EU Referendum

Nick Robinson wheels out usual BBC defences against EU coverage bias claims

Nick Robinson wheels out usual BBC defences against EU coverage bias claims

BBC presenter and ex-political editor Nick Robinson has been sounding off aggressively against those who he complains are ‘moaning’ that the Corporation’s reporting of Brexit is biased.

‘Calm down dears’ is his core, patronising message.

The Radio 4 Today presenter has declared in the Radio Times that, as departure negotiations proceed, there is no need to provide balance between the ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ sides in BBC coverage of post-Brexit developments.

Instead, the requirement is only for ‘due impartiality’(defined, as always of of course, by the BBC itself) and the goal is is to scrutinise ‘new questions’ about ‘immigration, trade and industrial policies’.

Robinson is bluntly critical of those who ‘do not accept that the war is over’ and have challenged the Corporation’s coverage by getting out their ‘stopwatches and calculators’ and by querying ‘the alleged tone of questions’ and ‘the number of interruptions’.

In terms of detail, Robinson’s praise for the BBC reporting seems to be based primarily on the Corporation’s Manual of Usual Excuses. This is wheeled out every time the word ‘bias’ is mentioned, and vigorously deployed by the BBC Complaints Unit to repel all boarders.

Direct from its grubby pages come the wearyingly predictable defences.

Robinson first claims that both sides have complained, so that means the BBC must be getting things right; then that Brexiteers such as Gove, Fox and Johnson are ‘remarkably reluctant’ to appear, so any shortcomings in that respect are their fault; and finally (the trump card!) that the BBC’s duty is in any case to its audiences, and they – he opines –  don’t care about the obsessions of stop-watch wielding politicians.  The only duty (again, of course, on the BBC’s terms) is to make sure they ‘understand’.

This all adds up to classic Corporation extreme stone-walling. It has been voiced by Robinson but has undoubtedly been cleared and co-ordinated by the BBC high command – and must also be seen as the official response to the complaint filed a couple of weeks back by Tory MP Julian Knight and 70 other cross-party MPs who wrote to Director General Tony Hall about the Corporation’s failure to explore and reflect the pro-Brexit perspective.

And, with Robinson’s scathingly condescending references to stop-watches and calculators, it is also framed as a direct attack on the latest academic research from News-watch into six months of Today’s business news output.  This found a serious failure to air pro-Brexit viewpoints and an unjustifiably heavy focus on gloomy forecasts for the UK economy that added up to a continuation of the Remain side’s Project Fear.

But despite all the bluster, this exercise in smoke-screen obfuscation is remarkably threadbare.

It boils down to a chilling statement of intent that coverage henceforward will be whatever the BBC decides is impartial – no matter what evidence is produced to the contrary.

The reality is that, as the latest News-watch report detailed, the BBC’s coverage of post-Brexit developments is sharply skewed towards the Remain side – and that in the Corporation’s self-declared agenda-setting business slots, in six months, there were only only 10 contributions from clear supporters of Brexit, ranged against dozens who were not.

Robinson might rail against the use of ‘stop-watches and calculators’ but how can such lack of ‘balance’ or ‘due impartiality’ ever be defensible – and how else other than by careful, systematic counting can such blatant negativity be identified?

The BBC will NEVER countenance a complaint based on detailed research of their output – and that’s a gross affront to the licence fee payers that Robinson claims to be serving and helping to ‘understand’.

It is true that as Brexit unfolds, some elements of coverage do contain a wider range of anti-EU opinion than ever before.  Prominent Leave campaigner, the Labour MP Gisela Stuart, for example, was afforded a very unusual brief slot on Today on the day of the Theresa May Article 50 letter to outline her timetable towards Brexit.

But small morsels aside, the Corporation is otherwise relentlessly focused on the Remain agenda.  There’s a continuing, avid search for anything that suggests that ‘race hate’ has escalated as a result if the Brexit vote; Nigel Farage and Ukip continues to be pilloried – on Wednesday night, BBC1’s main bulletins reported Farage’s contribution to the European Parliamentary debate on Brexit in the worst possible light; and every obstacle in the Brexit negotiations, such as the Gibraltar clause, are seized upon with over- enthusiastic glee.

Robinson may claim that this is simple scrutiny of ‘immigration, trade and industrial policies’, but he’s wrong. It adds up to that since June 24, the BBC has mounted a declaration of war against the Brexit prospects and has sided firmly with the remain side.

There has not been a single BBC programme that has looked at Brexit optimistically.

Photo by bobaliciouslondon

BBC Trust defends Corporation’s Harlow ‘race hate’ sensationalism

BBC Trust defends Corporation’s Harlow ‘race hate’ sensationalism

The killing last August of a well-liked Polish man, ‘Arek’ Jóźwik, after a late night fracas in a pizza parlour in Harlow sent the BBC newsgathering operation into overdrive.

It was the end of the silly season and only ten weeks after the referendum.

The BBC, of course, was then, as now, hell-bent on finding and giving maximum exposure to every possible reason why the Brexit vote was a catastrophic mistake.

To the Corporation, which for years has also been on a mission to downplay the impact of immigration on the UK and to label opponents as at best xenophobic, at worst racist, this was a story that ticked every box. They dived into reporting the crime with grim, hyperbolic relish.

BBC1 man-on-the spot Daniel Sandford gave most prominence in his feature for the BBC1 bulletins on August 31 to that the alleged crime – prematurely said by him to be a ‘murder’ – was being investigated as a frenzied attack by a gang of six local youths triggered by race hate stirred up by the referendum vote.

To ram home the message about the race-hate dimension, Sandford carefully collected and edited quotes from the Polish ambassador and Robert Halfon, the local MP.

To be fair, he also mentioned that police were considering other options, such as ‘youths looking for trouble’, but there was no doubt which reason for the attack he thought was more likely.

