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KUENSSBERG’S BBC2 BREXIT PROGRAMME PROJECTS LEAVING EU AS NIGHTMARE OF COMPLEXITY

KUENSSBERG’S BBC2 BREXIT PROGRAMME PROJECTS LEAVING EU AS NIGHTMARE OF COMPLEXITY

Britain’s Biggest Deal, BBC2’s programme about the triggering of the Brexit process, had a prime time slot, and was presented by the Corporation’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg. It was thus a shop-window effort.

Impartial, in line with the BBC’s Charter requirements? No. It was a no-holds-barred attempt to show how literally nightmarish the exit process will be.

Since June 24, as News-watch’s report on the Brexit Collection showed, the Corporation has been on a flat-out mission to show how stupid the British people were in voting ‘out’.

With Article 50 due to be triggered this week, Britain’s Biggest Deal can be seen as a culmination and a summation of those efforts. It ominously presages that for the next two years, as the negotiations unfold, the Corporation – led by Kuenssberg – will be cheering on every effort to undermine them.

Element one was a gross imbalance of speakers who wanted to rake up every conceivable obstacle to the the UK departure. Kuenssberg assembled a diverse and impressive cast-list: Tony Blair bellyaching about how important high volume immigration is to the UK economy; Sadiq Khan warning about the dire consequences of leaving the single market; Remainer William (now Lord) Hague intoning that this was the most complex diplomatic task ever undertaken; a West Country baker fearing major negative impact on his business; EU figures warning of dire consequences, of hard choices, and UK civil servants echoing the same.

Basic programme statistics confirm this gross structural bias. Fifteen of the programme contributors were Remainers, were pro-EU or thought that leaving could not be achieved in the allotted two years. Pitched against them were only five guests who believed otherwise.

In other words, 3:1 in favour of the Remain camp. And no-one from Ukip. Slowly but surely, the party is being air-brushed out.

Remainers spoke 3,700 words; those who were in favour of Brexit only 2,300. That’s a 3:2 imbalance.

Far more important in the equation, however, were the 3,000 or so words spoken by Kuenssberg, her handling of the programme guests, and her decisions on the programme structure.

‘Double, double toil and trouble’ …. springs to mind, and (for once) is here perhaps totally appropriate.  No eye of newt and toe of frog in the programme brew, maybe, but a modern-day equivalent: first of all, the Tory Remainer from hell, Anna Soubry; then Blair, Sturgeon and Farron in full anti-Brexit cry, along with EU Harpies such as Karel de Grucht and Donald Tusk – and finally, an EU law ‘expert’ from Clifford Chance, one of the few legal practices to come out overtly (and aggressively) in favour of Remain (referred to here by Open Europe – link to pay-walled FT article).

Their combined oracle-reading was spine-chilling indeed.

Striking, too, throughout was Kuenssberg’s use of language to describe the Brexit process. It was, she posited at the outset, ‘a diplomatic mission from hell, a nightmare’, with political danger ‘all around from Westminster to Scotland’ (on high Dunsinane Hill?).

Then, as the programme unfolded, there was what amounted to a a torrent of negative observations and questions: were we, she pondered, ‘hurtling along a collision course?’; there was ‘a lot more to worry about than herring or cod’; ‘divorce was messy, breaking up is hard to do’; ‘could the whole deal be derailed before it’s even begun?’; and of course:

‘But as everyone knows, divorce isn’t only about cold, hard cash. Even if the money is settled, the deal means disentangling ourselves from the hidden ways that we are bound together.’

Followed soon afterwards by:

‘The lights in Whitehall are burning later than usual, with two new departments to cope. Government lawyers are right now trawling thousands of pieces of legislation to work out what’s next. Enough to make even the most brilliant minds boggle.’

And that was only in the first five minutes.

Also true, it must be acknowledged, is that Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, David Davis and Iain Duncan Smith were included in the programme mix, and between them made some strong points about positive outcomes.

But here, too, as Craig Byers notes in his blog on the programme, another type of bias was on display: Kuenssberg posed much tougher and adversarial questions to them than to the Remain contributors.  She suggested, for example, to Lord Hague that this was a diplomatic nightmare. His answer simply and obligingly confirmed it.

In sharp contrast, Brexit minister David Davis was dealing with that ‘nightmare’ and there was hard-edged steeliness from Kuenssberg about looming ‘cliff-edges’.

Perhaps the most blatantly biased aspect of the whole farrago was the sight of Kuenssberg brandishing to shoppers a giant cheque for £50 billion, which, she repeatedly posited, could be the cost of Brexit. Rather predictably, they were horrified at the idea, and said so.

The programme can be viewed here. The full transcript is below:

 

Transcript of BBC2, Brexit: Britain’s Biggest Deal, 9 March 2016, 9pm

LAURA KUENSSBERG:        Theresa May is about to press the button on Brexit and head off on a mission.

THERESA MAY:    The United Kingdom is leaving the European Union. And my job is to get the right deal for Britain as we do.

WILLIAM HAGUE: I can’t think of a more complex negotiation in modern diplomatic history.

LK:          Outnumbered, facing 27 different countries across the negotiating table.

KAREL DE GUCHT Don’t believe that this is not going to hurt you, it will hurt you. And that’s why it is such a stupid decision to take.

LK:          For Brexiteers, the dream is a quickie divorce.

BORIS JOHNSON: I am genuinely optimistic, I really am. I think we should aim to put a bit of a tiger in the tank.

LK:          But there is political danger all around. From Westminster.

ANNA SOUBRY If she doesn’t deliver what they want, they will stab her in the back just as they did with Major and, in effect, with DC – with Cameron.

LK:          To Scotland.

NICOLA STURGEON:           I’ve, you know, been very clear. I think a second independent referendum is highly likely.

LK:          The truth – no one knows where this will end up.

TONY BLAIR:        My anxiety is that the gain is very small and the pain is going to be very large

MICHAEL GOVE:  I think we should be confident, optimistic, pragmatic, open-minded.

LK:          It sounds like a diplomatic mission from hell, a nightmare.

WH:       I think it is. But it’s one the people have voted for, so it has to be carried out.

LK:          When the Prime Minister packs her bags for Brussels, how hard is it going to be?  Is she ready?  Is the country ready to do the deal? (Programme Title, ‘Brexit: Britain’s Biggest Deal)

UNNAMED ARCHITECT:     I had a secret wish to make a joyful building. To make a building that would relax people coming in and, you know, this is a very limited but still a power in architecture is to influence the mood of people.

LK:          Welcome to the brand-new HQ of the European Council, where Brussels’s power lies. This is where the Brexit talks will take place.

UNNAMED ARCHITECT:     I hope that it will help people respect each other and joyful meetings. I want to give them a homely space, a space where their deep talents can be expressed, like poets.

LK:          But Brexit might mean more stern words than poetry.

ARCHIVE FILM:     This has got to be clear, I’m leaving you for good and all.

ARCHIVE FILM:     Council, if you’ll prepare a judgement of divorce in this matter.

ARCHIVE FILM:     And you’ve got to divorce me.

LK:          But divorce is messy, breaking up is hard to do. Britain wants out of the EU, but we’ve been in for more than 40 years, with our countries, our systems becoming more and more tangled up with each other, more and more enmeshed. And we only have two years to hammer out a divorce deal. British ministers are also all too aware that with a series of elections right around the continent, it could be months before they get down to any serious talking. So straightaway the clock is ticking.

WILLIAM HAGUE: This is the most complex divorce ever, in history. The number of assets and income streams and expenditures that have to be separated from each other, and I think people don’t always realise that, erm, that we have become, over more than 40 years, very integrated into the European Union, so no-one should underestimate the complexity of this task.

SIR SIMON FRASER Permanent Secretary, Foreign Office, 2010-15:         There’s no real precedent for this other than Greenland. Now, Greenland is part of Denmark, which has about 60,000 people, and decided to leave the European Union and, actually, the main industry in Greenland is fish. And it took three years, actually, for the negotiations to be completed. Now, in the case of the UK you’re talking about the second-biggest economy in Europe, with 60 million people. So it is significantly a bigger challenge.

LK:          And we’ve got a lot more to worry about than herring and cod.

SF:          We’ve got a lot more than fish to deal with.

RADOSLAW SIKORSKI Polish Foreign Minister 2007-14:             It’s going to be the mother of all divorces. Some people will do well – lawyers and accountants.

LK:          The bean-counters could have a field day. Because the EU’s likely to make us pay – money, a lot of money is on the table. One of the first things the EU might well do is slap down a bill of as much as £50 billion for Britain to pay in order just to get out. That potentially massive bill is for Britain’s share of existing EU spending commitments like the pensions of EU officials. And if we don’t pay, the other countries will have to stump up.

WH:       There are some liabilities there. It will be very hard to settle what they are and of course whenever you get into money, as in any negotiation in life, that is one of the most vexing and controversial things. Given the sensitivity in the UK to being, for many years, the second-biggest contributor into the EU budget and then the anger that was felt by people about that in the referendum campaign, any such question will be extremely sensitive.

LK:          But hang on – remember this?

BJ:          We can take back control of £350 million a week!

LK:          Wasn’t the campaign based on getting money back from Brussels? What would we all make  of an exit bill? (Carrying large cheque) So we have a cheque here for £50 billion to the European Union that UK taxpayers might have to pay to the rest of the EU to get out.

VOX POP FEMALE:             We’ve been lied to.

LK:          Is that how you feel?

VPF:       Yeah, I don’t think anybody was explained to enough what was actually going to happen.

VOX POP MALE:   I can’t believe it. We would have heard about that before, surely?

VOX POP FEMALE:             Cheap at the price to get out of Brexit, yes. (sic)

VOX POP MALE 2:              Who are we going to pay the money to?

LK:          The European Commission in Brussels potentially.

VPM2:    Exactly, well sod ‘em.

LK:          Sod ‘em?

VPM2:    Yes, and Gomorrah.

LK:          (laughs)

VPF:       We should never, ever have given us a referendum (sic) None of us are educated enough to vote on something so serious.

VOX POP MALE 3:              You just need to be tough, the same as any business deal.

VPM:      I voted Out, so it’s all my fault, I apologise.

LK:          (laughs) (cuts to interview with Michael Gove) You were the chair of the Vote Leave campaign, you gave people a sense of expectation we were going to get money back. Now, won’t it be rather embarrassing for you if instead we end up being asked to shell out to get out of the thing?

MG:       We will get money back. Erm, there’s alway the chance, always the, er, potential that we’ll pay a one-off leaving fee. But that one-off fee having been paid, what will happen is that for years to come, money that we would have given the European Union we’ll now be able to spend ourselves.

LK:          But if we have to pay a one-off fee of some billions, won’t some voters who were persuaded by your arguments have every right to feel pretty cross with you?

MG:       Well, I think that we won’t be paying the enormous sums that have been talked of, in fact, in my view, we should actually be due a rebate. But we will see what happens in those negotiations.

LK:          What does the British government say if Michel Barnier, the lead negotiator, slaps down a bill for £50 billion?

