Brexit continues to be a buzzword in politics. It is the biggest constitutional decisions the UK has seen in decades. Ironically the frenzy around Brexit has led to an increased amount of EU coverage in the British media, however this new surge in EU coverage shares the same focus; Britain. The EU is now portrayed in all mainstream media as an organisation obsessed with Brexit.
If one were to take a gander through any news website’s ‘EU’ tag they would struggle to find a post where Brexit isn’t mentioned. This media consensus that overshadows all EU news has resulted in numerous misconceptions and an absence of knowledge about the EU within the British population. According to research conducted by Ipsos, 15% of people believe at least one myth about certain EU laws such as believing the EU has a law strictly prohibiting the sale of bendy bananas. The same research also showed that 18% of people don’t know that MEPs are elected and that on average people overestimate the amount of money the EU spends on admin.
Lack of basic knowledge about the EU exists across class, race, age, and gender and it is a problem that needs to be settled now even if it is a little bit late.
The EU is comprised of 4 main bodies with numerous other smaller organisations that are based across the entire union. The European Parliament is where MEPs sit. This is one of the two legislative bodies of the EU. The Parliament vote on policies and whilst the MEPs are elected as members of their national parties they form voting blocs within the parliament that transcend national identity. Where the Parliament represents the citizens of the EU, The Council of Europe is concerned with representing the member states. It is also a legislative body but unlike the Parliament, the specific people who sit in it depends on the policy on the table. The secretary of state for the policy area being discussed from each member state is present in the Council.
As if in an attempt to make itself seem more complicated, the third key institution of the EU is the European Council. The European council is one of two executive branches of the EU. It is comprised of the Head of Government from each member state. The key roles of the European Council are to set the policy agenda of the EU and appoint key officials like the President of both the European Council and the European commission.
The European Commission is, along with the Parliament, probably the most well-known EU institution. The European Commission is essentially the Cabinet of the EU. The commissioners are appointed at the discretion of the heads of the member states. The role of the Commission is to set aside national interests and work for the interests of the Union as a whole.
These 4 institutions conduct an impressively large amount of work every year with Brexit being a very minimal part of that. In fact, in the EU 2017 General Review only one of the 12 sections even mentioned the UK and its withdrawal from the Union. The majority of the review discussed the extensive work the EU had done that year. This work included reducing unemployment in the EU to 8.7% which is the lowest it has been since 2009.; fining Google 2 billion euros for ‘abusing market dominance’; launching the European Monetary fund and the Clean Air for All Europeans package. The current Junker commission’s main foci are a digital single market and establishing a trade deal with the US.
The overstatement of the EU’s focus on Brexit is further demonstrated by the fact that the UK is the most out voted member state in the EU and has been gradually distancing itself from the Union prior to the vote to leave the EU. This made the UK less integral to the functioning on the EU allowing the separation of EU proceedings and useful functions of the EU.
Although, the EU’s main focus isn’t Brexit and media coverage of the EU should not be focused around it, it is understandable why this is happening. Since joining the EU in 1975, the relationship between the EU and UK has become symbiotic. The UK relies on the EU for access to a single market and vast wealth of labourers and the EU becomes heavily reliant on their exports to the UK and the job opportunities it hosts for European citizens specifically those from Eastern Europe.
Brexit is undeniably important especially to those who consume British media however it is necessary to remember that the EU exists outside of Brexit. Whether you believe we should leave or remain it is our civic duty to educate ourselves about what is truly going on in the European Union.