And later that evening, on BBC2’s Newsnight, correspondent John Sweeney’s outro to his feature about the death was a quote from a friend of Mr Jóźwik, who declared that Nigel Farage had ‘blood on his hands’. The full transcripts of the Sweeney and Sandford reports are contained in the correspondence with the BBC, below.

Fast forward to the present. It has since emerged that Mr Jóźwik’s death was not murder at all.  Nor, say the police, was race-hate involved, and nor was the crime committed by a frenzied gang of youths.

Instead, a sole 15-year-old youth has been charged with manslaughter. He has indicated a plea of ‘not guilty’ at a preliminary hearing at Chelmsford Crown Court and has been released on conditional bail until his trial, which is expected to be in July.

It has also emerged since Sandford’s report in August that police are now convinced that a rise in the reporting of race hate crimes during the summer – heavily stressed by the BBC after June 23 and undoubtedly part of the reason the facts of the Harlow killing were so heavily exaggerated – was not linked at all to the referendum, but was the result of better and easier self-report procedures.

After Harlow, some journalists (unlike the BBC) decided to investigate further. They found that ‘race hate’ domain has become a major self-perpetuating and highly lucrative industry in its own right. One of the main hubs of this new world-wide enterprise is Sussex University where its principal advocate is partly lavishly funded by (you may have guessed)…the EU.

News-watch filed a formal complaint about Sandford’s report. This claimed in essence that the reporting of Harlow was deeply irresponsible journalism that deliberately sensationalised the known facts about the killing, and too readily linked it to ‘race hate.’  There was supporting evidence showing how very rare killings with a racial motive are in the UK, and warning that the available statistics were not reliable.

This was rejected by the Complaints Unit.  The verdict? Move along there, nothing to see – Sandford (whose name was misspelled by the complaints officer) was merely doing his job.

Under the Corporation’s elaborate complaints rules, News-watch in early January submitted an appeal to the BBC Trust about the ruling. Former BBC producer Fran O’Brien, who is now the Trust’s Head of Editorial Standards, has now, finally – a month later than the maximum time permitted under the BBC’s own rules – responded.

Her decision? Surprise, surprise, exactly the same as the Complaints Unit. There was, she ruled, no exaggeration, no inaccuracy, no breach of rules linked to over-emphasising ‘race-hate’. Everything was totally tickety-boo and in line with the BBC Editorial Guidelines.

And that, said O’Brien, was that. Her verdict was final: there could be no appeal. As far as the Trust is concerned, the matter is well and truly closed. The full letter from O’Brien can be read below.

In two weeks, of course, from April 2, the Trust will be no more. Under the new BBC Charter, its role in adjudicating complaint appeals is being taken over by the Content Board at Ofcom.

But this last-gasp ruling underlines yet again that BBC journalism exists in its own bubble, and the Complaints Unit does nothing to prick it; if anything the reverse.  The Corporation reports on its terms, no matter how inflammatory or at odds with the facts and common sense its output is.

The blunt truth is that the Sandford report of Mr Jóźwik’s killing grossly and irresponsibly exaggerated the race-hate dimension and must be seen in the overall context of the BBC’s determined desire to undermine the referendum result.

It’s now down to Ofcom to sort out BBC bias. Don’t hold your breath. First, the Content Board is packed with ex-BBC staff, and second, the overall Ofcom boss, Sharon White, seems more focused on the diversity agenda and getting more women on screen than clearing the Augean stables.

The reality is that until BBC bias is governed by genuinely independent scrutiny, the Corporation will remain locked in that skewed journalistic bubble – massively and crassly out of touch with the British people.

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.

Labour’s latest flip-flop in Brexit saga

Labour’s latest flip-flop in Brexit saga

This is a guest post by Paul T Horgan of The Conservative Woman, where this article was first published.

The membership of the Labour Party is revolting.

A group styling itself as Labour Against Brexit has written an open letter to Jeremy Corbyn, urging him to whip his MPs to vote against the Government’s Article 50 Bill. This letter reportedly attracted 5,000 online signatures from Labour members within three days.

The authors make their views very clear about Labour’s historic position on the UK’s membership of the EU:

“The membership of the Labour Party is not, and has never been, pro-Brexit. The party has a long history of supporting membership of the European Union. “

This is simply not true. The authors write from a position of ignorance over their own party’s history.

The Parliamentary Labour Party has on numerous occasions voted, while in opposition, against EEC membership, most notably in a debate in October 1971 over the motion:

“That this House approves Her Majesty’s Government’s decision of principle to join the European Communities on the basis of the arrangements which have been negotiated”

This motion appears the mirror-image of the Article 50 vote.

At the time, the House divided: Ayes 356, Noes 244. Labour’s leading MPs, such as Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan, voted No. Roy Jenkins voted Aye, sowing the seeds for future party divisions.

Labour outside of Parliament was split before the 1975 referendum, with a special conference voting to leave.

In 1983, Labour’s manifesto stated they wanted to withdraw from the EEC. 

“[…]British withdrawal from the Community is the right policy for Britain – to be completed well within the lifetime of the parliament. That is our commitment. But we are also committed to bring about withdrawal in an amicable and orderly way, so that we do not prejudice employment or the prospect of increased political and economic co-operation with the whole of Europe. “

Labour has, in fact, been flip-floppy over Europe for decades right up until about 1989.

By contrast, official Conservative policy has been clear and consistent since 1961: to join what was then the EEC, and to work with our European partners in this project, occasionally seeking reform, rebates, special deals and other exclusions when policy moved out of the Conservatives’ comfort zone. This was the case even under Iain Duncan Smith. During our courting and membership of the EEC/EC/EU, no Conservative Party leader advocated or voted for Brexit. Numerous Labour leaders did. It is only as a result of the referendum that official Conservative Party policy has changed.