BORIS JOHNSON: I think, er, I think we have, er…illustrious precedent in this matter. You will doubtless recall the 1984 Fontainebleau summit in which Mrs Thatcher said she wanted her money back, and I think that is exactly what we will, we will get. It is not reasonable . . .

LK:          (speaking over) That we will say no, that is what you’re saying?

BJ:          It is not reasonable, I don’t think, for the UK, having left the EU, to continue to make vast budget payments. I think everybody understands that and that’s the reality.

KAREL DE GUCHT EU Trade Commissioner 2010-14:    I can’t see at this moment in time the constructive approach on either side, how do we make the best of this, you know? This is very much now a fight.

LK:          Are we hurtling along on a collision course?  If the EU tries to insist the cash is agreed upfront, cut the whole deal be derailed before it’s even begun?

KDG:      I believe it will be a very tough negotiation and it could very well be that after a couple of weeks, everything breaks down because there is no agreement on the principal itself of a cheque to be paid here.

ANNA SOUBRY MP Conservative:    I think the EU will indeed deliver that bill and I’ll tell what I think will happen, is in that event, part of the media will whip up even more a storm of anti-EU feeling and so even more people will come to the conclusion that the sooner we are rid of this ghastly bunch of people the better. And that will drive the cliff-edge scenario. Because “they’re unreasonable, you can’t do business with them,” it’ll be whipped up and you can’t get a deal and the sooner we’re out the better.

LK:          But as everyone knows, divorce isn’t only about cold, hard cash.  Even if the money is settled, the deal means disentangling ourselves from the hidden ways that we are bound together.

JESSICA GLADSTONE Lawyer, Clifford Chance:             The EU and the UK have been intertwined for more than 40 years and that will take a lot of unravelling. If you like, you could picture it as a huge Jenga tower, and the task here is to remove or replace the elements that connect us to the EU without having the whole fall apart. It’s going to require, erm, a lot of concentration, a lot of skill, and it’s going to need a real appreciation of how the two interconnect.

LK:          Since 1973, much in our daily lives has been governed by EU law.  The quality of the water that we drink . . . the farms where our food is grown. And what happens to the law. All the rules and regulation. It all has to be worked out in a two-year deadline.

JG:          One good example is the European Medicines Agency, which supervises the safety standards for all medicines that are available in the EU.

ARCHIVE FOOTAGE OF DOCTOR:     I’m going to give you something new that we use with good results. You’ll be alright in a few days.

JG:          Once the UK has left the EU, there’ll need to be something in place of that, make sure that the products available in the UK meet requisite standards.

WH:       Even the way we do our air traffic control is now on an EU basis, you have to separate that out so that you know when aircraft can land, where people can fish, how farm subsidies are paid, and you could imagine talking for months about each of them.

LK:          It sounds like a diplomatic mission from hell, a nightmare?

WH:       I think it is. Erm, but it’s one that the people have voted for, so it has to be carried out.

LK:          Our skies right now are governed by the EU, with a myriad of European legislation. It’s in both sides’ interests to sort it out, but it will take a lot of officials a lot of time.

JG:          It’s the sheer scale that will be so difficult to manage, because there may be some tasks that in themselves are not particularly difficult, but when you add it to the huge to-do list that the government will have, to make sure that Brexit runs smoothly, then it becomes in itself a real challenge.

LK:          The lights in Whitehall are burning later than usual, with two new departments to cope. Government lawyers are right now trawling thousands of pieces of legislation to work out what’s next. Enough to make even the most brilliant minds boggle.

PROFESSOR STEPHEN HAWKING:    I deal with tough mathematical questions every day, but please don’t ask me to help with Brexit.  (laughter and cheering)

LK:          Remember, Theresa May doesn’t just have to sort out the money and, well, the whole legal system. But the hardest thing of all is how do we do business with Europe in the future?  And for months she dodged the question.

THERESA MAY:    Brexit means Brexit, and we’re going to make a success of it.  (in another clip)People talk about the sort of Brexit that there is going to be – is it hard, soft, is it grey, white – actually, we want a red, white and blue Brexit. That is the right Brexit for the United Kingdom.

JOURNALIST:        Are we going to get a detailed plan, Prime Minister?

LK:          Finally, in January, she laid out her vision of what the referendum result really meant, and what kind of deal that would entail.

TM:        The United Kingdom is leaving the European Union and my job is to get the right deal for Britain as we do. But the message from the public before and during the referendum campaign was clear – Brexit must mean control of the number of people who come to Britain from Europe, and that is what we will deliver.

LK:          Gaining control over our borders and our laws meant losing something else.

TM:        We want to buy your goods and services, sell you ours, trade with you as freely as possible, but I want to be clear, what I am proposing cannot mean membership of the Single Market.

LK:          In one phrase undoing nearly three decades of British history. Since 1992, we’re done business in Europe largely without tariffs or barriers in the Single Market. Remember who used to think it was a good idea.

MARGARET THATCHER:    The combination of a Single Market in 1992 and the Channel Tunnel in 1993 is going to make a historic difference to the future of the whole of Europe and its place in the world and our place in Europe.

LK:          For many big British businesses the Single Market has been hugely beneficial. (in interview)We are walking away from the biggest trade partnership that exists. Will you admit there will be losers as well as winners? We cannot get a deal that is going to be as good as our current relationships inside the Single Market.

BJ:          Well, with great respect, I think it’ll be considerably better. I don’t want to pretend that there won’t be difficult questions, because there will be challenges. By the way, I don’t want to pretend that this country doesn’t have economic challenges, of course we have challenges, but we can meet all those challenges, and I think the government is setting out a very positive programme for doing so. And we can do a great free trade deal with our partners.

LK:          So what would a free trade deal with the EU look like?

JG:          If you have a look at a free trade agreement – although I wouldn’t necessarily wish it on anybody – you’ll see at the back of the agreement there are schedules, and the schedules have, in minute detail, every different sort of product in every different form that that product might come in. And there is detail as to what tariff will apply in that case, and it’s line by line for literally hundreds, thousands of pages.

LK:          So Theresa May has set herself a huge task. Any new trade deal will require the agreement of 27 other nations and to be approved by 38 different national and regional parliaments.  But Britain is isolated. In Brussels it didn’t start well.

DONALD TUSK (unnamed) The brutal truth is that Brexit will be a loss for all of us. There will be no cakes on the table for anyone, there will be only salt and vinegar.

UNNAMED FRENCH SPEAKER:         Today, Britain wants to leave but does not want to pay anything.  That is not possible.

KDG:      The mood is a little bit like you’re having a divorce, you know? They feel betrayed, this is not proper, you know – that’s the mood in Brussels at this moment in time. And nobody’s showing any flexibility.

LK:          (referring to Theresa May) She knows Europe’s leaders feel the survival of their union is at stake. They fear a good deal for us would tempt this to leave.

RS:         Well, I hope the continental negotiations EU-27 will do everything in their power to make it a friendly process – although it’s going to be very difficult. But I think those who imagine that Britain will be able to dictate to the rest of the European Union will be disappointed and they might find it humiliating.

LK:          The strategy in Brussels is clear: for every single one of the 27 EU member states, apart from Britain, to stick together along with the European Council and the European Commission. But Britain knows they all have some different interests and some different agendas, so the British strategy: pick them off. Divide and conquer. And that means working not just with national governments, but powerful groups inside their countries too, and using them to apply pressure for a deal. Our fancy tastes might help. We drink more prosecco from Italy, and more champagne from France than anyone else. Surely the EU won’t want tariffs on those?  Even more importantly, Britain is the biggest export market for Germany’s mighty car industry.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH:        The UK needs to identify very quickly every single nation’s real stake in this game and the number one thing that politicians react to is jobs? What happens when that million car workers in Bavaria, whose jobs rely on British exports, that’s one million people who are in work because they sell a large number of cars to the UK, what happens when they start saying, “Hang on a second, are you saying that my job will go because you will refuse to have an arrangement with the United Kingdom because you think, for political purposes, that’s best?” We should be talking and will be talking to the very people that make things and get people jobs and they pay their taxes because that’s where politics really sits.

LK:          And there’s the City of London.

ARCHIVE NEWSREEL:         Britain has one of the most highly developed banking and financial systems in the world.

LK:          The UK will also try to persuade Europe it’s in everyone’s interests to give London’s massive financial services industry a special status in any deal.

SADIQ KHAN Mayor of London:        I’m quite clear, I’m pragmatic, I’m trying to work with the Government to ensure when it comes to them doing a deal with the European Union, it doesn’t make us poorer. That means, for example, recognising the importance of privileged access to a single market. That means recognising the importance of our ability to attract talent. I think the reality of a so-called hard Brexit is we would lose, so would the EU, because the jobs that would leave London wouldn’t go to Paris, Madrid, Brussels, Frankfurt. They’d go to Singapore, Hong Kong or New York. A so-called hard Brexit means we lose as a city, our country loses, but so does Europe.

MG:       It’s certainly the case that if the current negotiators on behalf of the European Union try to penalise the City of London, they would actually be penalising themselves because the depth and breadth of the capital market that is the City of London helps sustain European industry.

LK:          So, we should ignore sabre-rattling from European capitals at the moment, should we?

MG:       I think we should be confident, optimistic, pragmatic, open-minded.

LK:          Aren’t you gambling that the European Union will put economics ahead of politics? I mean, when has the European Union ever put economics ahead of politics.

BJ:          Well, I mean, I think, the answer to that is that I think the EU leaders will be very responsive to their electorates and to their business communities, who can see the advantage of striking a deal with the UK, where you have a strong EU supported by a strong independent UK, but where you maximise trade between them.

MARIO MONTI Italian Prime Minister, 2011-13  I know there is the view in the UK with many that economics ultimately trumps politics. Erm, I wouldn’t rely too much on that. Britain, on the 23rd of June, the economic argument for staying was overwhelming and yet it was the political set of arguments, however disorderly, which trumped the rather clear economic arguments.

LK:          And a key ally of Angela Merkel warns we cannot have it all our own way.

DAVID McALLISTER MEP Chairman, European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee:              Cherry-picking – that cannot really be an option. A state which isn’t a member of the European Union and which isn’t a member of a single market can’t be better off than a member state of the European Union, so whatever the new relation, the new agreement between the European Union and the UK will be, it will have to be less than the current EU membership of the European Union.

LK:          But the real Brexit-enthusiasts believe the costs of leaving will be swept away by the trading opportunities with the rest of the world.

BJ:          You’ve then got the FTAs, the Free Trade Agreements with the rest of the world that we will now be able to do. We’ve got an embarrassment of choice because a lot of people want to do a free trade deal and so the task will be how do we prioritise?

MG:       If you look at other countries which have been outside the single market, they’ve managed to secure for themselves not just trade deals worth far more than the European Union has been capable of negotiating for itself, they’ve also been able to pursue economic policies which have fostered growth, creativity and innovation.

