The BBC1 News at Ten flagship bulletin is carrying a series of reports which it says are about ‘asking about the factors that are likely to influence the way people vote’. They are obviously intended to inform the audience’s choice, and of course, the BBC will insist that they are balanced. Analysis of the six reports broadcast as part of the strand between Sunday May 22 and Friday May 28 suggests very strongly otherwise. In order to understand what is being presented, News-watch has dissected each report and looked at the presenter comment, and the ‘exit’ and ‘remain points’ made. The full transcripts are included at the end.
In summary points of concern that emerged were:
The reports stressed repeatedly that EU money was vital and beneficial to aspects of the UK economy – in building new sports facilities, and in stimulating business growth and revival in stricken economic areas.
On the other side of the coin, there was no explanation that ‘EU money’ actually derives from the UK taxpayer. A fundamental part of the ‘exit’ side’s concerns about the EU was thus omitted from analysis. The only mention of its true origin was in passing from a programme contributor – a Welsh hill farmer who supported Brexit.
Northern Ireland, according to the BBC reporter who filed this edition, could return on Brexit to a regime of tiresome and economy-damaging border checks and the re-introduction of customs houses on roads throughout the province. It was stressed that ‘EU peace money’ had been strongly beneficial.
But there was no explanation that travel and border arrangements in Ireland are governed not at all by the EU but by bilateral UK-Eire arrangements under the Common Travel Area, which has existed for almost a century. It was also not sufficiently explained that barbed wire border checks were introduced only to deal with security issues during the Troubles.
Analysis of the various vox pops (a central feature of all the reports) shows that broadly, those giving reasons for ‘remain’ were edited so that they included a wider and more coherent range of views such as: the EU provided more opportunities for jobs and travel, that it promoted diversity, better security, that introducing border security was ‘completely insane’, that the EU was not broken, that being outside the EU would make the UK ‘very vulnerable’, that the UK was too small and no longer had strong enough armed forces to stand alone
‘Out’ vox pops points tended to be shorter and narrower in scope. They included: that the UK’s influence was waning in an expanding EU, that the EU had taken millions (of pounds) from the UK, that being in the EU allowed in too many immigrants and led to too much Polish food being in Tesco, that jobs were being lost to immigrants.
The vox pop imbalance was most pronounced in Mark Easton’s features from Eastbourne and Knowsley. Each was very strongly weighted to the ‘remain’ perspective. In Eastbourne, the contributions of the younger supporters of ‘remain’ were edited to suggest that the EU was vital to employment opportunities, a non-prejudiced outlook (more detailed analysis in the next section). In Knowsley – which Easton said was likely by virtue of demographics to be among the stronger supporters of exit – he edited the contributions so that the ‘remain’; side were concerned about security, economic viability, because they liked being part of Europe, because the UK needed to combine with others to reduce it vulnerability, and because being in ‘Europe’ was more comfortable. Those in favour of ‘out’ only said that they wanted to get Poles out because they got everything, and because there were too many foreigners who took jobs, Easton summed this up as ‘clear anxiety about the perceived threat from outsiders’.
The more detailed named interviewee contributions in the editions about Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland also tended to favour the ‘remain’ side. Barry McGuigan, speaking from a sports facility paid for (it was said) with EU peace money in Northern Ireland, claimed that joining the EU had been strongly beneficial for Eire, and felt on balance that the UK was part of Europe The owner of a whisky distillery in Islay said that the EU provided an essential market for its product, that ‘exit’ would damage jobs and take the local economy back to ‘the dark ages’. In Wales, a university lecture who had published research showing that the EU contribution to Wales was £79 per head, argued that local people did not appreciate that and were focused instead on immigration.
In these three editions’ the exit’ side from named contributors enjoyed much less prominence. From Ireland the DUP leader made what came across as an almost meaningless observation about border control; in Wales, a hill farmer said that EU subsidies were actually UK money and that exit would lead to less regulation; and in Scotland a small business owner argued that the UK could survive outside the EU. All these contributions were significantly shorter than the ‘remain’ contributions.
The arguments for ‘remain’ on an edition-by-edition basis were:
May 22: Reporter Chris Buckler suggested that ‘out’ could lead to the re-imposition of customs borders and Northern Ireland-Eire roads, with associated delays and security checks reminiscent of those in the times of the Troubles. He stressed that Northern Ireland had benefitted from ‘peace money’. It had helped build a sports facility. Former boxer Barry McGuigan, in the sports centre, said that Eire had benefitted ‘enormously’ from being part of Europe. His ‘feeling’ also told him that the UK should be part of Europe. A vox pop said the idea of re-introducing borders was ‘completely insane’.