EEC membership was opposed by Labour on numerous occasions. Jeremy Corbyn himself was a Eurosceptic. The only benefit he could see of the EU was in employment and environmental legislation, and that’s about it. But this is hardly surprising. The basis of the EEC was that the economies of the member states were capitalist with state-owned enterprises forming an minority of aggregate commercial activity. This pro-capitalist sentiment was amplified during the Cold War, as a clear, but not necessarily widely stated, objective of the EEC was to prevent any member state from falling to socialist revolution as a consequence of economic collapse. This must have been anathema to arch anti-capitalists such as Corbyn.

Labour’s ‘long history of supporting membership’ actually stems from about 1989, when they made an interesting discovery. French socialist Jacques Delors was President of the Commission, and Labour cottoned on that if the Conservatives, who appeared at the time to be able to remain in power forever, did not pass social and employment legislation that Labour wanted, then the EEC could issue it as a binding directive, and were more than willing at the time to do so. To the Conservatives, this was socialism by the back door, to be resisted. Labour’s, or at least the sane, non-Corbynite wing’s love affair with the EEC started at roughly the same time as Margaret Thatcher’s late-1988 Bruges speech cooled the euro-ardour of some Conservatives.

Some Labour members do not want this love affair to end. Others are just looking over their shoulders at a revanchist Liberal Democrat Party that now has a new bit between its teeth. The Lib Dems gained 11 seats in 2005, or more seats than they now have in total, after their opposition to invading Iraq, and now seem poised for yet another single-issue-based comeback. That is the true reason behind Labour jitters, which includes some front bench resignations with the promise of more. Some MPs are hearing hoof beats behind them.

Labour has always found the topic of the EU an awkward one because their response can only be ideological, and EU membership is actually a technocratic issue. Labour does not do technocratic issues well. To them, policy has to be based on dogma before pragmatism. They have flip-flopped repeatedly over the last sixty years on Europe. This is just the most recent example, but is informed by a genuine fear, as the party scrabbles to find a policy that will not lost them votes to the Lib-Dems and UKIP at the same time. Labour, or a portion of them, is attempting to rewrite their history of switching horses so they can steal the Lib Dem’s tack. According to some Labour members, ‘Ignorance is Strength’.

Photo by David Holt London

News-watch Referendum survey of Radio 1 Newsbeat finds strong BBC bias towards ‘Remain’

News-watch Referendum survey of Radio 1 Newsbeat finds strong BBC bias towards ‘Remain’

During the EU referendum, the BBC adopted special editorial guidelines which required strict even-handed treatment of the Leave and Remain cases.

News-watch has now completed a rigorous academic survey which shows conclusively that these guidelines were effectively ignored. There was heavy bias towards the Remain side in BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat, a flagship news programme which reaches millions of the under 30s.

A summary of the findings is below and the full report is here. The key points include that audiences were 1.5 times more likely to hear Remain opinions and speakers, alleged ‘fact checking’ by the programme which favoured the Remain side, and feature reports that were heavily skewed towards Remain arguments, especially with regard to immigration.

A disturbing implication of the survey is that – as the BBC refused to put in place rigorous bias checks – there is a high likelihood that other elements of the output were similarly skewed.

News-watch analysis found during the referendum build-up and campaign numerous examples of bias covering the flagship news and EU-related programmes on Radio 4, BBC1 and BBC2.

  • Newsbeat devoted only 10.7% of its available airtime to the referendum, and 83% of this coverage was in the three weeks immediately before June 23. Many issues particularly affecting young voters were ignored. There was a narrow editorial focus on immigration and the economy. Important topics, such as national sovereignty, the workings of the EU, travel and residence in the EU, and the impact on universities were only very briefly mentioned. This was thus major ‘bias by omission’ and an over-simplification of the issues involved. The BBC news programme with the biggest audience of young people between the ages of 18 and 25 did not explore the referendum sufficiently to meet the BBC Public Purposes requirements.
  • Newsbeat audiences were 1.5 times more likely to encounter a Remain supporter than a Leave supporter. 238 guest speakers contributed to the various discussions on the referendum. The analysis shows that 45% spoke in favour of Remain, 30% in favour of Leave, with a further 25% giving a neutral, undecided or factual perspective.
  • In 38 Newsbeat reports with guest speakers, 19 (50%), showed a speaker weighting in favour of Remain. Only five similarly favoured ‘leave’. Fourteen had even numbers of speakers. This demonstrates a severe imbalance in favour of Remain.
  • Politicians supporting Remain outnumbered those wanting Leave by 47 to 34. In terms of the number of words spoken by politicians, Remain supporters received 64% of the airtime, compared to 36% for Leave – a ratio of approximately 2:1.
  • There was a much greater breadth of opinion in Remain contributions – they came from Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Green Party. Conversely, the Leave side featured only Conservatives and UKIP. There were no Leave contributions from the Labour party or wider Left. There was no input at all from the nationalist parties in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  • Just over half the contributors were ‘ordinary’ people – vox pop interviewees, members of the public or Newsbeat listeners. On occasions, the programme appeared proud of its ‘anti-politician’ stance, portraying the debate as ‘a playground argument’ and promising in one edition that there would be ‘no boring EU experts’. This trivialised the debate.
  • Throughout, Newsbeat found ways editorially of enhancing or even amplifying the views supporting Remain, and they did not subject such views and alleged related facts to due rigour.
  • Conversely, opinions and alleged facts in favour of Leave were robustly scrutinised, made to look ignorant or contradictory, xenophobic or unfounded (Section 2.4). The most striking example of this was that the Leave claim that EU membership cost the UK £350 million a week was categorically said to be untrue, whereas, George Osborne’s estimation that Brexit would cost each household £4,300 annually was subjected to far less scrutiny.
  • In an immigration special from Wisbech, significantly more prominence was given to views favouring EU immigration, and the ‘fact checking’ sequence was similarly skewed about the economic contribution of EU incomers.
  • A special report from Berlin promoted heavily the role of the EU, over-emphasised its role in creating ‘peace’, featured young expats who strongly agreed with free movement of people, and contained unqualified warnings that Brexit would result in damage to the UK car industry.
  • Overall, Newsbeat presented ‘Fact check’ assessments that were tendentious and imbalanced. It was said without qualification that immigrants contribute more cash to the UK than they received in benefits, when this is disputed. In addition, the impact on the UK of current levels of immigration was minimised.
  • Opponents of current levels of immigration were cast as xenophobic and inward-looking, whereas the comment from those who approved of immigration were made to appear outward-looking, open and broad-minded.
  • Newsbeat attacked editorially the over-presence of ‘experts’ in the EU debate and suggested their contribution was ‘boring’. Their appearances were limited to a handful. That meant conversely that by a large margin, most contributions came from members of the public and politicians.
  • Newsbeat sought strongly to encourage its young audience to register to vote. Was this in the light of the perceived wisdom that young people were more likely to vote Remain?
  • There were several occasions when the Remain case was put by contributors in the strongest possible light, whereas equivalent Leave contributions were edited to be more qualified, less convincing and less robust.
  • Also on this theme, alleged benefits of remaining in the EU were clearly identified in some items, for example, visa-free travel, or ‘very cheap travel’, but there was much more limited mention of the perceived advantages of Brexit. A Newsbeat presenter specifically said that one possible benefit – reduced immigration – might not be guaranteed by departure.