LK:          But before any new deals can happen, we have to tie up the arrangements with the European Union. And it’s even more daunting, because there’s a deadline. Can we really move that fast? (in interview) How long do you think it will actually take?

SIR SIMON FRASER Permanent Secretary, Foreign Office, 2010-15:         The average accession negotiation to join the EU, for example, is about seven years and if you look at the negotiation of the trade agreement between the European Union and Canada, that took about seven years to negotiate.

JG:          So, I think the quickest one the EU has ever agreed has been within a period of about 4 years.  Typically, 8-11 years is not uncommon for negotiating trade deals.

LK:          But couldn’t we just put our foot down? Lawrence Tomlinson owns a string of businesses, including Ginetta Cars, and is a man used to doing deals. You might just remember him from the referendum campaign.

LAWRENCE TOMLINSON:   Well, actually, Boris took me out for a spin to start with, which was quite disconcerting, but I was really surprised, he drove it very well and then we brought him back and we did a few doughnuts and it seemed to catch the imagination of the campaign.

LK:          And now around here, you call it the Borismobile.

LT:          We do, we call this old girl the Borismobile.

BJ:          We’re taking back control.

LK:          In terms of the length of time it’s going to take, you know, some people say this might take as long as a decade, it’s going to be very complicated and that delay is going to mean uncertainty and that can be really damaging.

LT:          I think the Government will just plough straight on. I mean, it’s just utter bollocks that it should take ten years.

LK:          Why?

LT:          Well, World War II took just over five years and, I mean, in fact, I think it shows the reasons why we should leave, you know, that things like this could perceivably take ten years. It’s ridiculous, so let’s get on, let’s get a nice clean hard Brexit and let’s dictate it.

LK:          The government wants to get cracking. They’ve set themselves a target of negotiating a new trade deal in two years. On top of all that tricky divorce. (in interview) Every European diplomat, pretty much every expert, is very cynical about this being done within two years, why are you sure it can be done?

BJ:          Well, it certainly can be done in two years and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be, and I think we should aim to put a bit of a tiger in the tank. As I say, the deal with the EU, that negotiation, I think, should be fairly straightforward because we are in line with the rest of the EU when it comes to our standards and our, our trade arrangements, we just need to perpetuate that agreement.

LK:          What do you say to many supporters of leaving the EU who say, “Look, We could just repeal the act, we could just walk out. It could all be done in a couple of years”?

SF:          My answer to that is you could do that, but you need to think about what you’re left with and if you’re left with not a very good relationship with other European countries and no clarity about the future arrangements in our biggest market because, after all, almost half of our trade is with the European Union, then I don’t think that’s a very satisfactory position to end up in.

LK:          So it’s a kind of crash and burn? You could do it fast, but we’d burn ourselves on the way out?

SF:          So you could do a quick deal, the question is could you do a good quick deal?

LK:          Everybody agrees that getting it done in record time is a challenge of historic proportions. This is Down Street Station, hundreds of feet below the posh streets of London’s Mayfair and, during World War II, the government used to come down here for secret meetings. Churchill used to spend time in these warrens, trying to decide what to do in the war. (in interview) Some people compare it to the biggest job for any leader since the Second World War. For you, is it right to compare this to a challenge as great as the Second World War?

WH:       In its complexity, it is right to compare it. This is nothing like as grave a challenge as the Second World War. It’s not even the gravest moment since the Second World War, but it is the most complex.  That is certainly true. I don’t think ever before has a government had to negotiate over so many subjects with such a . . . a complex set of negotiating partners on the other side and so many competing demands on their own side. I can’t think of any parallel to that for any British government in history.

LK:          Are ministers being straight with us about how hard it might be? One former Prime Minister doesn’t think so.

JOHN MAJOR:      I’ve watched with growing concern as the British people have been led to expect a future that seems to be unreal and over-optimistic. Obstacles are brushed aside as if of no consequence, whilst opportunities are inflated beyond any reasonable expectation. My own experience of international negotiations makes me doubt the rosy confidence being offered to the British people.

LK:          Should you not just level with people and manage their expectations, because it’s one thing . . .

BJ:          (speaking over) Okay, it’s a very important . . .

LK:          . . . saying, “It might be a bit difficult, there might be some bumps in the road,” . . .

BJ:          (speaking over) I think, I think that’s a very, very legitimate question.

LK:          There are millions of people who are worried about what might happen here.

BJ:          (speaking over) Yes, I think it’s very important, it’s very important to understand that, I mean, I mean, I am genuinely optimistic. I really am. I think it’s a fantastically exciting moment. I think we’re going to do brilliantly well, but it’s also important, at the outset of any negotiation, not to go into it with a sort of Eeyore-ish hesitancy about how things are going to turn out, but to, to, to recognise and to communicate to our friends and partners that this is going to be good for both of us.

LK:          But, just as you suggest, Eeyore might have been a bit gloomy, Tigger might have been a bit naïve.

BJ:          All of us who are working on this – Liam Fox, the Prime Minister – we all understand, the Chancellor, we all understand there are challenges and there are problems. None of them, individually, is by any means an insoluble problem and there are ways of taking advantage of the position we’re in, too, which will be greatly to the benefit of the UK economy, UK consumers and people in this country.

LK:          This is Theresa May’s deal. Can she get it done. She has a wafer-thin majority, but, so far, she seems pretty much unstoppable. Her bill to trigger Article 50 and start the Brexit process passed through the Commons easily. (footage of vote passing Commons)

MG:       It certainly felt historic, but I was also conscious that, in a way, this was the easy part. It was easy to make the case in the House of Commons that we should honour the referendum and respect the result. The difficult part is making the individual decisions that will ensure that Britain is in a stronger position in the future, but there are going to be, inevitably, difficult days ahead.

LK:          What there hasn’t been yet is intense political pressure. The referendum turned everything upside down.

JEREMY CORBYN: Mr Speaker, it’s not so much the Iron Lady, as the Irony Lady.

TM:        I’ve got a plan, he doesn’t have a clue.

LK:          It’s left Labour divided and confused.  (in interview) Do you think we are potentially at the start of a really fundamental reshaping of British politics.

TB:         I just don’t think you can tell at the moment. I mean, what is clear to me is that, if the choice is between a sort of hard Brexit Tory Party and a hard left Labour Party, there will be millions of people who feel politically homeless. The fact, at this moment in time with this issue of Brexit, that you don’t have an opposition capable, or looking as if it’s capable of winning, is a problem. I mean, that is a problem for our democracy.

SIR KEIR STARMER MP Shadow Brexit Secretary:         Brexit has clearly been difficult for the Labour Party, but I do think the worst is over and now we can hold the Government to account in a much more united way. The difficulty for us as a pro-European party was whether to give the Prime Minister permission to start the process. Now, we’ll hold her to account every step of the way.

LK:          But one party has seen an opportunity in crisis. Tim Farron is Liberal Democrat leader, and he’s calling for a second referendum, but this time on the Brexit deal.

TIM FARRON:       I think you kind of keep fighting for what you believe in. You’ve got to have the courage of your convictions and I think that what politicians tend not to do is say stuff that is uncomfortable. (leaving taxi) Thank you very much. Thank you, bye-bye.

LK:          He’s off to Doncaster, where 70% of people voted to leave, to thrash out his plan with some of them.

TF:          The bottom line is eventually she’s going to come back with some kind of a deal and the question is do you trust her and Parliament Our point is that people should be able to have one last look over the cliff and say, “I’m going over,” or, “Do you know what? I’d rather not.”

UNNAMED MAN IN FOCUS GROUP:               I don’t agree with another referendum. You know, the country’s made a decision. Why are we having the bickering, so let’s go forward together, we will get there.

UNNAMED FEMALE IN FOCUS GROUP:          It’s going to happen so, everybody, get behind it and make it happen in the best possible way.

TF:          I don’t think it happens in the best possible way if there’s no resistance and no challenge to the Prime Minister.

UNNAMED MAN IN FOCUS GROUP 2:            The trouble is it’s not a football match, it’s not like we’ve scored one goal, yeah, okay, you come in now, Tim, you get your referendum, you score another one and then we take it to a penalty shootout.

TF:          I know it’s not best of three, I get that. Although we’ve had two . . .

UMFG2: But you get one crack at it, you see.

TF:          What she’s doing by saying you’re out of the single market without even arguing our place is settling for a poor deal and that’s why, you know, amongst the things we’re saying is that the people should decide at the end. So, no, I think the job of a good opposition is to challenge the Government so that they’re better.

LK:          For many voters though, here and round the country, immigration was the priority.

UMFG2: Right, the reason why they come here… The reason why they come here is because of…

TF:          You’re about to say benefits, aren’t you?

UMFG2: Yeah, of course.

TF:          It’s not. Honestly, it’s not. They’ve never heard of benefits.

UMFG2: Oh, come on!

TF:          Honestly, they haven’t. Honestly, they haven’t.

UMFG:   What’s in that coffee, I’ll have some of that! Your average European in Britain is youngish, working, paying taxes. They are. And we have a kind of misconcept of the value or the damage that European labour is doing here.

UMFG2:               Democracy has spoken. Do you not believe in democracy?

TF:          Yeah, I do. I think, I think democracy means two things. One is having the grace to accept when you’ve not won and the second is you don’t flipping give up. You stake out a case and you argue people to follow you, and you may succeed or you may fail. A referendum on the deal is not just democracy – It’s about closure. It’s about the country agreeing that, yes, this deal, we’re content with it. The danger of there not being a referendum at the end is the Government decides and three-quarters of the country say, “I didn’t vote for that,” and there is simmering resentment, and there’s no closure.

UNNAMED MAN IN FOCUS GROUP 3: I can see why, as a politician, he has a lot of personal charm. He is a very persuasive speaker, but did he change my mind? Not for a moment.

UMFG:   We’ve got to take it on the chin and move forward as a United Kingdom and, actually, let’s make this happen, okay, let’s stop the rot, stop the circle, let’s just on with it.

LK:          Theresa May’s calculation is that most Britons would agree with that. They just want her to get on with it. And it’s the decision to control the country’s borders that has defined the Prime Minister’s plan.. But will she actually be able to cut the numbers of people who come here?

CHRIS ORMORD:  We’re seen as a brilliant business making brilliant cakes. We’ve been in Taunton since 1865, I’d like to think we’ll be here for another 150 years.

LK:          Chris Ormrod owns and runs a bakery in the heart of Somerset.

CO:         We employ 400 people locally, 200 of them British, and the other 200 are from a mixture of nationalities from the EU and in some cases beyond. So, if you suddenly give me a very hard Brexit and say, “You can’t employ unskilled labour,” I kind of worry where I’m going to get my staff from to do the sort of things that we do and to carry on growing the business for the future and that one, that is a sleepless night kind of question and I don’t know how to answer that properly at this stage.

LK:          Chris isn’t the only person worried here. Chef Lubo has been in Britain for eight years.