May 23: Mark Easton said that polls showed that 70 percent of the under 25s wanted to stay in the EU. In an Eastbourne college, one student said that she could not think of a single thing that the UK would lose by remaining or by the huge influx of migrants, another accepted that immigration ‘could cause problems’ but immediately countered that immigrants had helped ‘our country so much’, another supported ‘diversity’ encouraged by the EU, Another said he was very comfortable in the EU and it was not broken. In the final sequence, a student ‘not wanting to sound rude’ said young people’s ideas about Europe were more valid because they were going to be here longer than the Over 50s, and students wanted to go to Europe, and travel in Europe, and study in Europe. Another student contended that their chances of going to Europe as teachers – which they wanted to do – would be jeopardised is there was exit. Europe would also not be ‘so accessible’.
May 24: Huw Edwards said that an academic report indicated that Wales benefitted by £79 per head from the EU. Reporter Hywel Griffith said that since 2000, millions of pounds had come to towns like Ebbw Vale from the EU, and there were signs of spending ‘everywhere’. Dr Daniel Evans said that people in wales did not seem to be aware of the amount of money received by Wales from the EU and were instead talking about issues such as immigration. A car business owner warned that uncertainty over the EU was bad for business and asked why a marriage that was working should end.
May 26: Sarah Smith noted first that polls showed 75% of Scots wanted to remain in the EU. She said that on Islay, the ferry docks had been completely rebuilt with millions of pounds from the EU. She noted that the EU now bought 50% of the output from a revived local whisky distillery which was providing ‘much needed jobs’. She added that the distillery owner believed that leaving the EU would have dire consequences. The owner then said that an exit from the EU would be a ‘return to the dark ages’ that did not bear thinking about. The EU had lifted the local economy in a ‘a very dramatic way’. Smith said after his contribution that he also believed that uncertainty about the EU could delay investment and cost jobs’. In Edinburgh, a remain campaigner emphasised that Scots were happy with the ‘third identity’ that EU membership gave them.
May 27: In vox pops in Knowsley, Mark Easton, the first contributor wanted to stay in for economic reasons, and the second for security. The third liked being part of Europe and did not want to leave. He found another vox pop who did not want to leave ‘because it had all changed now’. Someone else argued – in more depth – that because the UK was a ‘small unit in the world’ being alone meant that fighting was not possible, ‘I think it makes us vulnerable’. The final vox pop agreed that the UK was a small country compared in square footage to the likes of Spain. Britain used to have a strong army, navy and air force, but now staying in ‘makes me feel comfortable’.
The equivalent analysis of ‘exit’ arguments was:
May 22, Arelene Foster, leader of the DUP in Northern Ireland, said: “We have such good relations now that we will be able to build on that, and I don’t foresee watchtowers going back in South Armagh, if that’s what the question is… Well, as I say, there are borders all across Europe and those things will be negotiated if there is to be an Out vote.”
May 23: In Eastbourne, in vox pops, members of an Over 50s club said the EU’s influence in the EU was reducing because there were now so many members and another said that too many immigrants were coming to the EU. A third said the EU had taken ‘millions from us’. A student in separate vox pops accepted that ’immigrants could cause problems’.
May 24: Bridget Rowlands, a hill farmer, said that she received thousands of pounds in subsidies from the EU but this was British money that should not go through the EU in the first place. She said that EU meant many rules and regulations and did not feel that farmers benefitted from them. Two vox pop contributors in Ebbw Vale said that immigration was a threat to jobs that should be ‘tightened down’.
May 25: A Broadway resident noted that an issue was that there were ‘two long isles’ of Polish food in the local Tesco, and that the change had been a revolution rather than an evolution (but said he was undecided in terms of the vote).
May 26: In Edinburgh, an exit campaigner said the EU rules prevented the UK having a say, and the EU had appropriated a lot of powers in such a way that it prevented Britons having what they wanted. A Glasgow car parts business owner said he wanted out and wanted to end the notion that leaving would mean pulling up the drawbridge.
May 27: In vox pops opinions included (very briefly) wanting to pull up the drawbridge, wanting to be out for no specific reason (twice) , wanting to get ‘all the English in here’ and all the Poles out, a fear that immigrants were taken jobs, and ‘jobs were being thrown at them’.