Photo by Fey Ilyas

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

Complaints from both sides (again)

Complaints from both sides (again)

This is a guest post from Craig Byers of Is the BBC Biased?
The BBC must be happy today.

Yesterday came Boris at the Conservative Party conference saying (accurately) that the BBC is sometimes “shamelessly anti-Brexit” before adding (doubtless to the BBC’s delight), “I think the Beeb is the single greatest and most effective ambassador for our culture and our values”.

Today in strode (Sir) Craig Oliver in The Times saying that David Cameron had pressured the BBC in the other direction for “mistaking balance for being impartial”, demanding that “BBC editors should have been stamping their own independent authority and analysis on the output” (thus echoing the BBC’s very own John Simpson).

Inevitably, in response, in rides the BBC – bugles blaring, banners raised high – crying out its favourite mantra: “We’re getting complaints from both sides; ergo, we must be getting it about right!”…

and Politics Home quotes a BBC source as saying that very thing:

There’s nothing new in people having strong views about our coverage, but the public will notice a distinct irony in the BBC being accused of failing to do enough to stop Brexit on the one hand while being criticised for being anti-Brexit on the other. As we’ve said before, our job is to challenge politicians from all sides and interrogate the arguments. That’s what we’ve been doing and what we’ll continue to do.
Of course, the two complaints are different in kind. The first is saying that the BBC is biased; the second is saying that the BBC is impartial, but too impartial and ought to be taking sides – i.e. its side. Neither is saying the BBC is pro-Brexit (of course, as that would be ridiculous).

Where the BBC’s ‘complaints from both sides’ argument falls down (as so often) is that anyone claiming that the BBC has been either balanced or impartial over Brexit since the referendum result is arguing from a very sticky wicket. (To put it poetically, in the manner of Sir Andrew Motion, “The evidence is strong/That they are wrong”.) The BBC has had a heavy anti-Brexit bias since June 23 (as demonstrated by Radio 4’s Brexit Collection, for example).

And, despite the bias being not as severe before the referendum result, the bias even then still ran overwhelmingly against one side (the same side) – as (hopefully) both Is the BBC biased? and News-watch demonstrated (in considerable detail, and despite honourable exceptions).

Boris was right. The BBC is sometimes shamelessly anti-Brexit.

The campaign from the likes of John Simpson, Mark Thompson, Chris Patten, Paul Johnson of the IFS, Roy Greenslade, Timothy Garton Ash, (Sir) Craig Oliver and David Cameron, etc, however, for the BBC to become even more biased in their direction goes on and is evidently gathering pace. And they are probably knocking at an open door.

Photo by BackBoris2012

BBC News Chief James Harding shows anti-Brexit bias

BBC News Chief James Harding shows anti-Brexit bias

James Harding, the BBC’s Director of News, has fired a broadside against those poor, misguided souls who have dared to think that the BBC’s coverage of the referendum and its aftermath have been out of kilter.

His chosen medium for this homily? Why, where else but that neutral newspaper so loved by the BBC – The Guardian?

For those not versed in BBC obfuscation (otherwise known as complaints handling), this was a classic piece. His wheeled-out-a-thousand-times defence was that he and his battalions of heroic, do-no-wrong journalists have received complaints from both sides in the referendum debate, so the coverage must therefore have been balanced.

For good measure, he also quotes BBC audience research, which he says shows that 90% of the UK population tuned into BBC programmes – further ‘proof’ that everything in the impartiality garden was rosy.   That’s alright then.

Never mind that the BBC audience domination is only achieved because of the enforced regime of the television licence fee.

There’s also – as is customary in such exercises – an obligatory mea culpa. Harding accepts at the very end that mistakes in the EU coverage have been made, and states that the BBC must do better. But – as is also customary – there are no details, no examples to back this up.  Whatever it was that the BBC accepts it got wrong is not disclosed.

How very convenient (for the BBC) this is. Nothing to check, nothing to look at – only a nebulous, vague misdemeanour that only the Corporation knows about.

That aside, Harding, in fact, takes up most of the space in his article in dealing with those on the Remain side who think the BBC gave too much prominence to the lies and distortions of the Brexit side.  Clearly, he thinks that bias against Remain was the biggest problem. What does that say about his unconscious (and real) bias?

His defence here is that the BBC (from dear Newsnight presenter Evan Davis to that nice economics editor Kamal Ahmed) made it abundantly clear that the weight of economic opinion overwhelmingly showed – just like the BBC so rigidly maintains that there is a ‘consensus’ of scientists in favour of alarmism in the climate change debate – that leaving the EU was foolhardy.

