European integration and the battle for British hearts and minds: New Labour and the Euro

Andy Mullen, Brian Burkitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Pro-Europeans have organised three concerted propaganda campaigns to date: in 1962-63 to secure public support following Britain’s first application to join the European Union, in 1970-1 to prepare the public for accession, and in 1974-5 to ensure continued EU membership in the 1975 referendum. This article looks at New Labour’s preparations and strategy for what is likely to be Britain’s fourth concerted pro-European propaganda campaign to ensure a ‘Yes’ vote in a referendum on British membership of the European single currency. The central arguments of this paper are six fold. Firstly, that the state of public opinion on euro membership currently represents an obstacle to the government’s policy of staging and winning a referendum , and joining the single currency. Second, that New Labour’s actual policy on the euro is one of ‘prepare and persuade’ rather than ‘wait and see’. Third, that the central components of the government’s euro referendum strategy can already be identified. Fourth, that – in contrast to the situation before the 1975 referendum – the press is divided on the issue of the euro, supporting both the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campaigns. Fifth, that there is an imbalance of forces between the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campaigns in favour of the former, but to a lesser extent than during the 1975 referendum. Sixth, that, given the current balance of forces, the government’s success in any euro referendum is by no means assured. The article is divided into seven parts. The first outlines the government’s policy on euro membership. The second considers the first contention – that public opinion on euro membership is currently an obstacle to the government policy – by looking at the state of public opinion polls on the issue. The third presents evidence to support the second contention – that New Labour’s actual policy is one of ‘prepare and persuade’ – by revealing the institutional and legislative preparations for entry that have been made, the two ‘low intensity’ pro-euro propaganda campaigns, and the intervention by external actors to augment those campaigns. The fourth looks at the emerging components of the government’s euro strategy and the possible problems of winning a referendum. The fifth discusses the likely role of the media in a euro referendum propaganda campaign. The sixth looks at the present balance of forces on euro membership. The seventh part concludes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)322-336
JournalPolitical Quarterly
Volume74
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2003

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