BBC NEWS AT TEN TRANCRIPTS – MAY 22 to May 27, 2016.
May 22, 10.49pm – Northern Ireland
MH: What would next month’s EU referendum mean for Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK to have a land border with another European country? In the first of a series of reports hearing views from around the UK – our Ireland correspondent Chris Buckler has been travelling along that border. Chris?
CHRIS BUCKLER: Mishal, I’m standing right at the border, not that there is much sign of it today. Of course, it was very different during the years of Northern Ireland’s troubles when there would have been checkpoints, often queues of cars. And Leave and Stay campaigners have been involved in a heated debate about what would happen if the UK were to leave the EU. Could it mean a return of checkpoints and the end of completely open roads? As it is, the easiest way of knowing whether you’re in the north or the south is by looking at the speed limit signs. In the Republic, they’re in kilometres per hour, in the North they’re in miles per hour. And I’ve been taking a journey along that border, and I should warn you my report does contain some flashing images. Fermanagh sits at the edge of the UK. There is a point in this land where Northern Ireland ends and the Republic begins. But could that invisible border soon mark the line where the UK meets the EU? What looks like a haphazard red line on that map is actually the border and on this one road, as you’re travelling down it, you move in and out of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland several times. In fact, coming up here we’re just going back into Fermanagh, back into the UK. But during the violent years of Northern Ireland’s Troubles, there was huge security where the two countries met, and some are asking whether checkpoints would return if the UK was to vote to leave Europe.
ARLENE FOSTER MLA First Minister of Northern Ireland: We have such good relations now that we will be able to build on that, and I don’t foresee watchtowers going back in South Armagh, if that’s what the question is.
CB: Nobody means watchtowers, but we need some kind of checkpoints, or something that says there’s a physical border there?
AF: Well, as I say, there are borders all across Europe and those things will be negotiated if there is to be an Out vote.
CB: Northern Ireland’s First Minister is a supporter of the Leave campaign. But other parties at Stormont are worried about the potential impact of an exit on the economy here, and the government in the Republic share some of those concerns. Approximately £1 billion of goods and services is traded between the UK and Ireland every week. Towns along this shared border have benefited from European peace money. It’s helped to build among other things this sports facility in Clones in County Monaghan. The town’s most famous son is former world boxing champion Barry McGuigan. But in the fight over Europe, he’s not sure which corner to be in.
BARRY McGUIGAN: The south has benefited enormously from being part of Europe. I’m still relatively undecided about whether I now live in the UK or whether they should be part of Europe or not, and none of the politicians have convinced me, that’s the interesting thing. But my gut feeling tells me that the UK should be part of Europe.
CB: Politically and practically, checkpoints on Irish roads might not be an option, but if Britain was outside of the EU and the Irish Republic within, migration controls might be necessary. Currently, you don’t need a passport to travel between these islands. But with modern security concerns, some have suggested that that could change.
VOX POP MALE: I think you should have to show passports regardless. You’re on a ferry, it could be anybody getting on this ferry. It could be terrorists getting on the ferry.
CB: But other travellers, used to crossing seas and borders, don’t like the idea of new restrictions.
VOX POP FEMALE: Where we live borders is completely . . . it’s completely insane, like again to re-establish a border.
CB: Britain and Ireland have always sat apart from the rest of Europe geographically, but this referendum is about where the UK sits politically, and the final decision will make a difference across both islands. Chris Buckler, BBC News.
May 23, 10.28pm – Referendum Generation Gap
HE: Well, with just a month to go to that EU referendum – we’re asking about the factors that are likely to influence the way people vote – and one of those factors, certainly, is age. Recent polls suggest that 70 per cent of those aged under 25 want to remain in the EU. It’s very different for those aged over 65 – nearly 60 per cent of those said they’d vote to leave. Our home editor Mark Easton is in Eastbourne with more on the generational gap, Mark?
MARK EASTON: Yeah, well this is a town, Huw, that likes to look out past the pier and across the water to its continental neighbours. And how people react to their neighbours really does depend as you say on their generation. It’s interesting, isn’t it? The generation that voted us into Europe, the EEC back in 1975 now largely wants to vote out and the generation that’s not known anything different wants to vote in. I’ve been trying to find out why. On England’s southern shore Eastbourne is a mix of young and old. Some parts of the town are full of student digs and in others the average age is over 70. At an over 50s club a creative writing class where every single member tells me they’ll be voting to leave the EU. Where you live, John, I think what, 80-odd people, overwhelming support for Out?