LUBO ROTAK:       When we first moved here, my daughter was five months old, and er, now she’s eight. My son is six so both my children were raised here. They went to kindergarten, they went to school here, they feel they belong here. If it was going down the hard Brexit way, then the worst case scenario for us would be to move, me and my whole family, over to Slovakia. That’s not what we planned, that’s not the future we planned for our children, so it’s not just about us, it’s about our children and it would have a massive impact on their lives as well, yeah.

LK:          The fate of the three million or so EU citizens who live here, as well as more than a million Brits who live on the continent, will be on the table when the Brexit talks begin. But this business and many others depend on them.

CO:         I suspect most people would say, “Why don’t you just hire Brits locally?” Believe you me, we have tried. As I stand right now, we’ve got 30 vacancies. That’s very nearly 8% of my workforce and I can’t fill them and the simple truth is there just aren’t enough local people that want to come and work in the factory.

LK:          Fears shared in very different industries, in very different parts of the country.

SADIQ KHAN:       Let me give you one simple statistic. 12.5% of London’s workforce – that is more than 600,000 Londoners and they’re Londoners, by the way, who were born in countries in the European Union. They work in construction, they work in finance, they work in tech, they work in the professional services. They help our city thrive and flourish. If we can’t continue to attract them, we’re going to struggle and suffer.

LK:          But Theresa May has been absolutely clear. We’re not staying in the single market and she’s determined to bring immigration down and that means an end to freedom of movement.

SK:          I accept the argument there are parts of the country that don’t want immigration. There are parts of the country where the voters there voted to leave the EU because they thought it would lead to less immigration. I’m quite clear in relation to London – if we’re going to continue to flourish and thrive, we need to continue to be able to attract talent.

LK:          Since the referendum, the government’s tried to reassure individual industries they won’t lose their workers. But does that mean immigration won’t fall?

TB:         Right now, on what the Government is telling us, we’re going to still be bringing the majority, probably the large majority, of these people in from Europe, yet that was the main reason people gave for pulling us out of Europe. So, all I’m saying is a very simple thing: you know, when people start not just to see the pain, but start to realise in terms of the gain, we’re not going to be pulling those European numbers down to a few thousand, people are going to carrying on coming because we want them to come.

LK:          For how long should voters expect to continue to see significant levels of immigration from the European Union? Because that’s what it’s about, isn’t it? There was a political promise of us being able to bring immigration down, leaving the European Union . . .

DAVID DAVIS MP Brexit Secretary (speaking over) It will come down. Listen, make no bones about it, I mean, the Prime Minister, ex-home Secretary, is determined that it will come down, but it’ll come down in a way that doesn’t do harm.

LK:          For swathes of voters, though, shouldn’t you be preparing them for something that feels rather different to what they think they were promised? I mean, might we not end up with a bad compromise here where significant level of immigration remain over time so that business doesn’t lose out, but then also a new bureaucratic system of dealing with work permits and visas for business? That’s not going to be a great compromise for anyone, is it?

DD:         Look, it’s going to be a good outcome, (words unclear) compromise. It’s going to be a good outcome because A – we’ll control it, that’s the first thing. We’ll decide and we’ll make decisions on economic, and also on social grounds and so on. Secondly, the bureaucracy can be overstated, it doesn’t have to be bureaucratic, it’s very plain what we want to do, we want to keep our economy running at the same time as bringing immigration down, and we’ll do both.

LK:          And how long should it take, how long should people expect?

DD:         Well, it’ll take what it takes because the economy will drive it.

LK:          But there’s another fault line, a fundamental one: the tension between Scotland and the rest of the UK. Just listen to this, from the Prime Minister’s very first speech on the steps of Number Ten.

TM:        It means we believe in the Union – the precious, precious bond between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

LK:          Yet more than 60% of those who voted in Scotland chose to remain in the EU. That’s encouraged those who believe in independence to push for a second vote.

NICOLA STURGEON First Minister of Scotland:             Theresa May, in deciding to play to the hard right Brexiteers of her own party rather than trying to find maximum common ground, is in danger of making a decision to leave the EU, which I already think would have been damaging, potentially quite catastrophic for the UK.

LK:          Your opponents would say, though, you’re trying to use this situation to revive the independence arguments.

NS:         I deliberately didn’t, the morning after the EU referendum, say, “Right, that’s it, we’re off and we’re having a second independence referendum,” because I wanted to see if we could find that compromise ground. I’m not hugely optimistic about it at this stage because we’ve been met with a bit of a brick wall from the UK Government, but I’m honouring the commitment I made in this very room on the 24th of June to exhaust all possibilities. But equally, you know, I’ve been very clear, I think a second independence referendum is highly likely.

LK:          You just dispute the sense, the claim that the case for independence has been strengthened fundamentally by the fact that the UK is leaving the EU?

MG:       No, the case for independence is weaker now.

LK:          It’s weaker?

MG:       The truth about the Scottish Nationalist Party is that they have one aim – they want to destroy the United Kingdom and they will bend and twist any aspect of politics in order to fit this preordained ideological goal. And we should call them out.

LK:          In Westminster, some politicians think you’re bluffing about holding a referendum.

NS:         I’m not, and I never have been. And, you know, I always think that sometimes kind of says more about them than it says about me because it suggests that there are politicians in Westminster who think Brexit and all of this is some kind of game. It’s not a game, it’s really, really serious and the implications for the UK are serious and the implications for Scotland are serious.

LK:          Some of your colleagues now talk about autumn 2018 as a likely date?

NS:         Within that window, I guess, of when the sort of outline of a UK deal becomes clear and the UK exiting the EU, I think, would be the common sense time for Scotland to have that choice, if that is the road we choose to go down.

LK:          Just to be clear, you’re not ruling out autumn 2018?

NS:         I’m not ruling anything out, no.

LK:          It seems the government in Scotland is deadly serious about another vote on independence. It means when Theresa May is up to her eyes in trying to get a good deal from the European Union, she might also be grappling in a fierce fight to keep the UK together. There are serious issues for Northern Ireland, too. The peace process which ended the Troubles partly depended on an open border with the Republic in the south. But Theresa May’s decision to leave the single market and what’s called the customs union could force a return to a hard border, with echoes of the past.

TB:         The risks to the peace process, I think, are substantial. If you start putting a hard border down there, quite apart from all the disruption and the difficulty, you will change that context in a way that is profound and adverse.

LK:          Tony Blair has told us in this programme that there is a real risk to the peace process while the border issue is unresolved, that things could be very unpredictable in Northern Ireland. Is he right?

DD:         Well, no, I don’t think he is and the reason he’s not right is because everybody is seized of the issue so we, all of us, want to solve it and what does solve it mean? It means having a frictionless border. It means not going back to the borders of the past. I am confident we can actually get a resolution which is comfortable for the people of Northern Ireland and also comfortable for Ireland, the Republic of Ireland as well.

LK:          By the end of the month, Theresa May will press the button on two years of Brexit negotiations. They’ll be as complex and tortuous as anything that’s been attempted since the European Union was born.

TOM FLETCHER Prime Minister’s Foreign Policy Adviser, 2007-11:          This time, every leader in that room is negotiating not just with their foreign counterparts, but with their own media, with their own parliament, with their own party and with their own public and that is a very, very tough negotiation to get right, that multi-dimensional chess game.

LK:          There are crucial elections in France and Germany this year. With Europe’s most powerful politicians distracted, it may be autumn before any serious talks begin in this town. With so much to negotiate, no-one doubts one thing: there’ll be long days, late nights, it will go to the wire.

WH:       In a negotiation which is relatively fixed in time, why would you make a major concession, once you’ve started the negotiations, half way through?  You would save that all up for when you’re getting to the 11th hour, for when you’re approaching the end of the two years and that will make it an agonisingly difficult process. It always does, there’s always somebody holding out for a bit more. Most European deals, in the end, are settled either at the last minute or after the last minute.

LK:          David Cameron learnt that lesson the hard way, in previous battles in Brussels.

DC:         And it’s frankly not acceptable for the way for it to be left to this last minute and then attempt at reopening it and the sort of ambush at 1am at the end of a European Council meeting. I just think this is no way for an organisation to conduct itself and I find it immensely frustrating, but, you know, in this town, you have to be ready for an ambush at any minute and that means, you know, lock and load and have one up the spout and be ready for it, and that’s exactly what I did.

TF:          The reality of these negotiations, particularly at three o’clock in the morning, is that no plan survives contact with the enemy. You can have spent months preparing the perfect game plan, but, just as in a military campaign, it will all come down to those fine, minute judgements you make on the spot.

LK:          In this diplomatic game, the questions: who has most to lose, and who blinks first? This is Brussels’ most famous chippie and Angela Merkel even popped down here from a summit when things got a bit fraught late at night and round here, things do get very, very late and very, very tricky and the closer we get to the end of the two year deadline, the more pressure there is on Theresa May.  Her opponents across the table, they know full well she doesn’t want to walk away with nothing. If the deadline looms and there’s deadlock, one option for the Government is to seek a temporary arrangement but that’s not what ministers want.

SF:          What does that transitional arrangement look like? If it consists of more or less staying in the status quo in terms of access to the single market and everything that goes with that in terms of respecting the rules of the European Court of Justice, allowing freedom of movement of labour, then I think there are many people in this country who would find that very difficult to accept.

ANNA SOUBRY:    Look, this is the reality. There’s a bunch of people. They have lived, eaten, drank, slept, everything for this moment and they are not going to let anybody snatch it away from them, and Theresa May knows that, you can’t appease them, and if she doesn’t deliver what they want, they will stab her in the back, just as they did with Major and, in effect, with DC, with Cameron.

LK:          Ministers don’t want to extend the talks beyond the two years.  So if there is no deal, that only leaves one option: the cliff edge.

JG:          The cliff edge describes the reality of one day being in the EU, with everything that that means and the next day being out of it with no deal. And the level that you switch between, between those two worlds is very dramatic, which is why it’s described as falling off a cliff edge.

TB:         There is a risk of no deal. If we get no deal, I think business would regard that as a pretty severe outcome so, you know, you’re playing for very high stakes in this for sure because there are a myriad of technical questions, all of which actually impact on jobs and business and industry and trade and commerce so . . . Look, I think no deal is a bad deal.

LK:          If you are so optimistic about getting a good deal, though, why did you warn your Cabinet colleagues that the risk of us having to walk away and not getting a deal at all is very real?

DD (laughs) Be careful. What I said to them was they’ve got to do the, they’ve got to do the work for the so-called plan B or C or whatever it is. It’s not plan A.

LK:          But you acknowledge it is plan B, plan C, plan D, whatever you call it, the risk of not getting a deal . . .

DD:         (speaking over) Where, where, wherever it goes in the list, it’s our responsibility as a government to make preparation for all possible outcomes, right, we’re going into a negotiation. We don’t control the whole thing. By far and away the highest probability is plan A or some variant of it, namely a comprehensive free trade deal.

LK:          You are acknowledging, very publicly, there is a real risk of what’s known as the cliff-edge? We walk away without a deal and some people say that’s a catastrophe even to contemplate that.

