QOTM: Would more knowledge about the EU decrease euroscepticism? by Chris Bauer

When debating the merits of the European Union, there are two points of view: pro-European and anti-European (Eurosceptic). The question is which point of view becomes dominant when there is an increase in education about the EU.

The most important factor when answering this question is to produce non-biased arguments and to present them in a neutral way. With this in mind, the answer will first provide information on the topic published by an unbiased third party. Second, it will be shown that increased knowledge and understanding about the EU dissolves a number of claims made by the leaders of the eurosceptic movement in the UK.

The study “Euroscepticism and education: A longitudinal study of 12 EU member states” published by the University of Amsterdam stated that “existing research has shown that, driven by utilitarian considerations, political cues and questions of collective identity, education and euroscepticism are negatively related.” This means that an increase in knowledge of the EU will decrease euroscepticism. The importance of these academic results is that regardless of personal, political, or professional bias, this statement will remain true from every perspective. Empirical data provided by a peer-reviewed study can not be skewed to show that there is more than one truth.

The idea that an increase in knowledge will decrease Euroscepticism is further supported by the eurosceptic movement itself. The movement has become uniquely prevalent in recent times due to a lack of understanding of the numbers and figures produced by the institutional bodies of the EU. One such misunderstanding is that 75% of UK laws are made in Brussels, a claim made by the leader of UKIP, a Eurosceptic hate group based in the UK. The House of Commons estimates that 86% of UK acts have been put in place by the parliament, 86% of UK regulations have been initiated by the UK parliament, and 47% of all regulations (including EU-initiated regulations) have been made by the UK parliament.

Another claim commonly made by Eurosceptics is that British workers have been hit hard by unlimited cheap labour coming from other European countries. Even though no numbers have been provided to support this claim, is has been proven to be untrue nonetheless. Most importantly, the Office for National Statistics has shown that the employment rate for British citizens has remained at over 70% despite a twofold increase in EU nationals seeking employment in the country. Two additional sources are the 2012 report from the government’s Migration Advisory Committee and report by the National Institute for Economic and Social Research, which outlined that there was “essentially no association between immigration and claimant unemployment overall”.

Considering that an increase in knowledge and education about the EU will increase awareness about such false claims, it will ultimately vastly reduce the number of Eurosceptic arguments. Thus, a direct line can be drawn between more knowledge about the EU and a decrease in euroscepticism. The numbers and studies cited above have all been produced by nonpolitical, unbiased organisations and reflect the true nature of the two perspectives on the topic of the European Union. Without debating the merits of the topic or the people who stand on both sides of the conversation, an increase in knowledge about the EU does in fact decrease euroscepticism.