On the World Tonight BBC radio news, yesterday evening, the egregious Denis Macshame was wheeled on to explain what the British government could learn from the Spanish referendum.
The particular "hook" was the news that some 80 percent or more of Spaniards professed ignorance of the EU constitution yet were still prepared to vote for it. MacShame was asked whether "ignorance is bliss". In view of the government's rejection of commission funding for information on the constitution, it was put to him that he was secretly pleased with the "status quo" on the basis that, in the UK, the more people found out about the constitution, the less they would like it.
As one might expect, MacShame went immediately into denial mode, proclaiming that his "big task" was to get rid of the "myths and lies". Even today, he declared, there had been a claim that British embassies were to be closed down and replaced with EU representation offices.
Without saying so, he was referring to a story in The Sun today, together with its editorial.
But, while MacShame was quick to denounce it as “completely untrue”, what he did not say was that this had come from Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who “blew the lid on the plan in a radio interview”, saying: “We will undoubtedly see European embassies in the world, not ones from each country, with European diplomats and a European foreign service.”
He also said that Britain and France would also lose their voices in NATO and their seats on the UN Security Council, Adding that: "We will see Europe with a single voice in security matters. We will have a single European voice within NATO. We want more European unity."
That summarily dispensed with, without so much as a whimper from his interviewer, MacShame went gaily on to state that he now had the chance to get the "facts" of Europe out to the British public. When they see a more powerful parliament and when they see that the EU can only do what its member states tell it to do, he said, they would be in favour of the constitution.
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, the Europe minister is telling porkies again. Perhaps he should read our myths.
And, by the way, although the government may be turning down commission money, that does not mean that its money is not flowing into the British "yes" campaign. According to the piece linked above (from The Times), the commission is spending more than €1 million a year on pan-European federalist campaign groups and think-tanks that have members in Britain or influence debate here.
Recipients last year have included Hull University, which got €10,551, Liverpool Hope University College, with €25,000, to help school pupils and students to find out about the constitution, the Foreign Policy Centre, which was given €38,318 for a conference on the constitution last July, the Institute for Citizenship in London, which got and €48,601 to hold a series of seminars on it.
Other beneficiaries were the International European Movement, which got €450,000, the Union of European Federalists, €120,000, Friends of Europe €100,000, the Young European Federalists €35,000, the Centre for European Policy Studies €150,000 and European Policy Centre €150,000.
The Federal Trust, a British think-tank, was paid €42,005 to promote the enlargement of the EU, including the production of 100,000 "information" cards. Its advisory board includes Andrew Adonis, Blair’s policy adviser.
How appropriate was UKIP MEP Jeffrey Titford’s letter to the Times at the end of last month about the lack of fairness, noting that: "Those of us who are campaigning for a 'no' vote don't have anything like these resources to spend so far in advance of the referendum."
It would help even up the odds, though, if MacShame and his FCO cronies stopped lying, but that would be too much to hope for.