Even so soon after we joined the EU, such antagonism, fuelled by newspapers that were hostile from the start, fed an audience – including both left- and rightwing leaders – with stories of wasteful butter mountains and wine lakes, and threats to the British banger. There was no end to such stories. Sarah Helm, then the Independent’s EU correspondent, has described how in the mid-1990s, she was tasked with looking for the kind of stories written by Boris Johnson, then the Telegraph’s Brussels correspondent. “At that time learning about Euro-myths – smaller condoms, square strawberries, fishermen forced to wear hairnets – took up more time than explaining treaty changes,” she wrote.
Helm recalled that many attributed the Danish rejection in a referendum of the Maastricht treaty to a story by Johnson in 1992 – “the biggest whopper of all”, a claim that the then commission president Jacques Delors planned “to rule Europe”. (The Danes accepted it in a second referendum a year later after they secured four opt-outs).
Update (2017): Of course, a better name for euro-myths is false news.