The Daily Mail is one of the UK’s more euroskeptic newspapers, so it must have been with much delight that they were able to present this map to their readers on September 4th, 2006. For it falls straight into the category of the “what the heck are those loony Eurocrats in Brussels cooking up now” category of stories. The Daily Mail wastes no efforts to underline this angle:

“For centuries the people of Kent have called their county the Garden of England. So they might find it quite a surprise that – according to the European Union at least – they are actually part of France. Along with next-door Sussex, Kent has been rolled in with the Calais area on a map drawn up for Brussels. The counties now belong to the ‘Trans-Manche region’.”

Kent, le jardin de la France? Good heavens! It was the Brits who defeated Napoleon, and not the other way round, wasn’t it? But it gets worse:

“Under the plans from German cartographers, the East of England has also been shoehorned into a new region, which includes (coastal areas of Belgium, Holland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway)”

Yes, you’ve noticed that word jumping out of the text: not European, but German mapmakers. No wonder cartography rhymes with Kartoffelbraten. Sneaky Gerry bastards! Did the British Empire kick your arse twice in the previous century for this? Oh, and nevermind that Norway isn’t even in the EU. The Mail goes on:

“The Western side of Britain has been lumped together with Ireland and the Atlantic coasts of France, Spain and Portugal.”

What happens to the extreme north of Scotland, apperently ‘lumped together’ with Iceland and the northern part of Scandinavia, is of less concern to the Daily Mail.

Naturally, the Conservative Party (or at least its euroskeptic wing) jumped on the story, accusing the EU of plotting to ‘wipe Britain off the map’. Tory local government spokesman Eric Pickles suspected a grand conspiracy: “I fear that there is an agenda to undermine national identities and impose a United States of Europe by stealth. Conservatives will fight these attempts to Balkanise Britain (…) Concervatives believe this is just the unwarranted interference that gives Brussels a bad name.”

I propose that rather it’s the unwarranted implication of anti-British conspiracies behind so many EU measures in papers such as the Daily Mail, which is only too happy to massage the latent continentophobia in the UK, that give Brussels a worse reputation than necessary.

For the real extent of these intranational regions’ powers is buried between two scare-mongering paragraphs: “The new regions have been drawn up for a project called Interreg, which wants to foster cross-border co-operation on issues such as tourism, trade, health and the environment.”

Key words: wants to. As similar regions across the rest of the EU prove, these ‘euregions’ have very little impact and even smaller authority, as they decide only by consensus of locally elected officials on ‘soft’ issues such as tourism. If their existence needs to be questioned, it is because they lack relevance, not because they would be too powerful. See post #85 on this blog for a view of cross-border euregions of Germany.

Sorry for editorialising about the thinly-veiled anti-European subtext in this article rather than just describing the map, but this kind of insinuation muddles the real discussion. The bureaucratic juggernaut that is the European Union is deserving of some harsh criticism – and the British voice in this debate would be a very welcome addition, if only it didn’t sound so shrill.

The original article and the accompanying map can be found here.