Review: The EU in a Nutshell, by Lee Rotherham

Lee Rotherham's "The EU in a Nutshell" is timely and essential, writes Donna Rachel Edmunds

The EU...inside it to believe it
Donna Rachel Edmunds
On 14 June 2012 10:10

Did you know that:

-          There are 70 words in the Lord’s Prayer,

-          There are 271 words in the Gettysburg Address

-          There are 313 words in the Ten Commandments

-          De Gaulle’s celebrated radio-broadcast call to arms contained 362

-          Commission Regulation (EC) No 1284/2002, laying down the marketing size for hazelnuts in shells, runs to 2,509…

Recently I dropped by the offices of The Taxpayers’ Alliance, and, whilst I was there, was handed their newest book, The EU in a Nutshell by Lee Rotherham. It runs to 488 pages so is quite a weighty hardback.

It seems to be a general rule that impenetrable subject matters must be met by author with equally impenetrable prose, and as there is no more impenetrable subject than the EU, I wasn’t holding out much hope. Books like this generally remind me of my experience of reading The Lord of the Rings – you know it’s worthwhile, but that doesn’t dispel the sensation of wading through treacle.

So imagine my surprise and delight when, on the train home, I took a deep breath, opened the pages and found almost no prose whatsoever.  As the executive summary states “The EU in a Nutshell is a book you can dip into, or crack open, now and again, or you can peruse and ponder from cover to cover if you prefer. It combines an array of peculiar statistics and data. These wander the pages, beating up occasional historical facts before forming small mobs to run off into the nearest embassy and burst into ad hoc song-and-dance routines.” 

The book is presented in the same style as a miscellany, breaking down the huge complexity of the EU into manageable bite-sized chunks. Thus we learn that the basic principle for determining whether a country gets a good deal from EU membership is a=b/c where a is the level of advantage or disadvantage, b is the benefits gained and c is the costs.

‘Well, duh’, you might think. But next time you turn on BBC or Sky News and watch their coverage of events in Europe, ask yourself whether the editorial team have ever thought about the European question in those terms. This book isn’t great, and timely, and essential because it presents a difficult subject in a light hearted, easily digestible manner (although that helps). It’s great, and timely and essential because so much ‘information’ that we receive on the EU and European issues is overcomplicated, misleading drivel, propagated by people who mistake pro-European ideological propaganda for fact. And it always was. 

Let’s have more books like this, please, and let’s make them essential reading in Gove’s sparkling new curriculum. 

The EU in a Nutshell, by Lee Rotherham is published by Harriman House Publishing at £12.99

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