[Update at end of post]
Another Sunday, another Christopher Booker rant in the Maily Telegraph, and once more he is tilting at the EU. As in so many of these cases, the ability to do a little Googling shows Booker to be wildly exaggerating in his desperation to find non-existent demons, this time in the area of sport.
For starters, the “proposal” going before the European Parliament (EP) on “European identity through sport” is merely a draft report. The idea that this report, going for a first reading, is “causing a stir”, is ridiculous. None of the proposals and suggestions contained within it are anywhere near gaining any kind of formal status.
Booker, though, sees his demons everywhere, even in the humble passport. Yes, the UK now issues an EU format passport, so it is a similar size and of a similar appearance to those issued by other member states. But it is still a UK passport, the largest and most prominent lettering on the front refers to the UK, and there is still the reference to “Her Britannic Majesty” inside the front cover.
And on a purely personal note, I have checked all twenty-odd pages of my 2006 vintage passport, and despite dozens of crossings of intra-EU borders in the five years since issue, there are no stamps or visa markings present. That’s because we have freedom of movement within the EU.
When Booker sees yet more demons in the 1980s “A People’s Europe” (read it HERE [.pdf]) he misses this point, as well as the associated freedom of residence. The latter is enjoyed by well over a million Brits – 760,000 of them in Spain alone. Instead, Telegraph readers are assailed by gripes over Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.
Following complaints over music, there is then an objection to the European driving licence. Let me get this right: that I have the freedom to drive, on my UK licence, in any EU member state is, in the Booker book, A Bad Thing. And he even has a problem with the European Ryder Cup team using the EU flag (hint: it’s because it’s a European team. Don’t knock it. When it was just Britain, we always lost).
But Booker knows why this is all happening: it’s the Lisbon Treaty. This, he claims, made sport a full EU “competence”. Except it didn’t: it’s a “partial competence”, which ranks it alongside culture. The “regulation” that Booker wants his readers to be so frightened of concerns mundane things like gambling, match fixing, and hooliganism. And promotion of sport in schools.
And as for his whingeing about the England cricket team being somehow “forced” to wear kit with the EU flag on it, forget it: it hasn’t occurred to Booker that England isn’t an EU member state in any case. Have a think about it, Chris. Then stop trying to frighten us all with non-existent demons.
[UPDATE: the Daily Express has now picked up on this story - a whole four days later than Christopher Booker, which is a long wait even by the low standards of the Desmond press. The Express has managed to inflate the business into a front page lead - there are other things going on in the world, but re-heating Booker's weekend rant is cheaper than doing proper journalism - and also makes the mistake of talking of "Britain" and then "football" and "cricket".
There is the customary false reference to the EU "forcing" teams to wear its logo, of the mythical and scary "Brussels" interfering in our "cherished" national life, and of course the frankly pathetic talk of the "surge in support" for the Express' pointless anti-EU campaigning. Ultimately, this one trick pony will only drive readers away, so that is at least one benefit to the wider public]