DD:         If you . . .  No, it’s not a catastrophe to contemplate things. You contemplate things so you either avoid them or mitigate them.

LK:          (speaking over) But were we to walk away, would that not be a catastrophe?

DD:         (speaking over) If you went out on the street today and said to the ordinary member of the public, “Should the Government prepare for all outcomes?” They would say, “Of course.”

LK:          If you had to describe the chances in percentage terms of us getting a deal, what would you do?

DD:         I don’t intend to go down that route.  The aim of my department is to deliver plan A.

LK:          In two years’ time, the world’s eyes will be on this building in Brussels.  Whatever the outcome for Britain and the EU in March 2019, it will make history.

MG:       There are both short- and long-term economic factors, which mean that Britain is likely to thrive and to succeed, provided we take the right decisions, provided we approach these negotiations and indeed provided we approach the world with the right attitude.

KDG:      You will see the results, the negative results, one would say, sooner or later, but I believe rather sooner than later. Don’t believe that this is not going to hurt you. It will hurt you and that’s why it is such a stupid decision to take.

KS:          I think this is a defining moment and Brexit has been a crossroads for politics and what matters now is the way ahead and I think the political divide will be between those that believe in a collaborative, cooperative approach with our EU partners, in other words changing the relationship, not severing it and those that want to sever it and walk off completely and that’s the real battle that now lies ahead.

BJ:          We want the best for Europe, we want a new approach. They want us there at the table for so many reasons. There are so many things that we do together that we will continue to do together.

LK:          Whether we crash out or sail smoothly, think of this. Theresa May will almost inevitably be the last British Prime Minister to sit at a European table like this. There’ll be no more – no Thatcher handbaggings, no Blair-Chirac bust-ups, no Sarkozy telling David Cameron to shut up – allegedly. It’ll be it. Probably one night in March 2019, probably one very late night, Theresa May will walk out of here, taking Britain out of the European Union with her. What she achieves, or does not achieve in this room will define her record and change our country.

BBC Radio 4 Brexit Collection: strong bias against leaving the EU

BBC Radio 4 Brexit Collection: strong bias against leaving the EU

The Brexit Collection is a selection of 31 programmes and features, originally broadcast on Radio 4, and posted by the BBC on its iPlayer website. It is presumably thus thought by the Corporation to be a balanced representation of its referendum coverage. Analysis by News-watch has now shown that the Collection was, on balance, very strongly anti-Brexit.

News-watch transcribed and rigorously analysed all the items (24 separate programmes, one collection of four brief clips on personal finance, and six news features in the Brexit Street series) that were posted between the launch of The Brexit Collection on July 11 and August 23 – two months after the referendum. In total, this amounted to eleven and half hours of broadcasting.

Overall, there were no attempts in any programme to explore the benefits of leaving the EU, but conversely, Brexit came under sustained negative attack. This was reflected in the balance of contributions and comment contained within the items. Analysis by News-watch shows that only 23% of contributors in the programmes as a whole spoke in favour of Brexit, against 58% in favour of Remain and 19% who gave a neutral or factual commentary.

Nine programmes and six features, amounting to 5 hours 20 minutes of programming, were strongly anti-Brexit, contained unchallenged predictions that civil unrest and rioting were now on the horizon and cast the ‘out’ vote in negative terms, inferring that the result had been a consequence of racism and xenophobia. The balance of programme guests in all of these items was strongly – and sometimes overwhelmingly – pro-Remain.

By contrast, only two programmes, from the series Points of View, were clearly Eurosceptic in tone. They both attacked the EU project as a whole, but did no explore the possibilities presented by Brexit.

A group of six documentaries in the Collection, originally broadcast in 2009 and 2012, looked critically at the EU and examined claims that there were structural faults in the EU project, especially in relation to the euro. However, the vast majority of guests on these programmes were wholly in favour of the EU project, or were EU officials, and as such the issues were observed through a strongly pro-EU lens.

A further eight programmes have been classed as neutral. Many of these, such as the comedy programmes Dead Ringers and The Now Show, contained strong anti-Brexit content, or expressed doubts about it, but did contain some balancing material.

The items that were strongly anti-Brexit were editions of culture series Front Row, The Briefing Room, six editions of the feature Brexit Street on the news programme PM, one edition of A Point of View, How to Make a Brexit (a one-off documentary about Greenland’s exit from the EU), Farming Today, More Less, The Food Programme, The Bottom Line and Call You and Yours.

In some of these, the range of anti-Brexit opinion was astonishing and light years from any definition of ‘impartiality’ and there was no balancing comparable pro-Brexit material. A majority of the country had voted ‘out’ on June 23, but this was not reflected in the space given to each side of the debate, or the thematic emphases of the various programmes.

The Food Programme, for example, contained predictions from ten contributors ranging through civil unrest, substantial food price rises, the demise of food businesses and years of turmoil.  Only one contributor (described disparagingly as a ‘former speech writer for Nigel Farage’), thought that Brexit could have positive outcomes.

And in The Bottom Line, presented by Evan Davis, three strong supporters of Remain (one a former Liberal Democrat candidate) feared a drying up of investment, the introduction of tariffs, an increasing complexity of doing business through the need for additional paperwork, price rises, unfair treatment of workers, unwise and impractical restrictions on immigration, a curtailing of the opportunities available to young people, and a rise of xenophobia and racism to the extent there was imminent danger of ‘personal attack’ for those supporting Remain. They were ranged against a contributor from Switzerland, who – although accepting briefly that Brexit could be positive – also warned that the process was very complex.

In all anti-Brexit programmes, presenters worked with the contributors to ensure that the negatives of Brexit were pushed to the maximum extent, and they did not challenge their extreme claims, for example, about civil unrest and racism.

Analysis of the contributions across the series as a whole raises other major issues of imbalance. Of the 59 politicians to appear, 37 were pro-Remain. With academics and lawyers, 11 supported Remain and none favoured Leave, and with businessmen and financial experts, 19 were Remainers and only six wanted ‘out’.  Another striking imbalance was that, across the board, 41% of the speakers who supported Leave were ‘ordinary’ contributors (i.e. members of the public with no obvious expertise, for example, in vox pops), compared to only 27% of pro-EU guests. In terms of the number of words spoken, members of the public contributed 34% of the Leave total, compared to only 8% on the Remain side.

Eleven of the 20 ‘ordinary’ speakers who spoke in favour of Brexit were from two locations in Northern England, Thornaby-on-Tees and Wakefield. All of these were from social classes D and E and together they were responsible for 80% of the words spoken by ‘ordinary’ Leave supporters.

News-watch research has shown that such serious imbalances have been a feature of BBC coverage of EU-related issues since 1999.

This raises big questions about how the BBC defines ’impartiality’ in the aftermath of the June 23 vote. During the referendum campaign, there were BBC-wide referendum editorial guidelines which stipulated that the Leave and Remain sides should be treated even-handedly. The evidence presented here suggests these rules have now been set aside and that a version of ‘due impartiality’ is in force which gives much greater precedence to the Remain side.

Whatever the reasons, the evidence presented here shows that the Corporation seems to be on a mission to show that Brexit is a fool’s errand, which elements within the BBC are doing their best to frustrate. There can be no other explanation why this flagship collection of programmes is so deeply biased.

The full report, including full transcripts of the 31 programmes analysed by News-watch is available here:


 

 

Photo by Girard At Large

Ultimate Bias?

Ultimate Bias?

BBC reform, like so many other issues, has been pushed off the agenda by the referendum hullaballoo.

But sorting out BBC bias as the Brexit process gets underway is surely an urgent and major priority for the new May government – that is, if she genuinely wants Britain out.

The Corporation clearly now sees its central mission to push at every opportunity the case for remain, for a second referendum, for a general election to endorse the exit plans. Anything, in fact, anything to upset the referendum vote.

So great is their opposition to ‘exit’ that their bias is now arguably (for example Newsnight, here) a deliberate attempt to undermine the democratic process, and to reinforce the view (held by many in the Conservative and Labour party and those who mounted demonstrations at the weekend) that those who voted ‘leave’ were basing their decisions on lies; that they were deluded and plain wrong.

The new BBC Royal Charter is due to come into effect by the beginning of 2017, and yet the changes so far proposed by culture secretary John Whittingdale – broadly putting complaints under Ofcom and creating a new management board – will scarcely scratch the surface of current malpractice.

And meanwhile, BBC bias is continuing on an industrial scale. So brazen have they become that they have posted on the BBC iPlayer the Brexit Collection, a selection of 15 Radio 4 programmes about the Brexit vote.

The bias across most of the programmes is so extreme that it is impossible to know where to begin in describing it. News-watch, will, in due course, publish all the transcripts together with a full analysis and report.

In the meantime, a good entry point is the edition of The Food Programme, first broadcast on Sunday July 3, and presented by Dan Saladino.

He assembled for the bulk of the programme a cast list of six guests who declared, between them, that Brexit could lead to food riots; that ensuring food security after Brexit amounted to the worst peacetime challenge that the UK had ever faced; that farms would be abandoned, agricultural jobs would be lost, that the Scotch whisky industry faced virtual ruin, and that immigrants in the food processing and production industry the length and breadth of the UK were now living in fear.  The full picture is here.

A key mover in this blatant exaggeration and scare-mongering was Professor Tim Lang from the City University in London, the main ‘expert’ on food supply. What Saladino did not tell listeners, however, was that Lang also works for a greenie food charity called Sustain, which, their annual reports show, receives a significant part of its funding (at least 10% and probably as high as 25%) directly or from the EU.

Ranged against the six gloom-mongers was a lone fisherman, who was said he wanted Brexit but little more – the diminution of the UK fishing industry under the Common Fisheries Policy was not on the agenda – and Tim Worstall, from the Adam Smith Institute. The latter managed to suggest, against all the predictions of doom elsewhere in the programme, that Brexit would actually lead to a reduction in food tariffs, and that the UK could make better trade deals with partners throughout the world.

But Saladino clearly thought that any positive comment about post-Brexit prospects should come with a health warning. Unlike with Professor Lang and his link with EU funding, he carefully pointed out that Worstall had been a speechwriter for Nigel Farage. For a BBC presenter, that, of course is a dog-whistle hand grenade that any views from the contributor have to be treated with caution because of (in the BBC’s eyes) Farage’s ‘extreme’ political views.

Another programme in the Brexit Collection was How to Make a Brexit presented by Carolyn Quinn, and about Greenland’s decision to leave the EU back in the 1980s. The bias so evident it’s almost impossible to know where to start. Close to the beginning, Quinn used an extract from a pro-EU rant on the Now Show to illustrate one of her key points. The tone was thus set.

Quinn’s linking commentary and choice of quotes was framed with only one aim in mind – to tell us how desperately complex a departure would be. The first quote in this vein from a contributor was:

“This is the largest scale legislation and policy exercise that has possibly been carried out ever…The trade options alone are staggering….” Quinn left absolutely no room for doubt: leaving the EU is something that only a fool would contemplate.

