative. In either event, the epithet stands.
I really am getting a little tired of the puerile little jibes from the Europhile fraternity, and my patience is wearing thin. If these people cannot enter into a debate without resorting to their games, then they really should not be surprised if they are not treated with the civility to which they believe they are entitled.
Most of all, however, what seems to upset our Toby is what he takes to be my assertion that "pro-EU people" hold their views because they are too stupid to understand their own follies. Has it not occurred to me, he asks, that there might be some people who have thought about the issues in an intelligent way and come to a considered opinion which happens, rightly or wrongly, to be different to his?
What price then a sample of the output from the Britain in Europe site:
Britain in Europe need you. The forces ranged against us are strong, but unrepresentative of the British people. Are you willing to have the future of this country decided by foreign press barons and their hired pens? We are not afraid of the anti-Europeans or their silly arguments.Linked to this is a list of press articles, mostly from the Sun, making claims as to what the EU might or might not be doing, but my bet is that there will be no link to the op-ed in the Telegraph today, written by Charles Moore, where he notes, in respect of the EU’s growing involvement in justice and home affairs:
Like most things in the EU, it has crept up on us. For years, the EU was only an "economic community". Justice and home affairs first feature in EU treaties with Maastricht in 1991, and have been moving forward ever since. Now we have ideas such as the common European arrest warrant and a common asylum policy. We are also moving towards a pan-European prosecuting magistracy and the granting of executive powers to Europol, which is supposed to be no more than a body for police co-operation, rather than a European police force.Crucially, he then adds: "Most of these powers, in fact, are not in the treaties – they are simply pushed forward on the basis of summit communiqués and suchlike."
That is the reality of the EU – the gradual accretion of powers, accompanied by constant denial and then, as we now see, aggression, when people begin to notice what is happening.
However, in the spirit of even-handedness for which this Blog has become famous, we cannot let this go without noting that the self-appointed "Vote-No" campaign has proudly launched its cinema ads, the rationale for which, as we recall, was that the referendum could be called in 2005.
Now that we know - and could have guessed (as indeed we did) - that it is going to be in 2006, this renders the ads somewhat redundant and, having seen the production on the web site, we wish they were.
Against all advice, the campaign has chosen the slogan: "say yes to Europe and no to the constitution". According to that, the "Vote-No" campaign is perfectly happy with everything that the EU has done – and is doing – to press, and only finds the constitution unacceptable. But which bits?
As many people rightly observe, much of what is in the constitution is already in existing treaties. And if you are in favour of those provisions, what is so objectionable about the additions? After all, if you accept the principle, the detail is really only, er... detail.
It seems that it is not only the Europhile community that has its cretins.