In Harding’s book, the BBC had thus fulfilled its duty – and it was voters who got it wrong by having the temerity to ignore ‘the facts’.

Harding’s, analysis of the Brexiteers’ complaints, in sharp contrast, takes up only one paragraph, so little space that it can be quoted in full. He declared:

‘The Leavers’ complaint will, in no small part, be answered by what happens next and how we report it. The fact is that, since the EU referendum, there has been a revaluation of sterling, the Bank of England cut interest rates because it says the outlook for economic growth has weakened markedly and the government’s plans for Brexit are unclear. But consumer confidence has bounced back and manufacturing and services sectors have rebounded accordingly. In the months ahead, our job is to understand what Brexit actually means – without relish or alarm.’

This is yet more obfuscation.  Of course, no-one can yet tell the outcome of Brexit, and the ‘out’ side’s complaints are not rooted there.

The reality is that since the referendum vote, there have been mixed signals about the economy, but the IMF, the OECD , the Treasury and all those who the ‘remain’ side wheeled at as ‘proof’ that Brexit would spell immediate disaster for the British economy have been proved wrong.

The nub of the ‘out’ side complaints is that the BBC has been at best mealy-mouthed and begrudging about reporting this slow-motion car crash of economic forecasting. Night after night during the referendum campaign, Davis, Ahmed and Co. trumpeted the predictions of doom with relish; the reporting of the retractions and the back-tracking since June 23 have been delivered through gritted teeth.

The reality, too, is that since Brexit, there has been a torrent of BBC negativity about the consequences of out, and all normal rules of reporting seem to have been suspended to ensure that those 90% who Harding claims watch BBC bulletins can be in no doubt that they have made a grave mistake in ignoring the economic forecasters of the OECD and elsewhere in the BBC canon of approved sources.

Take, for example, the series of reports launched on BBC Radio 4’s PM programme called Brexit Street, which is supposedly a typical ‘out’-voting area in Thornaby-on-Tees.  The reality is that this is a hugely deprived inner city area with a highly atypical quota of asylum seekers.  The purpose seems to be to show primarily that ‘out’ voters are bigoted, bitter, irrational xenophobes.

And what of the killing of a Polish man in a Harlow pizza parlour at the end of August? BBC reports immediately speculated that there was a fear that this was is was a racial attack triggered by Brexit – even though police had made no charges, and had only confirmed that they had not ruled out such motivation from their inquiries. John Sweeney muttered darkly on Newsnight that Nigel Farage might now have blood on his hands.

Such sensationalist reporting by the BBC  gave European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker the ammunition to attack the Brexit vote and to insinuate it had unleashed a tide of racism.

James Harding has thus – as is usual for the BBC – ignored the elephant in the room.  The BBC has never reported the EU impartially, fundamentally because they totally do not acknowledge or understand the case for ‘out’.  Harding’s clumsy obfuscation confirms that – in spades.

Diane Abbot has reportedly asserted at the Labour Party Conference that those who voted ‘out’ were racists. How much has the BBC’s  reporting supported her in coming to that conclusion?

 

Photo by German Embassy London

BBC Archers trial portrays Brexit supporters as prejudiced bigots

BBC Archers trial portrays Brexit supporters as prejudiced bigots

This is a guest post from Craig Byers of Is the BBC Biased?

Though I’ve listened to Radio 4 every since I was in my teens I’ve never paid any attention to The Archers.

For me The Archers has never been anything more than a happy opportunity to go and brew a nice cup of tea until the next programme comes on.

I know, however, that plenty of people are hooked on The Archers – including (as has become apparent in recent weeks) lots of surprising people who I’d never have expected to be Archers fans.

And I’d have to have been away on holiday to Proxima Centauri not to be aware that a remarkable number of people were glued to their radios last Sunday for the much-hyped one-hour trial special broadcast and that many of them apparently sobbed with joy when Helen was cleared of attempting to murder nasty, abusive Rob by the jury of famous actors.

I would have continued ignoring it but I saw the following tweet from the Salisbury Review/Spectator‘s Jane Kelly:
That got my interest. Was Jane right? Could it really be that the BBC would use the ‘biggest’ Archers episode ever to promote an anti-Brexit worldview? Would Radio 4 be that shameless?
Well, I’ve now listened to the famous episode – my first ever episode of The Archers (the longest episode of The Archers in the history of the programme).
I can’t say I’ve been converted though. All those star-name jurors still couldn’t convince me that the script was anything other than wooden and the emotional ending made me laugh. The word ‘melodrama’ popped into my head near the very end.

And, yes, Jane was right.

Another Twitter user quipped: Bloody hell it’s like Brecht wrote the worst episode of Columbo during a drunken Brexit dinner party.

 

That Brecht reference struck me as a telling one – especially as it occurred to me too. Brecht had strong propagandist designs on his audience. The committee who wrote this Archers script seemed to have propagandist designs too.

(The comparison isn’t spot-on though. Unlike Brecht – who liked his audiences to stay emotionally detached – the Archers‘ scriptwriters were clearly trying to pull on their audience’s emotional levers at every stage).

 
There were certainly quite a lot of ‘agitprop’ bits.
I will simply post my notes on what I heard below, unedited – except from an embarrassingly misplaced apostrophe. (The quotes are exact). See if you can spot any agendas being pushed:

18.04 An unpleasant pro-Rob juror rants in Brexitspeak.

22.29 “I’ve been meaning to say, Parveen, that’s a beautiful headscarf you’re wearing. Very elegant”, says the nice, wise character played by Eileen Atkins. (You couldn’t make it up!!!)

23.25 Nice, dopey-sounding girl with no strong opinions: “It was all the stuff around Brexit…..What if we get the verdict wrong? It’s going to effect so many lives…. It feels like way too important a decision to be left up to us”. (!!!!!!)