Further initial commentary about the Brexit Collection can be found on the Is the BBC Biased? website here.

The choice of these programmes shows above all that the BBC itself does not care about and does not even begin to understand the depths of its pro-EU bias. The news Secretary of State for Culture has a huge challenge on his hands. The task of dealing with it has scarcely even begun.

 

 

Photo by blumblaum

BBC Bias: an EU referendum campaign progress report

BBC Bias: an EU referendum campaign progress report

News-watch has been carrying out detailed monitoring of news output since mid-January. A large number issues relating to impartiality have been noted, and overall, there is still, despite improvement, significant cause for concern that the ‘exit’ case is not being properly represented.

On the plus side:

There is definitely and clearly an effort to explore the respective ‘leave’ and ‘remain cases. ‘Exit’ guests are appearing in unprecedented numbers, and are often being treated with due respect.  Pro-EU politicians such as George Osborne are, on occasions, being subjected to rigorous scrutiny. There is evidence that presenters and correspondents are better briefed on EU issues than in the past, and are challenging the key economic points from positions of real knowledge.

This improved coverage to date underlines just how much the ‘exit’ case had previously been neglected, and its advocates under-represented, denigrated or often ignored.

But:

That said, there are still major issues. All of them are fully evidenced on the News-watch website, and for the sake of economy, the key points are only summarised here.

The BBC has not explored much the issue of the validity or otherwise of David Cameron’s reform package. From the off, website copy suggested it was valid, and there has been no determined exploration of whether it is. This is central to the ‘remain’ case and the absence of scrutiny is bias by omission.

Though some programmes are going off-diary and exploring the roots of the current debate, as yet there has been no obvious effort to investigate critically the full nature of the ‘leave’ movement, and what it represents. Nick Robinson’s survey of the history of the UK-EU relationship was purely through the lens of Westminster Bubble, that is, the leading politicians and the main political friction points. It added nothing new, and if anything served only to reinforce the stereotypes that have characterised the BBC’s coverage of what it calls ‘Europe’ for far too long. Who are those who actually want to leave the EU?  They are not simply racists, anti-immigration fanatics, over-zealous ‘populist’ patriots, disaffected Tories, disgruntled fishermen and lazy working class louts who fear foreign competition. What is the ‘leave’ case and what are the historical roots, both inside and outside Parliament?  Nothing has yet been done in that terrain, and that’s a glaring omission.  Unanswered questions include why the most left-wing, radical Labour leadership in two generations has allied itself with the CBI, the big Banks, and the IMF, and against thousands of its traditional working class supporters in wanting to stay ‘in’. The BBC talks freely and often about the low-hanging fruit of a ‘Tory civil war’, but this debate is about much more – and nothing in the coverage has explored that area in any but a fleeting (and often derogatory) way.

Heavy and increasing weight has been given coverage of those who say ‘Brexit’ will be damaging, such as the IMF, the Treasury and the CBI. Senior BBC political correspondents have reinforced this by suggesting (18/4) that the ‘leave’ side case is ‘cobwebby’ and not fleshed out.

Analysis conducted by News-watch of BBC2’s Newsnight typifies the problem. This covered 40 editions. ‘Exit’ guests were appearing for the first time – a big step forward – but there were still serious inadequacies. The programme has not sufficiently explored the ‘exit’ case, and has routinely given far more prominence to the remain side. There have been fewer ‘exit’ guests, and the imbalance is not accounted for by a tougher treatment of the ‘remain’ side – if anything, the reverse applies. Against this already skewed background, the decision to use the Sealand defence installation as a metaphor for what exit might look like was silly. It skewed the first Newsnight special referendum programme (11/4) strongly against the ‘exit case’. It may have been intended to be a humorous approach, but given the BBC ‘s past track record of denigrating the exit case, it came across instead as a deliberately negative editorial device.    On Tuesday night (19/4) the different treatment of Emily Maitlis of her two guests, Pascal Lamy and Lord Owen, underlined the problems in the Newsnight approach. Towards Mr Lamy, she was thoughtfully inquisitorial, and allowed him plenty of space for his answers; towards Lord Owen, she was much sharper, interrupted much more, and scarcely allowed him to respond.

Similar detailed analysis (20 consecutive editions)  by News-watch of Radio 4’s 10pm programme, The World Tonight, also highlighted significant impartiality problems. The programme explored the ‘remain’ and exit’ arguments from its more cross-border perspective, and mounted special programmes assessing opinion to the EU debate in Berlin, Spain and France. But most weight was given to the pro-EU perspective in those features.  In separate studio interviews, ‘remain’ figures such as Alan Johnson had more opportunity to put their case than ‘exit’ ones.

Since January, News-watch has also analysed a number of referendum-related special programmes, including ones on Greenland’s exit from the EU, Norway’s existence outside the EU, a survey of the EU’s impact on countryside issues (Costing the Earth), and Nick Robinson’s Europe: Them or Us.  All of them have shown a distinct bias towards the ‘remain side. Nick Robinson’s description of Winston Churchill as the ‘father of European unity’ stands out as particularly biased because he chose as the bedrock of his programme a provocative historical interpretation that is hotly contested by the ‘leave’ side. The Greenland and Norway programmes particularly over-stressed the difficulties of leaving the EU, and the Costing the Earth programme gave much more space to the ‘remain’ side.

Analysis of Mark Mardell’s reports on World This Weekend is underway. Two editions, one from Portugal and the other from a meeting of The European House think-tank at Lake Como, have already been specially analysed and noted for their pro remain bias. On both occasions, Mark gave significantly less prominence to the respective ‘exit’ spokesmen and gave them less space to answer the points put to them.

Analysis of a strand broadcast on Radio 4’s World at One, by Professor Annand Menon raised serious bias issues.  The five three-minute segments (from 12/4) were presented as objective analysis of aspects of EU operations and impacts, but they were anything but. For example, he played down the complexity of the EU’s structure – flying in the face of one of the principal objections of the EU from Eurosceptics.

This brief synopsis of bias is not exhaustive, but gives an overview of some of the key issues.

Photo by rockcohen

BBC Brexit programme shows strong pro-EU bias

BBC Brexit programme shows strong pro-EU bias

With the campaigns to secure exit the EU now launched, the BBC knows its EU coverage is under unprecedented scrutiny.

Before Christmas, Rona Fairhead, the BBC Trust chairman, appeared before the Commons European Scrutiny Committee and swore blind that systems were in place to ensure impartiality in the run-up to the EU referendum.

And – pigs maybe do fly! – the Corporation has now boldly gone into unknown territory, and finally made a programme about what exit for the UK might entail. How to Make a Brexit, compiled and presented by veteran political reporter Carolyn Quinn, was first broadcast on Radio 4 on Tuesday and is repeated this Sunday.

News-watch has been monitoring BBC output for 16 years and this is the first dedicated programme on this subject that has crossed our radar.

So how was it? The transcript is here and the programme can be heard on Youtube. But don’t hold your breath. The reality is that from beginning to end it was a travesty that showed only that those who work for the Corporation are so pro-EU that they don’t even begin to comprehend the depths of their bias.

Evidence for that is so thick on the ground that it’s almost impossible to know where to start, but a favourite moment was when, close to the beginning, Quinn used an extract from a pro-EU rant on the Now Show to illustrate one of her key points. The tone was thus set.

Quinn’s linking commentary and choice of quotes was framed with only one aim in mind – to tell us how desperately complex a departure would be. The first quote in this vein from a contributor was:

“This is the largest scale legislation and policy exercise that has possibly been carried out ever”.

Ms Quinn then added: “…as we’ll discover there would be all sorts of things that would need to be finally negotiated. The trade options alone are staggering and then there’s what to do with EU legislation, citizenship, even devolution.”

Thereafter, almost every element of the programme fitted with the pro-EU propaganda the BBC has been broadcasting for years. It left no room for doubt: leaving the EU is something that only a fool would contemplate.

The most serious and obvious bias was in the treatment of contributors.

The pro-EU speakers who wanted to make exit sound impossibly complex were Charles Grant of the Centre of European Reform – a perennial BBC favourite – and Jean-Claude Piris, a former director of EU legal services. Both EU cronies were afforded clear space to make their respective arguments and were edited to make them sound coherent and persuasive. Their contributions amounted to more than 800 words, and their stance was made crystal clear.

By contrast, ‘eurosceptic’ contributions, for example from Ruth Lea, the political economist from Business for Britain, and UKIP MEP Diane James, were fragmented and edited in such a way that if they provided Quinn with any clear arguments in favour of exit, they were not obvious to the listener. Negotiating separate trade deals was made to sound impossibly complex.

A word count of contributors shows that the clearly pro-EU side, essentially from three main contributors amounted to more than 1200 words and those from the Brexit and clearly Eurosceptic sides added up to 800 words – spread across eight speakers. Of these, only Ruth Lea had more than 100 words.

Of course, bias is not solely about numbers but here there was a clear weighting towards the EU perspective and this was compounded by Quinn, whose main editorial intent both in her own contributions and her editing of comments was to illustrate her central contention that this whole prospect was a fool’s errand.

Other problems? There are legion. Why the choice of Greenland as the peg for the programme? Its experience (a territory with a population of only 57,000) was so long ago as to be almost irrelevant because the rules are now entirely different.

Quinn kept in the programme without challenge – and indeed emphasised them – views from Jean-Claude Piris that suggested that pressing the exit button would mean that British citizens in EU countries would face severe difficulties because their status would change. Others, such as EU expert Richard North, strongly disagree.

Much more than that, however, was the whole tone of the programme. Everything about it emphasised that an EU exit would be problematical. There was no attempt to look at benefits – the Greenland experience of enjoying integrity of its fishing waters was almost totally glossed over.

Of course a programme featuring such a perspective that is chock-full of genuine supporters of withdrawal allowed to put their case might be somewhere in the BBC pipeline. But don’t count on it. Those campaigning for a Brexit have a mountain to climb in countering such blatant propaganda.

Photo by Greenland Travel

Drowned Out: Balanced BBC Reporting of Climate Change

Drowned Out: Balanced BBC Reporting of Climate Change

With predictions that this winter’s run of gales may finally be coming to an end (February 16), the BBC’s ‘climate change’ propaganda deluge has reached a perfect storm level.

High prominence on the BBC website is given to Labour leader Ed Miliband’s claim – made in the Observer, part of  the corporation’s favourite newspaper stable – that ‘climate change’ is now an issue of national security. He demands the spending of billions of pounds on ‘decarbonisation targets’ and attacks the Conservative party for daring to doubt elements of his green fanaticism.

The story, of course, fits perfectly with the corporation’s own strongly pro-climate change agenda, endorsed at the highest levels of the BBC and – as the evidence lower down this page shows  – is pursued with vigour on a daily basis by programmes such as Today.

In consequence, you will search in vain on the BBC website for any mentions of the numerous stories also running on February 16 that provide clear evidence that this winter’s storms – though unusual – are not exceptional, and that the role of the Environment Agency in possibly making the flooding worse is under increasing investigation.