JOHN: I think basically they probably want to get the England that they knew when they were younger.
VOX POP FEMALE: We are diminishing with our say, we are just one, first of all we were one in eight or nine, now we’re one in 32 (sic), we’re going to be one in 50, we’re going to be one in 100. We’ve got to scale back.
VOX POP MALE: I think it’s ridiculous that the EU have dictated to us over immigration, that we’ve got no control over our borders, that so many immigrants are coming in. Many of them illegally.
ME: Across town students dance to a different tune. Among these trainee physical education teachers, every single person tells me they’ll be voting to stay in the EU. I think your generation appears to be more comfortable with diversity, people moving around? VOX POP FEMALE 2: Times have changed from the way that our grandads and grandmas’, like, generation, I think, like, diversity has become more, like, accepted.
VOX POP MALE 2: I don’t do the same things as my grandma used to do back in the day. I just get on with it, you know,
VOX POP MALE 3: If it’s not broke, don’t fix it, I’m a very proud Brit, but I’m very comfortable within the EU.
ME: There is an argument that huge numbers of Europeans coming to the UK will change our identity somehow?
VOX POP FEMALE 3: I can’t think of one British thing that we have to lose.
ME: Control of our borders?
VPF3: Yeah, I suppose, you do have immigrants who can cause problems and everyone are worried about, but then again you have the immigrants who come in who have contributed to our country so much.
ME: With such different views on Britain’s relationship with his neighbours across the water we decided to invite representatives of both groups to meet here on Eastbourne’s historic pier. The generation gap is wide. Can it be closed? We took the search for common ground to the pier’s tearoom.
VPM: These Europeans are taking billions of money, why would you want to stay in with them?
VOX POP FEMALE 4: I think it is a matter of accessibility for us. A lot of us are training to be teachers and would like to be able to go and teach abroad and we feel that if we do come out then our chance of that would be jeopardised and it would not be so accessible.
VOX POP MALE 4: They are interfering with our way of life. We didn’t ask them to but they are doing it.
VPF: Everybody keeps coming over to us and we are going over to them, your jobs wouldn’t be there.
VPF3: I don’t mean to sound rude but we are going to be here a little bit longer than you are so therefore surely we should have more say on it because we are the ones who like to go to Europe and travel in Europe, who might study in Europe, so therefore I believe that our views are a little bit more valid than yours.
ME: But actually older people are much more likely to vote in the referendum than the young, so their voice will be louder. Young or old, it’s who takes part that may well decide Britain’s future relationship with its neighbours over the water. Mark Easton, BBC News, Eastbourne.
HE: A quick reminder that Newsnight is coming on BBC Two, with a special programme asking what kind of country the UK would be if there was a vote to leave the EU.
May 24, 10.27pm – Wales and the Referendum
HUW EDWARDS: Much of the debate in the EU referendum campaign centres on the cost of membership. A new report by the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University suggests that in 2014 there was an overall net benefit to Wales of around £79 per head. The Remain campaign says this would be at risk if Britain left the EU – a claim that is hotly disputed by those in favour of Leaving. Our Wales correspondent, Hywel Griffith, has been sampling opinion in South Wales.
HYWEL GRIFFITH: From verdant hills to slowly greening slag heaps, a journey across the Heads of the Valleys Road reveals a lot about Wales’ past, but what about the future?
SAT NAV: Proceed along the A465.
HG: While it’s argued Wales gets more out of the EU than it puts in, the decision facing every voter is far from straight-forward. Bridget Rowlands farms above the Swansea Valley. Every year she receives thousands of pounds in subsidies via Brussels, but she argues the money is really British and shouldn’t go through the EU in the first place.
BRIDGET ROWLANDS Farmer: So, obviously, the more area you’ve got, the bigger the payment is.
HG: For Bridget, the EU also means a lot of rules and regulations. She’s not convinced farmers really benefit.
BR: My payment is down considerably this year and, by 2019, it’s going to be down considerably more. So the amount of money that I’m receiving, if I’m in or out, it’s not going to have a significant impact upon me.
