Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning were both summery and mild in northern France: it was only after arriving back in Crewe that the weather turned routinely miserable. A trip over to mainland Europe can be instructive for other reasons.
France was an early adopter of the Euro: supermarket receipts still give the conversion into Francs – the rate is an awkward 6.55957 – but the new currency is still the norm, and the French have not lost their identity or become soulless Euro-citizens. Nor has the sky fallen in. The ECB is based in Frankfurt am Main, yet the French have not taken up German as their first language, and there is no visible sign of any campaign to repatriate power over monetary policy to Paris.
Yet this loss of identity, together with the spectre of being subsumed into an alleged superstate, with currency reserves ceded to the Germans, or to the much demonised “Brussels”, is much of what drives the anti-Euro tendency here. That, and the idea that the UK should have the European market available to it, while conveniently reserving the right to the odd competitive devaluation.
The latest Europe hate campaign is about our budget contribution: the rhetoric is as if the UK is the only EU member state making a contribution, with everyone else – all those dastardly foreigners – living the life of Riley at our expense. It’s drivel, as is the oft wheeled out nonsense about EU directives only being observed by the UK, with the rotten French pleasing themselves.
To have a debate about Europe would be a good thing. To have a properly informed one, free of misinformation and routine dishonesty, would be better.