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Edinburgh Fringe 2016

Knowing EU

Geoffrey Brown

Genre: Spoken Word

Venue: theSpace@Surgeons Hall


Low Down

An interesting and objective look at some of the controversial “facts” surrounding the EU.


Geoffrey Brown has over 20 years’ experience working as a consultant and contractor deep within the bowels of the EU. And so, earlier this year, to celebrate the Brexit referendum, he decided that it was time the gullible public (i.e. us) found out a few home truths about an organisation that has polarised opinion here in the UK since we signed up to enter the fray back in 1973.

And the resultant one-man show entertained audiences in various parts of the UK in the run up to the big day on June 23 and continues to draw in the crowds, at least judging by this packed auditorium at theSpaceUK’s Surgeon’s Hall.

As befits a man with so much inside knowledge, his delivery is assured and accurate but it’s never heavy handed. There’s a lightness of touch in the way he conveys a bewildering series of facts through an extended question and answer session with his audience. Subjects on which he tests our knowledge include the history of the EU, its principal offices of state, where all that money is spent and how much of the UK’s legislation is driven by Eurocrats rather than our own Parliament.

What is really surprising, though, is the level of audience ignorance. Or, perhaps to be kinder, the level to which the audience has been misled by the polemic headlines that dominate parts of the UK popular press on matters to do with the EU. Using a rather neat “fact star rating” (ranging from a 3 star “unarguable” to a 1 star “treat this with suspicion”), he debunked, in a gentle manner, a number of EU “myths” as time and again, we in the audience come up with the wrong answer.

For example were you aware that the EU’s budget comes to only 1% of the combined GDP of its 28 member countries? Compare that with the average budget of around 40%-50% of GDP enjoyed by each national government within the EU if you will. Or that the EU needs immigrants if it is to maintain its population – fertility rates in most constituent states are some way below the 2.1 per family required to keep the population constant.

This show could easily have died on its feet given the subject involved. That it didn’t was down to Brown’s engaging, energetic presentation and his clever mixing of humour with the stream of enlightening facts he communicated. Brown has a way with words that could probably make a telephone directory sound interesting and he dealt with a topic that has split a nation down the middle in a calm and objective manner that puts the conduct of one or two of the more prominent public figures on both sides of the Brexit debate to shame.

A good hour of informative entertainment that’s well worth listening to.