HG: Head east and you come to some of the most deprived areas, not just in Wales, but in the entire European Union. Since the turn of the century, millions of pounds have come via the EU to towns like Ebbw Vale, which has lost its steelworks. There’s signs of spending everywhere, but that doesn’t mean voters here are desperate to stay in.
DR DANIEL EVANS Cardiff University: The issues that people have been talking about, when they’re talking about the EU referendum, don’t seem to be about Welsh issues. They don’t seem to really seem aware of the amount of money that Wales has received from the EU. They really seem to be focussing more British wide issues – such as immigration, security and so on.
HG: Only 2% of people here were born outside the UK but, for the voters we spoke to, immigration is the key issue.
VOX POP FEMALE: The main concerns are people taking jobs and coming in and, with all the threats at the moment, it’s worrying because you don’t know who’s coming in and they’re not being vetted, and stuff like that.
VOX POP MALE: I think we’re far too lenient and lax with immigration. I think it should be tightened down.
VOX POP FEMALE 2: It probably has an impact but, obviously, you’ve got to have, you know, immigration and, you know, people coming in. You know, obviously, us going out to other parts of the EU, you know, so we can get jobs.
HG: Over in Abergavenny, at the end of the road, they’re desperate to keep every avenue open. The boss of this car parts company says he’s already had customers, like BMW and Audi in Germany, asking him what’s going to happen – just the uncertainty is bad for business.
GEOFF HANCOCK Managing Director, NSA Ltd: I think it’s the fear of the unknown. There’s a lot of ideas out there what could happen. But the fact is, we’re inside a marriage now which is working and why get divorced when there’s no need to?
HG: Wales can’t choose its own direction in this referendum, it’s the UK as a whole that will decide whether staying in or leaving is the right route to take. Hywel Griffith, BBC News.
May 25, 10.27pm – Undecided Voters in Worcestershire
HUW EDWARDS: Voters will go to the polls, four weeks tomorrow, in the referendum on Britain’s future in the EU and recent polls suggest that as many as a quarter of voters may not have decided yet whether to Remain or Leave. Our home editor, Mark Easton, is in Worcestershire tonight on the trail of the undecided voters. Let’s join him now.
MARK EASTON: Welcome to Worcestershire Huw, King John is buried in the cathedral behind me, and just across the city of Worcester is the scene of a famous victory for the parliamentarians in the English Civil War which is why the tourist brochures like to call it the home of British liberty and democracy. But when it comes to the EU referendum, Worcestershire is divided. All the local MPs are Conservatives, but they can’t agree on which way to vote, so I’ve been exploring what I call the agony of the undecideds. The jewel of the Cotswolds, the village of Broadway epitomises what JB Priestley called “the most English landscape, Conservative, with large ‘C’ and small it is an ancient place with a polished patina of self-assurance and conviction.” But when it comes to the EU referendum, resident Tories, like Peter Reading, find themselves undecided. His daily newspaper, and his party of course, seem equally unclear. Outside the Broadway Hotel, I met Peter and his wife Joan, among the 20% of Conservative voters who say they still haven’t made up their mind.
JOAN READING: There are people on either side, on the yes and the no, who you admire their views and yet suddenly they’re antagonistic views and it’s who do you believe? Which side do you go for?
PETER READING: I think my default position is probably to go out, but my head tells me that perhaps I should stay in, but I want to see the argument persuade me to stay in.
ME: You don’t feel that? No. What about you, Joan?
JR: It’s, I think, as Peter said, it’s almost a head and heart situation. You know, I’m British, I’m proud of being British and the things that we stand for.
PR: Let me give you an example. If I go to our largest Tesco’s here, there are two long aisles full of Polish food. I believe that countries will always evolve but, at the moment, it is more like a revolution.
JR: You know, why couldn’t we have some economists do a for and against without being biased? It’s getting . . .
ME: You want the facts, don’t you?
JR: I want the facts!
ME: Clear, unambiguous, unbiased.
JR: Yeah, I’m a scientists. I want the facts.
ME: It’s a refrain you hear over and over again. People say they want more facts. They want the arguments clearly set out. And that’s probably why politicians are reporting large numbers turning up at village and town hall meetings and referendum debates, far more than at the general election. In the Cap and Gown, in central Worcester, the saloon bar is packed for a debate on the EU. There are supporters from both camps and the undecideds are here, too.
VOX POP FEMALE: I think what’s difficult is dealing with all the nonsense and all the facts, (makes ‘quotes’ symbol with fingers) ‘facts’ that are coming out on both sides and I find I can’t believe any of them.
