I have long had a sense that the EU suffers from a double-sided problem. One is that it gets the blame for perceived negative outcomes that are not its fault or that would likely be even worse in its absence. The other is that it frequently does not get credit for positive outcomes that is its due. I lack the resources to test this hypothesis in a systematic and scientific way. But the anecdotal evidence piles up.
A good example that neatly combines both errors comes in the latest of the Guardian’s stimulating The secret life series, in which anonymous authors tell “the inside story of what the world of work is really like”. Today’s piece is by a truck driver and contains many interesting insights into that trade and how it has developed over the years on Europe’s roads. Its sub-title is striking: at the sharp end of what the EU means, I want out. And this is not a case of the sub-editor blowing up or distorting a relatively minor part of the story. The trucker-author really is miffed about the EU. The article concludes with the phrase chosen as sub-title, preceded by “Like almost all of my colleagues I voted leave in the <UK’s EU> referendum.”
Two explanations are offered. Competition from eastern Europe (“English hauliers have had almost all their European work taken from them by eastern European hauliers … The EU, as it applies to truck-driving, has meant flooding the market with cheap foreign labour, which is perceived to have forced down wages and worsened working conditions.”) and people trafficking and related violence in and around Channel ports (“nowhere within 300 miles of the Channel is safe”). [Read more…]