The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

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Europe Yes, Euro No: Winning Soundbite or Walking into a Trap?

Robert Oulds

The true direction of European integration has been hidden from the British public, who have been led down the federalist road by stealth. The financial cost of EU membership, estimated to be a nett £15 - £25 billion per year, has never been properly discussed or received adequate exposure. This has long been a complaint of numerous EU-sceptics. We now have a golden opportunity to discuss what membership of the European Union means for British citizens and how it impacts on their lives. However, we are in danger of throwing this away. What is more, the soundbite 'Europe Yes, Euro No' is not the winning formula, rather it falls into the trap set by Britain in Europe and may even turn out to be a millstone around the necks of No campaigners.

The pro-euro lobby have devised many salient messages. An example of their messages is: 'through price transparency the euro will put a stop to rip-off Britain'. The main economic case presented as to why Britain should join is that, 'business and jobs will benefit from the increased trade resulting from the costs saved from ending currency conversions'. Although these messages may be inaccurate, they have the advantage of being simple, which just adds to their salience. What is more, the No side's economic arguments are potentially too complex for the general public, especially in our quick fire soundbite media age, (I have even heard some No campaigners venture the argument that the euro could not survive an asymmetric shock). What ever happened to K.I.S.S. - 'Keep It Short and Simple'?

Yet their most subtle, and potentially most effective, strategy is two promote membership of the European Union. [There are two prongs to this strategy.] They start with a positive message: an attempt to sell the concept of the EU, and the benefits of membership to a sceptical British electorate - the rationale being that if the public is to accept the euro they must first promote the organisation that is offering Britain this new currency. Then comes the second, more negative approach. Here the view that Britain needs the European Union and that the UK cannot survive without the EU is being spread. It involves belittling Britain's place in the world in 'the uncertain modern world that suffers the ravages of globalisation'. No trick is beneath them. Tony Blair and Simon Buckby, Campaign Director for BiE, have even used the 9/11 attacks and the climate of fear that they created to attempt to bounce Britain into the euro. 'The UK will have no influence outside of the eurozone' is another pessimistic mantra emphasised by euro enthusiasts.

This, however, is just the softening-up before the main attack. Once they have convinced the public that membership of the EU is fundamental to the future of this country, they will hit with what could be their coup de grace. This is that membership of the euro is an integral part of EU membership. Just imagine Blair, Hain, Byers or Buckby uttering the words, 'Our membership of Europe is dependent upon being in the euro', and, 'We can't remain in Europe and stay out of the euro'.

Yet, the best soundbite that Eurosceptic campaigners have come up with is 'Europe Yes, Euro No' (by Europe I presume they mean the EU). This not only gives too much away to pro-euro campaigners, but it is a message that helps to spread the misconception that we are nothing without the EU. This is the ambush that the pro-euro lobby presents us with, and one that pro-Pound campaigners are walking straight into.

What should be done to counter the pro-euro strategy? The answer is to give them the debate on the advantages and disadvantages of the European Union that they are squaring up for. So let us have the courage of our convictions and use the wonderful opportunity of a referendum on the Single Currency to tell the public the truth about European integration. Those who subscribe to the 'Europe Yes, Euro No' mantra are naïve to presume that the debate on the euro will stick to the economics of monetary union, BiE will not allow this, although an economic case can be made for the euro. That makes it too risky a strategy to follow.

We do not have to advocate withdrawal. Let us allow the public to come to this conclusion on their own. Simply discussing the negatives of integration will knock Britain in Europe off balance. It will mean that we shall be turning the arguments of supporters of the euro on their head and using the debate on whether the EU is good or bad for Britain, which the federalists began, against the pro-euro lobby. Additionally, pro-Single Currency campaigners will be too busy trying to defend the EU and rebut our arguments rather than get-over their own messages on the euro. There is a maxim in political marketing that when you are defending you are losing. So let us allow them to play into our hands for a change and attack, attack, attack the EU.

Pro-Pound campaigners should not be afraid to discuss the EU's numerous negatives. Surely, the only problem is deciding where to start. Let us look at the evidence.

There is much evidence that suggests a negative campaign will be the winning strategy. The nature of negative messages are that they will 'capitalise,' and, thus, reinforce the country's ingrained Euroscepticism and suspicions of European integration. There is also empirical evidence. According to Birnbaum, "psychologists have noted that voters retain negative messages four or six times as readily as positive ones." In other words, "...attacks make a more lasting impression on voters than positive commercials." Furthermore, post-election research by MORI has concluded that the greatest influence upon voters is, indeed, negative campaigning.

Positive messages will only dilute our more salient negative messages and compromise the campaign. The reasons why this is the case is summed-up by those from within the industry of political communication itself. Lord Bell has stated that,

"We have to understand that in real life most people don't take risks. Often they are making negative decisions, be it about changing jobs or not changing houses because it will cost them. This is not so much disillusion with politics as a realistic outlook on life."

This view is supported by John Sharkey of Saartchi & Saatchi, who was instrumental in the 1987 Conservative campaign, he stated that,

"You have to address voters' fears. You can not persuade voters that they live in a nirvana or that politicians can deliver it. Essentially, you say 'Vote Labour and all hell will break lose.' People can understand this."

From this one can deduce that pro-Pound communications should suggest that 'voting yes in a referendum on the euro will mean that all hell will break lose.'

Therefore, it is clear that negative campaigning to preserve our economic independence is the appropriate strategy to follow. Negativity is of more salience than expressing the positives of retaining the Pound. Furthermore, messages that communicate the EU's negatives are also more likely to spark the national debate as to the true direction of European integration that the Eurosceptic movement desperately needs. The more hard-hitting and controversial the message is the more it can act as a news item in its own right, thus creating, by proxy, further publicity for the concerns of the anti-euro lobby. Furthermore, the journalistic culture and news values of the mass media are such that, because of the demands of audience/circulation figures, newspapers and television, favour both aggressive campaigning and negative messages. Therefore, negative communications = maximum exposure.

So let us end this pandering to the EU and ask the electorate, 'do you want to give control of your country to the corrupt, unaccountable, undemocratic and incompetent Brussels Bureaucracy.'

This is taken from an article by Robert Oulds for Freedom Today