VOX POP MALE: But I’m open-minded to change, if I get a sensible argument and so far I have not seen a logical, sensible argument.
VOX POP FEMALE 2: You know, none of us have voted yet, we still can all be swayed in either direction, can’t we?
IN CAMPAIGNER: I think we’re definitely better where we are in the EU.
OUT CAMPAIGNER: We, from the Get Out campaign, do not wish to join the single market. Trade deals don’t sell goods . . .
ME: Normally in politics people stick to well-trodden, tribal paths, but the EU debate has left many feeling they’re lost in the jungle.
CHAIR: In favour of the motion, that being in the EU is good for business?
ME: On the night, Remain narrowly won the debate, but many were still undecided.
VOX POP FEMALE3: I don’t know. I’m… I’ve seen a lot of talking heads and I’d like to look at raw data.
VOX POP MALE 2: People say one thing, people say another thing and you never know who’s telling the truth or who’s right.
ME: Voters are having to do their own homework, consider the arguments, test the claims. Whatever the result, the process has at least been refreshing for our democracy. Mark Easton, BBC News, Worcestershire.
May 26, 10.21pm – Hebrides
SARAH SMITH: In [the BBC TV debate from Glasgow, aired earlier], the Leave side then went on to argue that the money saved from not paying contributions into the European Union could be spent here in the UK on public services. Now, they were arguing about issues that matter across the UK. If you look at opinion polls here in Scotland, it’s very interesting: consistently about two thirds of voters here say they would like to remain in the EU. And I’ve been round the country asking voters what issues matter most to them, starting off in the Hebrides. Navigating through the swell of arguments in the EU debate looks a little different in Scotland’s more remote communities. On the Isle of Islay, the ferry docks at a harbour entirely rebuilt with millions of pounds of European funding. And Europe consumes about half of the island’s exports of Scotch whisky. A recent surge in sales has seen the Bruichladdich Distillery brought out of mothballs, and it’s now producing over a million bottles a year, providing much-needed jobs.
CARL REAVEY Bruichladdich Distillery In here you’ve got the sweet . . . (word unclear) from the . . .
SS: They’re convinced leaving the EU could have dire consequences for an industry the island relies on.
CR: It has really lifted the local economy in a very dramatic way. And the thought that it might actually be threatened in some way is really quite scary, and the idea that we may return to those dark ages, which many, many, many people on this island will remember, doesn’t bear thinking about.
SS: Whisky is one of Scotland’s biggest exports. Bruichladdich admit they don’t know what would happen to sales if we leave the EU, but say even that uncertainty could delay investment and cost jobs. Of course, people won’t choose how to vote based purely on whether or not they think EU membership is good for business. Less than two years after the independence referendum here in Scotland, voters know this is a decision which is not just about economics. The EU referendum also raises questions of identity and sovereignty. Voters must look into their hearts as well as their heads. In Edinburgh, people who are campaigning on each side to leave and to remain, think perceptions of national identity may help explain how Scots will vote.
LAURIE PRESSWOOD Remain Campaigner: We’re very used to having a sort of split identity. So, you know, we would identify ourselves as being both Scottish and also British, which, I know they’re two quite separate identities, so I think perhaps we’re more accepting of having this third European identity.
SS: Whilst those who want to leave feel they have lost control of the decisions that govern their lives.
MORVEN ALLISON Leave Campaigner: There’s a lot of things that we don’t get our say in because of the EU having their own rules. Like, we’ve thought of, like, tons of things that we would like to control over here, but they take them over to the European Union and they’re like, ‘no, you can’t have that, you can’t have that.’ And it’s not . . . it’s not correct.
SS: There are plenty of sceptics in Scotland. In what remains of the country’s industrial belt near Glasgow, workers worry about immigration and its impact on jobs.
ALASTAIR MACMILLAN: These are all fork lift pumps, principally for Japanese trucks . . .
SS: In a factory full of hydraulic pumps, many of which are destined for Europe, worries about the economic impact of leaving the EU are dismissed. Trade will continue, they’re certain.
AM: I think we’re to get out of this perception that if we leave the EU, we’re pulling up a drawbridge at Calais and we’re saying, ‘Right, we’re off on our own.’ That’s not going to happen, that’s . . . pragmatically, realistically, that is not going to happen.