25.04 “She’s just a sort of bigoted woman”. (A good juror about guilty-supporting Lisa).

26.14 Nice chap (Tristan) says to nice girl (Holly): “I’m more than upset. I’m ashamed. This is meant to be a cross-section of British society but (guilty-supporting) Dennis and Lisa haven’t got a clue”.

28.44 (Jackie, Eileen Atkins’s character): “Yes, an old post-grad student of mine has been up at Bradford for years in the Faculty of Social Sciences. Anyway, we were chatting over the summer. He’s terribly worried where his funding is going to come from now. So much of his research is in partnership with other universities across Europe. For once I’m glad I’m retired!”

Obviously Muslim Parveen is leaning towards not guilty, therefore good. Love how the nice ones want Helen freed and the not nice ones want her convicted. It’s so Brechtian!

33.37 (Jackie) “The whole reason we have a jury system is because some decisions are too important to be passed by a simple majority.”

38.48 (Nasty juror, Dennis, Nigel Havers, delivers a Brexiter-style ‘rant’): “You are kidding me! So-called experts without the slightest clue what it’s like to live in the real world thinking they know best about how the rest of us should be governed! Well, at least in this room ordinary folks get to make the decisions”.

(Nice  juror, Tristan) “Give me a break! It drives me insane. People going on about the real world. Who doesn’t live in the real world? Just because you don’t like the fact some people might be more educated than you and actually know what they’re talking about!”

40.17 (Nasty ‘bigoted’ juror Lisa to Parveen): “What do you know? Aren’t you supposed to obey your husband?”

Squabble at around 43.30, with Brexit slogans being yelled by the baddies. Holly calls a halt and Jackie takes over. Nigel Havers puts the bad side. Eileen Atkins puts the good side.

Our sub-Brechtian Archers writers made the ‘good jurors’ into Remain/Helen supporters and the ‘bad jurors’ into Leave/Rob supporters, with the in-betweeners going on a journey towards the (Remain/Helen) light. It was very schematic.
Plus, the specific messages the Archers scriptwriters sent out about the Brexit vote were pretty clear, weren’t they? That is, that the result was a result of ill-informed people having a say and that it should have been left in the hands of people who know what they’re actually talking about (parliament?) Plus that our EU membership was too important a decision to be passed by a simple majority in a referendum. (Parliament to overrule the result?) Plus that racism and bigotry played a part in the campaign.
Add the Archers scriptwriters obvious intent to also make a point about Muslims and ‘Islamophobia’ and the agenda-pushing all becomes a bit heavy-handed.
Of course, serious Archers fans may have been so wrapped up in the outcome of the trial that they missed these political messages but, from what I’ve seen on Twitter, I very much doubt it.
To end, here’s a representative sample of Twitter reaction to all the Brexit references:

Wow! One of #thearchers jurors slates ‘the experts’. #Brexit allegory goes into overdrive. Will 48% of them find Helen not guilty?

Just so we are all on the same page – does everyone have the words brexit, referendum & political metaphor in their #TheArchers notepad? 
Correct decision pulled from morass of biased idiocy: it’s not-Brexit #thearchers #freehelen
it’s all going a bit #brexit   #thearchers
‘Experts’ – it’s Brexit bingo! #TheArchers
Thank you #TheArchers for mentioning the problem of university funding and EU links post-Brexit in their biggest ever episode.
Given they have turned #TheArchers into a Brexit allegory, Helen is surely screwed.
I THOUGHT IT WAS ABOUT THE ARCHERS BUT ITS ACTUALLY ABOUT BREXIT 
‘Bigoted woman’ Brexit’ is this a kind of political bingo game? #thearchers
Helen’s trial as a metaphor for Brexit. Discuss. #thearchers
Remember: not all Brexit supporters are pro-Rob #thearchers
#thearchers hating this jury, getting flashbacks to #Brexit. Do I know my own country? Aaargh democracy…

“Well thank you Dennis. I’m sure a lot of us #BrExit fans feel it’s got very unfair for rapists” #TheArchers
 
HOW EXACTLY DID BREXIT BECOME A THING IN THIS?! #TheArchers
 
This is worse than I ever imagined. Helen = Brexit. Come on! Nigel #thearchers
 
#thearchers this jury is a great example of how we got the Brexit vote we got 
*winces at this jury* cf Brexit #thearchers
 
Cheeky #Brexit reference in #TheArchers. Let’s hope Helen #Remains at Blossom Hill and Rob #Leaves Ambridge for good.
 
On no! The jury’s made up of people who couldn’t decide on the #EURef … & probably voted #Brexit #thearchers
 
#thearchers Are we having the #Brexit debate NOW!?
Brexit reference! #thearchers

Photo by bloomsberries

BBC push Farage race-hate ‘ blood on hands’ post-Brexit claims

BBC push Farage race-hate ‘ blood on hands’ post-Brexit claims

BBC programmes have given a  platform for claims that Nigel Farage has ‘blood on his hands’ for Harlow killing – despite local police warning against ‘jumping to conclusions’ about a ‘race hate’ angle.

In Harlow, six teenagers have been arrested and bailed on suspicion of killing a 40-year-old Polish man who was mortally injured in attack in the town centre on Saturday.

At this stage, very little is known about the crime other that frequent disturbances involving youths have recently been reported in the town centre. Local police say they are following up a number of inquiries.

DCI Martin Pasmore, of Essex police, has said: “The widespread media are reporting this as a hate crime, but that is no more than one line of many inquiries that we’re following. We must not jump to conclusions – let us do the investigation and get the facts right.”

It seems clear from the statement that police, if anything, were playing down the ‘race hate’ angle, – it was only one possibility among many.

That, however, has not stopped the BBC speculating strongly on those lines. The full transcripts of three reports, one on the BBC1 News at Six, the other on BBC2’s Newsnight, and the third on the Today programme on Thursday morning are below so that can readers can form their own judgments about the Corporation’s approach.