Christopher Booker, for example, argues strongly that the ‘climate change’ theory about the cause of the storms is mired in political axe-grinding by the Met Office, politicians, and the academic community that is paid billions to support such views.

What you will find on the BBC website, linked prominently to the claims by Mr Miliband, and therefore to buttress it,  is this story in which John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, calls for ‘climate change action’ and this guide to ‘climate’ change’ which puts the case for disastrous anthropogenic causation with a missionary zeal that first exactly with the corporation mindset.

John Kerry’s intervention was being delivered in Indonesia – where the BBC’s campaigning arm, Media Action, is particularly active in pursuing a ‘climate change’ agenda.  Without doubt, the main objective throughout Asia is to brainwash the maximum number of people  into alarmism, and to demand that billions are spent in averting the threat – as defined by the BBC.    Their climate change survey, funded by foreign office and EU grants, runs to hundreds of pages with sub reports for each major country, including Indonesia. It has dozens of alarmist sub-themes, and a primary methodology is asking people if they think weather is changing – and then using that data to ‘prove’ that climate change is real.  Astonishing.

A deluge of BBC coverage of the floods continues, so much that it is impossible to keep detailed track. But one thing is for sure: bias against what are increasingly dubbed ‘climate deniers’ continues. Never mind that those who say that the floods are not caused by ‘climate change’ claim they have a strong case; what is clear is that BBC journalists are continuing the battle to swamp or ignore their arguments.

Take Lord Lawson’s appearance on the Today programme on February 13. The full transcript is below.  The BBC has resolved, that only ‘due impartiality applies to such climate-related interviews. The sequence shows very clearly the practical consequences of this.

a)       Any advocate of climate change is treated with respect and deference by the interviewer

b)      Supporters of climate change are almost invariably given clear space to make their case, no matter how unsupported or controversial their claims are

c)       The interviewer sides with the advocate of climate change and ensures that the audience have heard and grasped the key points.

d)      The interviewer interrupts the guest who is a ‘denier’ to the maximum extent, through tone of voice, stopping he or she finishing points, cutting them off, and interrupting as many times as possible.

In this case, the interviewer was Justin Webb. He ensured that Sir Brian Hoskins, a political activist advocate of climate change who is paid to advance arguments in its favour, was not only given the lion’s share (by a ratio of approximately 2:1) of the sequence to advance his arguments, but also failed to challenge any point he made.  A moment’s analysis of Sir Brian’s arguments shows them to be highly contentious and woolly, lights years away from convincing scientific evidence.

But when Nigel Lawson’s turn came, Mr Webb’s tone and approach changed entirely. Everything he said was suspect, and not only that, Mr Webb was clearly straining to put across – irrespective of what Lord Lawson wanted to say – his own (the BBC’s?) main point, that money must be spent on climate measures because there was a more than a 50% chance of it happening.

In response, Lord Lawson had a brief opportunity to outline that he thought that such spending (on shemes such as wind farms) was a waste of money and that there was a need instead to pursue cheap energy policies and create adequate flood defences.

But the overall framework and approach was clearly designed to allow Sir Brian Hoskins to put across his climate change advocacy; what is clear is that when, rarely, ‘deniers’ such as Lord Lawson  are invited on to BBC programmes they are treated in almost exactly the same way as those who are against the EU: with disdain.

Source: BBC Radio 4: Today Programme

URL: N/A

Date: 13/02/2014

Event: Sir Brian Hoskins on the missing heat: “Oh yes, it’s there in the oceans”

Credit: BBC Radio 4

People:

  • Sir Brian Hoskins: Head of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change
  • Lord Lawson: Nigel Lawson, Baron Lawson of Blaby, Chairman of the Board, GWPF
  • Justin Webb: Presenter, BBC Radio 4 Today programme

Justin Webb: Is there a link, Sir Brian, between the rain that we have seen falling, in recent days, and global warming?

Brian Hoskins: There’s no simple link – we can’t say “Yes” or “No, this is climate change”. However, there’s a number of reasons to think that such events are now more likely. And one of those is that a warmer atmosphere that we have can contain more water vapour, and so a storm can wring that water vapour out of the atmosphere. And we’re seeing more heavy rainfall events around the world, and certainly we’ve seen those, here.

Justin Webb: So it’s the heavy rainfall, it’s the severity of the event, that points us in this direction?

Brian Hoskins: Well, in this event, we’ve had severe rainfall but we’ve also had persistence, and that’s where I say: we just don’t know whether the persistence of this event is due to climate change or not. But another aspect is sea-level rise, that the sea level has risen about 20 centimetres, over the 20th century, and is continuing to rise, as the system warms, and that of course makes damage in the coastal region that much greater, when we get some event there.

Justin Webb: But can a reasonable person, possessed of the evidence, as it is known to us at the moment, say “Look at the rain that we’ve had recently”, and say “Look, I do not believe that the evidence exists, that links that rain to global warming”?

Brian Hoskins: I think the reasonable person should look at this event, they should look at extremes around the world, the general rise in temperature that’s well recorded, reduction in Arctic sea ice, the rise in sea level, a number of extreme rainfall events around the world, the number of extreme events that we’ve had – we’ve had persistent droughts, we’ve had floods and we’ve had cold spells and very warm spells. The number of records being broken is just that much greater.

Justin Webb: Lord Lawson, it’s joining the dots, isn’t it?

Nigel Lawson: Now I think that Sir Brian is right on a number of points. He’s right, first of all, that nobody knows. Certainly it is not the case, of course, that this rainfall is due to global warming, the question is whether it is marginally – global warming has marginally exacerbated it. He’s right, and nobody knows that. Though, he’s right, too, to say that you have to look at the global picture. And, contrary to what he may have implied, in fact, people who have done studies show that there has been no – globally, there has been no increase in extreme weather events. For example, tropical storms, which are perhaps the most dramatic form of weather events – there’s been, in the past year, there has been an unusually quiet year for tropical storms. And again, going back to the “nobody knows”, only a couple of months ago the Met Office were forecasting that this would be an unusually dry winter. So –

Justin Webb: Do you accept that, Sir Brian? Just on that point, that important point about the global picture. Do you accept, Sir Brian, we haven’t actually seen the kind of extreme conditions that we might have expected?

Brian Hoskins: I think we have seen these heavy rainfall events around the world. We’ve seen a number of places breaking records – Australia, with the temperatures in Australia going to new levels, um…

Justin Webb: Trouble is, we report those, and we’re interested in them. There is an effect, isn’t there, that is possibly an obfuscatory effect, actually, on the real picture, and you accept that that might be the case.

Brian Hoskins: Absolutely, and we have to be very careful to not say “Oh, there’s records everywhere, therefore climate is changing”. But we’re very sure that the temperature’s risen by about 0.8 degrees, the Arctic sea ice has reached a minimum level in the summer, which hasn’t been seen for a very, very long time, the Greenland ice sheet and the West Antarctic ice sheet have been measured to be decreasing. There’s all the signs that we are changing this climate system. Now as we do this, as the system warms, it doesn’t just warm uniformly. The temperature changes by different amounts in different regions. And that means the weather that feeds off those temperature contrasts is changing and will change – it’s not just a smooth change, it’s a change in the weather, it’s a change in regional climate we can expect.

Justin Webb: Lord Lawson?

Nigel Lawson: Yeah, I think we want to focus, not on this extremely speculative and uncertain area – I don’t blame the climate scientists for not knowing. Climate and weather is quite extraordinarily complex, and this is a very new form of science. All I blame them for is pretending they know, when they don’t. But anyhow, what we want to focus on is what we’re going to do. And I think this is a wake-up call. We need to abandon this crazy and costly policy of spending untold millions on littering the countryside with useless wind turbines and solar panels, and moving from a sensible energy policy of having cheap and reliable forms of energy to a policy of having unreliable and costly energy. Give up that – what we want to focus on – it’s very important – is making sure this country is really resilient and robust to whatever nature throws at us, whether there’s a climate element or not. Water storage, when there’s drought –

Justin Webb: Surely the wise thing… Can I just put this to you –

Nigel Lawson: – flood defences, sea defences – that’s what we want to focus on.

Justin Webb: Can I just put this to you though: if there is a chance – and some people would say there is a strong chance – that global warming, man-made global warming, exists and is having an impact on us, doesn’t it make sense, whether or not you believe that that is a 95% chance or a 50% chance or whatever, does it not make sense to take care to try to avoid the kind of emissions that may be contributing to it? I mean, what could be wrong with doing that?

Nigel Lawson: Everything. The – first of all, even if there is warming – and there’s been no recorded warming over the past 15, 16, 17 years –

Justin Webb: Well, that’s – oh yeah, there is a lot of controversy about that.

Nigel Lawson: No, there’s not – that’s a fact. It’s accepted even by the IPCC. No measured warming –

Justin Webb: No, no measured warming , but… Well, all right –

Nigel Lawson: No measured warming, exactly, well, that’s –

Justin Webb: We’ll get back to that.

Nigel Lawson:  – measurements are actually not unimportant. The – but what  – even if there is some problem, it is not able to affect any of the dangers, except marginally. What we want to do is to focus on dealing with the problems that there are, with climate – which there are, with drought and floods, and so on. These have happened in the past – they’re not new. And as for emissions, this country is responsible for less than 2% of global emissions. Even if we cut our emissions to zero – which would put us back to the, sort of, pre-Industrial Revolution, and the poverty that that [inaudible] – even if we reduced and did that, it would be outweighed by the amount of the Chinese, China’s emissions’ increase, in a single year. So it is absolutely crazy, this policy –

Justin Webb: Sir Brian?

Nigel Lawson: – it cannot make sense at all.

Justin Webb: Sir Brian?

Brian Hoskins: I think we have to do – to learn two lessons from this. The first one is that by increasing the greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere, particularly carbon dioxide, to levels we’ve not seen for millions of years on this planet, we’re performing a very risky experiment. And we’re pretty confident that that means – if we go on like we are – that temperatures are going to rise somewhere 3 to 5 degrees by the end of this century, sea levels up to half to one metre rise –

Justin Webb: Lord Lawson was saying there, there has been a pause, which you hear a lot about – a pause in what, 10, 15 years, in measured rising of temperature. That is the case, isn’t it?

Brian Hoskins: It hasn’t risen much, over the last 10 to 15 years, if you measure the climate from the global averaged surface temperature. But during that time, the excess energy has still been absorbed by the climate system, and being absorbed by the oceans, which are warming up.

Justin Webb: So it’s there, somewhere.

Brian Hoskins: Oh yes, it’s there in the oceans. And the oceans –

Nigel Lawson: That is pure speculation.

Brian Hoskins: No, it’s a measurement.

Nigel Lawson: No, it’s not, it’s speculation, with respect.

Justin Webb: Well, it’s a combination of the two, isn’t it, as is this whole discussion. Lord Lawson, and Sir Brian Hoskins as well, thank you both very much.

Brian Hoskins: Thank you.

