Friday 27 October
This time last week Leave.EU reported on the somewhat dubiously positive tone set by EU leaders at October European Council summit where the Prime Minister, to the surprise of no-one, was told EU trade negotiations would not go ahead, but “preparations” would.
By the time we’d reached Monday, the shape of things had returned to their familiar form thanks to yet another series of scornful leaks from a dinner between Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker. The only person suspected of divulging the details to German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung is Juncker’s chief of staff Martin Selmayr (read Leave.EU’s profile of the notorious Brexit saboteur here.)
Come the end of the working week, the Somme-like landscape portrayed by the media remains unchanged: Brexit is bad, it can be reversed, Britain is going to be a basket case (see our economy roundup for facts to the contrary.)
People are fed up with the doom and gloom. As Jacob-Rees Mogg put it on Question Time last night:
“How many times have we heard, ‘in spite of Brexit’… ‘in spite of Brexit a record three million jobs have been created since 2010, in spite of Brexit unemployment is at its lowest level since 1975, in spite of Brexit England defeated the West Indies at Lords’”.
Needless to say, Rees-Mogg received thoroughly deserved cheers of approval. On his LBC show, Nigel Farage joined the throng: “I’m getting tired and bored of this constant negativity we’re getting from the global elite”, he told listeners.
Indeed, the main takeaway from a largely uneventful week is not the what, but the how. The news services, principally the BBC, are failing in their main duty: delivering the news impartially. We also learned this week that our universities are similarly neglectful.
On Tuesday night, the BBC’s Newsnight hit out at Leave.EU chairman Arron Banks with a “report” that in no-way propelled the news agenda nor inform the public of matters of vital interest.
Presenter Evan Davis read out a statement from Banks: “BBC Fake News is alive and well”.
But generally speaking, the BBC’s modus operandi is far more subtle than dragging up inconsequential information about a political donor and packaging it into a ham-fisted hatchet job.
But it is not just the BBC. Today, the press made huge play of Boris Johnson’s guarantee to an audience in Poland that the residency rights of compatriots will be retained “whatever happens”. A deviation from the party line, yes, but there is absolutely zero prospect of the EU not meeting the UK on this issue. EU migrants in the UK outnumber their British counterparts on the continent and Ireland three to one.
Perhaps the media should pay more attention to honing their craft. Johnson’s speech took place on 18 October, the Guardian uncovered the story only yesterday.
David Davis found himself in similarly hot water to Johnson, which by any normal indicator would have been determined lukewarm, after putting a small question mark over a Parliamentary vote on the Brexit deal before March 2019. He was then forced to correct his comments.
Under the spotlight for similar malpractice were our universities. It was revealed Tory whip Chris Heaton-Harris has been sending out a letter to universities asking them to share course material regarding Brexit. The reaction amongst Brexiteers was divided. Some decried McCarthyite practices, while others praised Heaton-Harris for addressing the endemic bias and brainwashing on campuses across the country.
The Daily Mail followed up with an in-depth look at Brexitscepticism at some of our best-known academic institutions.
“A professor got quite aggressive towards us when we were running a street stall in the run-up to the vote. He said we were ‘doing the same thing the Nazis did’”, said one student who manned a Leave stand at Durham University. Check out this shocking tweet by MP Paul Scully.
The Bow Group conducted a snap survey of over 400 students. An alarming 81% of respondents said they do not believe Brexit is taught in an impartial manner, of which 97% found the teaching negative towards Brexit. 85% supported Heaton-Harris’s letter, believing the public has a right to know what content is being taught and the level of bias it is being tainted with.
Aside from the worrying attitudes of the academic community, it is encouraging to see so many student caring so much about the future of their country. Indeed, we can all be optimistic about public attitudes towards Brexit coming into alignment – in spite of media-led suggestions to the contrary. A YouGov poll released today found that just 12% of voters want Brexit abandoned and only 10% prefer a soft Brexit.
Onto the nitty-gritty. Our courageous fishing communities suffered a setback this week when environment minister George Eustace confirmed long-held fears of campaign group Fishing For Leave that the EU withdrawal bill would include all of the European Union’s harmful fishing regulations.
Eustace told the House of Commons that Britain would eventually rid itself of the hated Common Fisheries Policy, but not until after the transition period ends, whenever that will be.
“The government can spin that ‘legally we will have taken back control’ but it’s just pathetic that what they will do with this control is carry on as is with adopted EU policy”, complained FFL.
The destiny of fisheries carries high political salience and visibility in France and Spain (which has its own veto over the eventual Brexit agreement.) The fear is the Government will cash in this leverage for greater single market access, betraying our historic fishing tradition in the process.
Come March 2019, perhaps there will be no Spain to negotiate with. In a stunning series of events across the country’s two great cities lawmakers in the Catalan Parliament declared independence shortly before the national Senate in Madrid voted to invoke Article 155 of the constitution. Catalonia will now be administrated directly from the Spanish capital.
Where this leaves the powerful independence movement in the North East of the peninsula is difficult to say. The Catalan vote carries no legal weight, it is barely even symbolic after opposition MPs who wish to remain part of Spain boycotted it.
Nevertheless, the movement towards independence will have gained fresh momentum. How many thresholds will they need to pass before successfully breaking away? Such an outcome would have cataclysmic consequences for a country already fragmented by other semi-autonomous regions such as the Basque Country, which would distract Brussels to say the least (visit Westmonster for the full story.)