Europe – not interested, but . . .

iStock_000006127667XSmallI keep being told that no one is interested in Europe.

There’s a lot of truth in that. Many people are at best ambivalent about the European Union; the decision-making process of the European Union is confusing, and seems remote from our everyday lives.

But saying people aren’t interested in “Europe” as such, does not mean that people aren’t interested in issues where “Europe” has a role to play.

Because if no one is interested, why did I get hundreds of emails from constituents asking me to support their position in the vote a couple of weeks ago on reform of the common agricultural policy?

And if no one is interested in Europe, how did Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s campaign to stop the shameful discarding of fish have so much success and why did so many constituents take up the campaign, and contact MEPs about it?

And if no one is interested in Europe, why have I as a Member of the European Parliament, received numerous emails and letters from people across the East Midlands on issues as diverse as MOT tests, shark fins, e-cigarettes, bees, Gaza and the transportation of horses, to mention just a few.

Since the start of the year, I’ve already had over 2000 constituents contact me about such issues. Many have been asking me to support a particular position on new legislation, but there are also the individual cases, ranging from a local organisation in dispute with the European Commission, to an individual querying inheritance tax rules in Spain, to a firm from the region asking for clarification about toy safety rules.

Even the media – not renowned for taking Europe very seriously – were beating a path to my door when the horsemeat scandal was at its height – because it was clear that, as the affected meat had travelled around various EU countries before reaching the UK, and sixteen different EU countries are now affected, making sure this never happens again is something that can only be done at European level.

The truth is that, while people are largely indifferent to institutions and processes involved, they are concerned about issues. Only a handful of people are interested in the EU itself – but many more are interested in those areas where decisions are being made at European level.

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