In the first account reporter Daniel Sandford stressed in the intro the angle that police thought the attack may have been racially motivated, and then specifically stated:

“The fear is that this was a frenzied racist attack triggered by the Brexit referendum.”

In the Newsnight report, presenter Evan Davis and reporter John Sweeney both strongly stressed the ‘post-Brexit’ nature of the crime and then  comment from an alleged friend of the victim was included. This man, Eric Hind, claimed that the Brexit vote had given the green light for British people ‘to do what they want to’.

Then, towards the end,  Sweeney said:

In Harlow tonight people united for a vigil, but for the town’s Polish community the killing of one of their own makes emotions raw.

ERIC HIND:            (fragment of word, unclear) I don’t know if I can mention names but I mean . . .

JS:            Mention names.

EH:           But I mean, Nigel Farage, I mean, thank you for that, because you are part of this death, and you’ve got blood on your hands, thanks to you, thanks for all your decision, wherever you are, er . . . yeah, it’s your call.

JS:            Nigel Farage has always denied this allegation. As the search for clues and answers continues, the fear is that two poisons have come together to a lethal result.

To be fair to Sweeney, his report also contained comment from local people that youths in the town centre had been behaving badly for some time, and there was local concern that police had not done enough to intervene.  So there was some balancing material.

But the main thrust of his report was that this looked strongly to be a post-Brexit race hate crime that was part of a huge national trend – and he gave a platform for the victim’s ‘friend’ to say that Nigel Farage had blood on his hands. Sweeny pointed out that Farage denied ‘such accusations’ but his commentary suggested that the ‘out’ side in the referendum campaign had unleashed ‘twin poisons’.

In the third report, on Today’s business news, reporter Dominic O”Connell  spoke to the deputy Polish prime minster about efforts he was making to boost investment from the UK and the City of London into Poland.  Towards the end, he asked two questions:

“Now Britain, of course, has a large Polish population, do you expect some of them might want to return home after the Brexit vote?”

“And tragically, we had a Polish man attacked and killed in Harlow in Essex on Saturday, do you fear actually that some Poles might be motivated to return simply because they fear the Brexit vote has stirred some racist feeling against them?”

He thus also deliberately linked the Harlow killing to post-Brexit race hate against the Poles.

Overall the three reports, despite the police’s warning about jumping to conclusions, seem to have strongly inflated the race-hate angle, to the extent that it was treated as the main point. Further, in a recorded news report, John Sweeney gave someone an open goal to attack Nigel Farage as the person responsible. The person making the claims, may or may have not known the victim, and may or may not have had other motives for making such a specific, sweeping attack.

But this was of no account. This was highly irresponsible journalism that (as is reported elsewhere on News-watch) fits with the Corporation’s overall strongly negative approach to the Brexit vote and to Nigel Farage.

 

Transcript of BBC1, News at Six, 31st August, Polish Man Murdered, 6.22pm

FIONA BRUCE:     Five 15-year-old boys and a 16-year-old have been arrested on suspicion of killing a Polish man in Harlow in Essex. Arkadiusz Jóźwik who was 40 was left with fatal head injuries after an unprovoked attack on Saturday night.  Police suspect it may have been racially motivated.  The Polish ambassador to the UK has visited the scene.  Our home affairs correspondent Daniel Sandford’s report contains some distressing details.

DANIEL SANDFORD:          On his first day in the job, Poland’s new ambassador to Britain found himself laying flowers, mourning one of his countrymen – a man murdered while eating a pizza in what may have been a racist attack.  This was compounded by that an alleged  friend of the victim

ARKADY RZEGOCKI Polish Ambassador:   I’m really shocked and deeply concerned on this, on this tragedy.  It’s a great tragedy, not only for Polish community but also for, for British community.

DS:           Arkadiusz Jóźwik was 40, he and two friends were attacked just before midnight on Saturday.  Alerted by one of the men who survived, the manager of the pizza takeaway, who didn’t want us to use his name, told us he was the first to find Arkadiusz as he lay dying.

PIZZA TAKEAWAY MANAGER:         He was on the floor and on his side, it’s . . . a lot of thick blood coming out of his left ear on the floor, and very thick, it’s clumped up really. And . . . you could see that it’s . . . it’s really dangerous, he’s badly hurt.

DS:           The fear is that this was a frenzied racist attack triggered by the Brexit referendum.  But while detectives aren’t ruling that out, it may be that Arkadiusz Jóźwik wasn’t targeted because of his race, but simply because he was there when a group of youths was looking for trouble.  People in The Stow shopping precinct said that teenagers had been causing havoc here all summer, and not just harassing Polish people.  But worrying it could be a hate crime, the local MP made this appeal.

ROBERT HALFON MP Conservative, Harlow:           We need to be a kind and decent nation and we shouldn’t allow . . . people who come from the sewers to exploit divisions.

DS:           As people mourn, detectives are pouring through CCTV footage, and have arrested six teenagers, but all have since been released on police bail.  Daniel Sandford, BBC News, Harlow.

 

Transcript of BBC2, Newsnight, 31st August, Polish Man Murdered, 10.44pm

Introduction

EVAN DAVIS:        Also tonight: a Polish man beaten to death in Essex, could it be the latest example of hate crime post-Brexit? And what does it tell us about anti-social behaviour.

ERIC HIND:            Well, to be honest, since the Brexit, I think, you know, all the British people, the Brits here think they’ve got green, er, green light here to do what they want to . . . you know, they feel very kind of, you know, (fragment of word, unclear) secure to . . . to be racist.