The transcript of a Today programme item on February 5 about new methods of controlling floods in urban areas speaks volumes about the BBC’s attitude towards the subject of climate.

Two years ago, the BBC decided at Trustee level that dangerous man-induced ‘climate change’ was definitely happening and that climate issues must reported on that basis. Impartiality, that is, balanced referral to those who thought otherwise, was ruled out.

Alison Hastings, the Trustee for England, who – off the back of once working as editor of a minor provincial newspaper and as a member of the Press Complaints Commission – is now in overall charge at regulatory level of BBC editorial issues, explains why here. The report on which she based her findings, by Steve Jones, who Ms Hastings says was ‘independent’ despite being a frequent BBC contributor, is here.

In consequence, the BBC slavishly and enthusiastically follows any story that it believes ‘proves’ climate change. A good topical example is this based on alarmist remarks from Julia Slingo at the Meteorological Office, who has claimed that the ‘clustering’ of the current wave of UK storms is a firm indication of ‘climate change’. Many genuine climate experts think otherwise, for example in this analysis which puts into perspective the Dawlish railway line collapse, but you won’t see their perspective on the BBC  Their version of ‘balance’ does not allow that.

The BBC have also not reported claims in the Mail on Sunday  and the EU Referendum website that the Somerset levels floods are directly the result of EU directives which stipulate that more  should be done to drown, rather than dredge, wetland areas.

The February 5 floods sequence is important because it is a prime example of the BBC’s approach to this topic. One report is never evidence of cumulative bias, but this one shows graphically elements of the BBC’s entirely one sided approach.

It was news, of course, that a new flood dispersion schemes was being trialled, and the processes involved were well explained. This part of the sequence was fine.

But then Roger Harrabin’s report took an altogether different turn towards being a propagandist – exactly as the Alison Hastings ruling has facilitated. He said:

“Well, Welsh Water think this scheme is applicable not just here, but right across the country, they think it will save water companies money, and they think it will be more effective at preventing floods.  And the children at this school will learn, unlike their parents, that climate change is predicted to bring more extreme weather in the future and to raise the sea levels, so they may consider using the land differently to the way their parents did.”

Pardon?  Suddenly, the report is in a different dimension. The correspondent is no longer a reporter of events, but the direct purveyor of futurology – and it’s not a small point. He says directly that children in schools must consider changing ‘land use’ because ‘climate change’ (whatever that may be) will probably bring more rain in future.

And hey presto, at hand is someone to ram home this point. Back in the studio, Justin Webb interviewed Lord Krebs, an Oxford professor and part of Parliament’s committee on climate change.  Why was he chosen to appear? Presumably, it was because he is a member of that committee. It’s certainly not because of particular expertise, because Professor Krebs’ academic works have focused on bird behaviour. He is, however, a political activist with regard to ‘climate change’ – he is chairman of the national network of Science Learning Centres, which has a major role in spreading climate alarmism.

Professor Krebs did not disappoint. Justin Webb’s first question provided an open goal for him bs to say what he wanted. He duly delivered, culminating in his main point that most of the problems related to flooding were due to man-made climate change, and this meant that there had to be a massive diversion of expenditure – and changes in our way of life – to accommodate that. Greenpeace would have been proud.

Overall, this item vividly shows that the BBC has an overt and deliberate political agenda in this field. There was no attempt to provide a contrasting opinion to those of Professor Krebs, because the Trustees have said that such normal journalistic balance is not required. The corporation has become the mouthpiece of propagandists.

The full transcript is below:

Transcript of BBC Radio 4, Today, 5th February 2014, Climate Change, 8.36am

JUSTIN WEBB:       We’ve built homes and superstores on floodplains, we’ve paved gardens and drained bogs which used to catch water, and replaced woodlands with sheep farms which compact the soil and straightened winding rivers, we’ve made them flow faster.  And all of this, we are told, is contributing to flooding.  We are told this by the Committee on Climate Change and we’re also told by them today that it has to stop.  The Committee says we need to catch water in upstream areas, it warns that half a billion pounds of extra funding needs to be spent in the next four year period to keep pace, just to keep pace, with the risk of climate change affecting the UK.  We’ll speak to the Committee in a second, first let’s hear from our environment analyst, Roger Harrabin, who’s been to Llanelli in South Wales, where they’re spending £40 million on reengineering the streets to prevent flooding.

ROGER HARRABIN:               I’m near the centre of Llanelli, and as you might expect it has been raining and I’m here to see a scheme where Welsh Water are digging up the pavements to prevent floods.  I’m joined by Steve Wilson from Welsh Water.  Steve, can you explain to me what you’re doing?

STEVE WILSON:     We’re trying to take the surface water, the rainfall that comes off the house roofs, the roads, out of the sewerage network, find ways back into the environment, to really prevent flooding.

RH:          So, what exactly are you doing here behind us?

SW:         So, we’ve hollowed out the ground, put a depression in the ground, we’re going to fill that with soil, and that will soak the water in that would run down this hill, and instead of going into the sewer network, it will soak it into the ground.

RH:          And it looks like you’ve made holes in the curb so the water will come sideways out of the gutter and into this, this sort of holding system that you’ve built.

SW:         Exactly, you can imagine with the heavy rain here in Wales it pours down the roads, and if we can get it to pour off the road into this planting area and soak into the media that we’ve put in the ground there.  This scheme here should take out 22,500 cubic metres of rainfall every year out of the sewers.

RH:          How can you be confident of that?

SW:         The flow monitors and the design work that we’ve done is already showing us that actually some of the schemes we put in taking out more water than we actually first envisaged.  This is the answer for us, building more bigger pipes or bigger, deeper tanks, that we are reaching the capacity of them too soon, this is a much more sustainable way of preventing flooding.

RH:          I’ve now come up to Stebonheath School, just round the corner where they’ve got another innovative flood management scheme.  And I’m joined by . . .

DYLAN DAVIES:     Dylan Davies.

RH:          And . . .

CAITLIN THOMAS:                Caitlin Thomas.

RH:          What have you been doing here guys?

CT:          We’ve been, we’ve been, we’ve been making a swale, to stop all the floods from the drain.

RH:          What’s a swale?

CT:          The . . .the grass . . .

RH:          This grassy dip in the ground here.  So what happens, the water runs off the playground . . .

CT:          Yeah.

RH:          . . . into the dip.

DD:         Yeah, and it comes from, when it rains it goes onto the roof, then all the rain comes off the roof down into the swale, and the swale all the water and like, and pushes it off into the drain gently (words unclear due to speaking over)

RH:          And is there a big difference, can you see the difference when it rains?

BOTH:     Yes.

CT:          A lot of difference.

RH:          What did it used to be like?

CT:          It used to be all flooded, this area . . . we weren’t allowed to come by here, because it was all wet and puddles everywhere.

RH:          And it looks good as well.

BOTH:     Yeah.

DD:         Definitely.

RH:          Well, Welsh Water think this scheme is applicable not just here, but right across the country, they think it will save water companies money, and they think it will be more effective at preventing floods.  And the children at this school will learn, unlike their parents, that climate change is predicted to bring more extreme weather in the future and to raise the sea levels, so they may consider using the land differently to the way their parents did.

JW:         Hmm.  Roger Harrabin in Llanelli.  Lord Krebs is chair of the Adaptation Subcommittee, part of the Committee on Climate Change, and is on the line from Oxford, good morning.

LORD KREBS:         Good morning.

JW:         I don’t know how much of that report you heard, you would say, would you, presumably, that what they’re doing in Llanelli ought to be a model for the whole of the rest of the country?

LK:          I thought that it was a wonderful project that your reporter Roger Harrabin described in Llanelli.  The fact is that what we are experiencing now in terms of flooding and extreme weather is likely to become more common in the future as a result of climate change, and it’s time now to plan ahead, to make our country more resilient, to move from cleanup and the dreadful damage that occurs to people’s homes and livelihoods, to prevention, to make our country more resilient.  And at the moment, we’re not really doing that, we’re going in the wrong direction.

JW:         Does that mean though, for instance, that you ban people from paving over their front gardens?

LK:          Well, the fact is that the hard surfaces in our towns and cities have increased hugely, almost doubled in the last decade or so because people are paving over front gardens.  You can, of course, use absorbent paving surfaces, so it’s not actually the case that just because you pave over, you’re going to have more water run-off, but if we, it’s really a choice that we as a country have to make, if we want to make our country more resilient we’re going to have to make some difficult decisions to prevent the kind of thing that’s happening now happening more frequently in the future.

JW:         But just to make it clear, you’re saying to the government, it is time to make those difficult decisions, it’s time to say to people, ‘We are going to enforce planning regulations’, whatever they be, about saving your gardens and the various other things that might be discussed, it’s time to enforce them centrally because this matters so much.

LK:          Well, we are building in floodplains, 13% of all new developments in the last decade or so has been in floodplain areas.  The Environment Agency has a responsibility, a statutory responsibility for advising on whether development should go ahead, so there are regulations in place.  The problem we have identified is that in about a third of cases, the Environment Agency never finds out whether their advice has been followed, so it’s not necessarily about new regulations it’s about ensuring that existing rules are being enforced properly.

JW:         (speaking over) Yeah, but the onus is also put on developers now, isn’t it, rather more than on the agency, and that’s been something that the government has consciously done, and you’re saying now should consciously undo?

LK:          Well, as I say, there is a regulatory framework in place, the Environment Agency is the statutory consultee for any development, and it can comment on the potential flood risks.  However, these decisions about risk now and risk in the future, and if the government wants to say to people, look, we are just going to be exposed to more flooding risk and you’re going to have to experience this, that’s fine, but I think we need to be transparent and have an open discussion about how these decisions are made.  There’s also a role, of course, for individual householders because if people do live in a flood risk area there are measures that they can take to make their house more resilient by having, for example, flood resistant ground floor fittings, fitting water guards front of doors and over air bricks and so on.  So there are measures that individuals can take, that local authorities can take, and central government decisions can help too.

JW:         Are you frustrated that so much of the discussion in the last few days has been about dredging and whether or not there had been enough dredging in Somerset, in other words is the focus on that taking our mind, in your view, off what we should be focusing on?

LK:          I think dredging may be part of the story but there is, as I say, a much bigger picture about do we want to make our country more resilient to the kind of weather that we’ve experienced in the last month or so that is likely to get more common as a result of climate change.

JW:         The trouble is, you use that word lightly, and an awful lot of people would say, well yes, it may happen, but it may not as well and weather is, you know, unpredictable we may well go into a period where none of these things that you’re suggesting happen do happen, and we’ll have spent an awful lot of money and then wasted it?

LK:          Well, all we can do is go on the best available science, and the climate scientists who’ve looked at this, using the best models and the best evidence available suggest to us that the weather is likely to become more stormy, more predictable in the future and the kind of extreme weather events that we are experiencing now, rather than being perhaps, one in a hundred year event may become a one in twenty year event.  We can’t be absolutely sure of detail, but it’s sensible in my view to take precautions.

JW:         Lord Krebs, thank you very much.

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