Nine things that Toby Young got wrong

We  are grateful for Toby Young’s attention to “The Great European Disaster Movie”:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/11445299/The-Great-European-Disaster-Movie-10-things-it-got-wrong.html

We just wish, for the sake of Telegraph readers, that he had paid greater attention both to what the film actually says, and to the truth. All of his “Nine things The Great European Disaster Movie got wrong” are themselves wrong.

1. Winston Churchill believed Britain’s place was inside a United States of Europe.

The film never said that he did. It included an audio clip of his 1946 speech in Zurich, which was a speech about Europe, calling for it to unite. The film was not about Churchill, and there was no reason to include the fact that he (along with most of the British establishment) did not imagine Britain would then be part of a United States of Europe.

2. The EU has singlehandedly kept the peace in Europe for 70 years

Again, the film never said that it did. To do so would be rather stupid, given the existence of NATO and the division of Europe during the Cold War. And since the film contained a large section about the Balkan war, which Young appears not to have noticed, it can hardly be accused of claiming that the EU had averted all wars.

3. Immigration is an unqualified good.

Again, the film never made this claim. It included sections showing people’s concerns about immigration, both in Britain and in Sweden, and it included people making the case in favour of immigration. To point out the benefits of immigration is in any case not the same as saying that it is an unqualified good.

4. The European project was responsible for the economic resurgence of Europe after the second world war.

This is a particularly mysterious claim. He says that the Marshall Plan is missing. But it is in fact in the film, with archive footage of an American official speaking rather good German, and Bill Emmott further makes the case for a new Marshall Plan now. But this claim by Young provides us with a clue. It suggests he hasn’t really watched the film.

5. If Britain leaves the EU, it will no longer be allowed to trade with the 27 remaining member states.

Not even Peter Mandelson said this. Who would be so stupid as to claim that? A rather more intelligent claim would be that in advance of the negotiation, and in advance of the actual political circumstances of a Brexit, no one can know what terms Britain would achieve, not even the sage Toby Young. Norway is indeed one model, which involves continued adherence to free movement of people, continued contributions to the EU budget, and, yes, access to the EU’s single market.

6. The UK will be torn asunder if Britain votes to leave the EU.

Again, not a claim actually made. The inclusion of Nigel Farage as a future prime minister, like that of Marine Le Pen of the Front National as a French president was part of a fictional imagining of a dystopian future, clearly portrayed as such. However, anyone who thinks that the Scots would want to stay in a UK led by Farage has probably been smoking something illegal.

7. Russia’s territorial ambitions in Ukraine show how vital the EU is to Europe’s security.

They do indeed, as EU governments, including David Cameron, have acknowledged. But Young’s claim that when Bill Emmott said that “Europe is sleepwalking towards disaster, just as it did 100 years ago” he was “referring to the current conflict in Ukraine” is bizarre. He wasn’t. To any sentient viewer, he was in fact referring to the growing nationalism and disintegration inside the EU and to the failure to address the economic crisis or popular anger. Mind you, Young’s claim that the EU wanted to incorporate Ukraine as a new member state is itself extraordinary: a total invention.

8. The EU remains Europe’s best hope of fulfilling the dream of universal social justice for all.

Quite apart from Young’s misspelling of Spain’s Podemos party as Podemis, no one in the film ever claimed that countries should finance each other’s welfare states. It simply portrayed the EU as a framework for the prosperity required to finance welfare states, pointed out the huge problem of tax evasion (which is a national-level issue in all countries, including Britain) and correctly identified the divisions that exist within the euro.

9. The EU’s democratic deficit can be solved by spending more money on pro-EU propaganda.

Peter Mandelson did not say in the film what Young attributes to him. Is Young, nevertheless, opposed to greater transparency and information, and to improving the connection between publics and political institutions at all levels? Well, to reject democracy and freedom of information is a legitimate point of view, even if it is not one most people share. And which electorates of member states have voted to secede from the EU and then been ignored? Answer: None. If Britain votes to secede in 2017 or at any time, its EU partners will do nothing to stop it. They may not wave a fond goodbye, but then people rarely do when they have just been kicked in the teeth by their allies.

The authors are, respectively, director and writer of The Great European Disaster Movie, and the film’s executive producer

 


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