Today’s European elections have led, once again, to a debate about the merits of British membership of the European Union (EU). Frankly, although I would regard myself as moderately pro-European, I’m now getting bored of trying to defend the EU when it does so little to defend itself.
Did you know, for example, that the West Midlands has secured £575m in European Structural Funds that has been allocated to more than 400 projects across the region in the last six years? Were you aware that the European Social Fund has given more than £316m for West Midlands projects to support education and training to combat long term unemployment?
Would you like to know about some of the projects that this money has been spent on in our region? Well, so would I.
Now it may be that I’m a particularly hopeless Google searcher, but I cannot find a single case study or press release on the internet to help explain how EU money has helped the West Midlands. I know it’s been spent, but I cannot find out where it’s been spent and what the effects are.
This communication vacuum is a godsend to the UK Independence Party and anti-EU activists in the mainstream parties and media, allowing them to redirect the debate towards alleged corruption and bureaucracy. The Sun screaming that “MEPs are all millionaires in five years” is a case in point.
On Sunday, when the results become known, it is likely that fringe parties like UKIP, who advocate total withdrawal from the EU, will make big gains. EU Commissioners will be heard, once again, to complain that all the British really want is a vast free trade area, on the lines of the original Treaty of Rome, and are not interested in closer economic and political integration.
My answer to that is: if you don’t communicate with people you cannot expect their support.