SS: Intriguingly, the parts of Scotland most eager to leave the UK and become independent are also the parts most likely to vote to remain in the EU. If they do so in large enough numbers, it could be Scottish votes that keeps Britain in. If that does happen, if there’s a tight vote, and it is seen to be a majority of Scots who voted to stay in the EU that keeps the whole of the UK inside, that could cause repercussions throughout the United Kingdom, there could be resentment about that. But if it goes the other way, if there’s a vote to leave, but a majority of Scots did vote to remain, well, Alex Salmond the former leader of the SNP, he said at this debate here tonight, he thinks that that would trigger a second referendum on Scottish independence, that within the two years in which Britain was negotiating to leave the EU, there would be another vote here in Scotland as to whether or not Scotland should leave the UK. The repercussions of this may be felt for quite some time to come.
HE: Indeed, Sarah, thanks very much. Sarah Smith our Scotland editor in Glasgow.
May 27, 10.20pm – England and Englishness (Knowsley)
FIONA BRUCE: Now, four weeks from today, we’ll know the answer. Will the UK be staying in or leaving the European Union? All this week, we have been hearing people’s views across the UK about the referendum. Tonight, we’re focusing on England and Englishness. Our Home Editor, Mark Easton, reports from Knowsley on Merseyside.
MARK EASTON: There’s nowhere in Britain as white, English and Christian as Knowsley. Immigration has barely touched this area. Only 2% of residents were born outside the British Isles. But it’s also the second most deprived neighbourhood in England, a place anxious about change. Experts have looked at all the numbers and concluded that this area should be among the most Eurosceptic in the country. But is it?
VOX POP MALE: I personally think we should stay in.
ME: Do you?
VPF: For economic viability.
VOX POP FEMALE: The country is getting a bit too overpopulated. And we need to, erm . . .
ME: Pull up the drawbridge?
VPF: Yeah, 100%, that’s the word. (laughs)
VOX POP MALE 2: I’m going to vote stay in.
VPM2: Yes. Purely for security reasons.
VOX POP MALE 3: I like being part of Europe. I don’t want to be out of it.
ME: You’re going to get a vote in a few weeks, which way do you think it will be, in or out?
VOX POP MALE 4: Out.
VOX POP FEMALE 2: Out!
VPM4: Out. And sooner, the bloody better! (laughs)
ME: It is only a snapshot, but it does seem opinions are more nuanced than simple analysis of the polls suggests. The referendum issues are complicated and disputed, far removed from the realities of people struggling to get by in one of the poorest and least-educated communities in the country. How do you feel about the European Union referendum?
VOX POP FEMALE 3: What does that mean?
VPF3: (laughter in voice) I don’t know what that means.
ME: The polls suggest that places like this are more likely to want to leave the EU and there is clear anxiety about the perceived threat from outsiders.
VOX POP FEMALE 4: My opinion is, get all the English in here and get all the Polish out. We can’t even get a house, the Polish get everything before we get them.
VPF3: There’s more foreigners coming into our country and it’s hard enough for us to get jobs, but they seem to be getting jobs thrown at them, where we can’t get a job in our own country.
ME: So you, you’d like to leave the EU?
VPF3: No, I wouldn’t like to leave the EU, but what I’m saying is, it’s all changed now, hasn’t it?
ME: It is a hard one, isn’t it?
VPF3: Yeah, it is proper hard.
ME: It is proper hard. The fear of change from being in the EU against the fear of change from being out. English nationalism tends to mean support for the Leave campaign. It is easier to love England than the EU. But in The Bulldog pub down the road, again, it’s not quite as simple as that.
VOX POP FEMALE 5: I think we’re a small area, small unit in the world. I’m not sure that being alone, we could fight anything. I think it makes us vulnerable.
VOX POP MALE 5: We’re a small country, maybe in size of square footage compared to the likes of say Spain. We are British. We are a strong nation. We used to have a strong army. We used to have a strong air force and a strong navy.
VPF5: But I’m not sure going out and staying in there is going to be that much difference, actually.
VPM5: So why vote for staying in?
VPF5: Because it makes me feel comfortable.
VPF5: Yeah, that’s your opinion. That’s fine.
ME: What the people of Knowsley seem to be telling us is that if they vote in the referendum, it won’t be based on class or party allegiance, but on what makes them feel more secure, and the reason it’s so hard to call is that they know both options carry risk. Mark Easton, BBC News, Knowsley.