Main Report, 10.44pm

EVAN DAVIS:        Now, the town of Harlow in Essex is in something of a state of shock after an attack on two Polish residents on Saturday night, they killed one of them. Arkadiusz Jóźwik died from his injuries on Monday.  Five 15-year-old boys and one 16-year-old boy, all from Harlow, were arrested on suspicion of murder, all but one of them have been bailed.  Now, there are obvious worries in the Polish community, in Harlow at what looks like a hate crime.  The Polish ambassador was in the town today, along with the local MP, to offer support, and our reporter John Sweeney went to hear the local concerns.

JOHN SWEENEY:                  The killing of Arkadiusz Jóźwik, a 40-year-old Pole in Essex was a particular tragedy, and cause for a wider, more general unease about the politics of identity in Britain today.  Saturday night, just before midnight, 15 or 20 youths are here, and they’re trouble.  Arkadiusz the Polishman goes to that pizza restaurant behind me.  His phone rings, he answers it in Polish, and that, people say, is the trigger for what happens next. The story ends with Arkadiusz down on the ground, where those flowers are there now, a dying man. For Poles in Britain, there is mounting anxiety about what happened here. Today, a very public visit from Warsaw’s man in London.

ARKADY RZEGOCKI Polish Ambassador to London:              It’s the beginning of my mission in the United Kingdom, and I’m really shocked and deeply concerned on this, on this tragedy.

JS:            Eric Hind knew the dead man.

ERIC HIND:            Well, to be honest, since the Brexit, I think, you know, all the British people, the Brits here think they’ve got green, er, green light here to do what they want to . . . you know, they feel very kind of, you know, (fragment of word, unclear) secure to . . . to be racist, to, to, to, to, to swear, to say all kind of rude comments, or just to be sarcastic, to, to saying sarcastic comments every day at work. I’ve been there, and, you know, and er . . . it’s not nice.

JS:            All the British people we spoke to told us they were horrified by the killing and had no problem with the Polish community.  Conrad works in the cafe directly opposite the pizza takeaway.  He spoke to us first in English, and then in Polish.

CONRAD:               Three weeks ago, when I was out shopping, there was a group of people sitting on the bench here.  I think they were under the influence of alcohol.  They threw an empty bottle at me, but I didn’t react, I just kept walking, because I didn’t know what would happen, if there wouldn’t be consequences.

JS:            This is not an isolated experience.  What happened here isn’t only a story of the ugly mood in our country post-Brexit. It’s also a story about antisocial behaviour, of people at night being afraid to walk down a British high street.

MANDY SPARKS:                  They terrorise all the shopkeepers. They terrorise people just walking through. It’s awful. Awful. They go into shops, they knock things off shelves, and then walk back out.  Shopkeepers are too scared to say anything.

MAX EDWARDS:                  We have no problem against any foreign people, there is a problem with the police controlling a group of 25 youths, wheeling pushbikes up and down here.  The police have not got the power to come and do it until it’s too late, like today, and now they want to come and deal with the situation.  Well, it’s too late, someone’s died, someone’s lost their family now – all because the police can’t control the situation.  Why is there a group of youths hanging around here anyway?  The police should disperse them.

JS:            It was not supposed to be like this.  12 years ago today, then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, visited Harlow – why? To laud the local success in tackling antisocial behaviour.

ROBERT HALFON MP Harlow (Conservative):          I believe that Harlow is a kind and tolerant place to live, I’m very proud of being MP here.  The vast majority of people are tolerant, we actually have lower levels of antisocial behaviour than other parts, er . . . of Essex, and er, er, the country, relatively.  However of course there are problems in certain areas, we need to find out what has happened.  Today is a day for the family and the Polish community, and the people of Harlow, but we need to find out what has happened, why it’s happened, and lessons that can be learnt from it.

JS:            In Harlow tonight people united for a vigil, but for the town’s Polish community the killing of one of their own makes emotions raw.

ERIC HIND:            (fragment of word, unclear) I don’t know if I can mention names but I mean . . .

JS:            Mention names.

EH:           But I mean, Nigel Farage, I mean, thank you for that, because you are part of this death, and you’ve got blood on your hands, thanks to you, thanks for all your decision, wherever you are, er . . . yeah, it’s your call.

JS:            Nigel Farage has always denied this allegation. As the search for clues and answers continues, the fear is that two poisons have come together to a lethal result.

ED:           John Sweeney in Harlow.

 

Transcript of BBC Radio 4, Today, 1st September 2016, Business Update, 8.40am

DOMINIC O’CONNELL:     Ever since the Brexit vote, continental capitals have been laying plans to lure away some big institutions from the City of London, today its Poland’s turn, and with me in the studio is the Deputy Prime Minister of Poland, Mateusz Morawiecki, thank you for joining us, minister. What’s the purpose of the trip? You are hoping to persuade some big institutions to invest in Poland?

MATEUSZ MORAWIECKI:                  Good morning (fragments of words, unclear) the first purpose is to make our friendship between the British nation and the Polish nation, and our two countries even stronger.  Poland is a very good place to invest and many British companies know this very well, regardless of British Brexit referendum. Er, we already host lots of international companies from Great Britain, and, and we have a roadshow across many different countries and we invite British companies, German companies, American companies, because they realise . . . and there are lots of assets, we have a highly educated staff, very and erm . . . high level of security, we have just had World Youth Day and no er, crime happened over the five days, and there were . . . this was, the (word unclear) was visited by 2.5 million people.

DO:          But do you think the Brexit vote provides you with an extra opportunity?

MM:        There might be some opportunity, but we simply continue our job we, we, we really are doing similar things than, as we were doing, erm, before the Brexit referendum.  We will be the biggest economy in the European Union, 40 million people nationwide, the biggest economy in Central and Eastern Europe, er, so a land of opportunity for British companies, and we have a very good track record in our GDP growth over the last 25 years, the only country in the European Union that did not have recession, stable in a regulatory environment, so a good place to invest.

DO:          Now Britain, of course, has a large Polish population, do you expect some of them might want to return home after the Brexit vote?

MM:        Yes, I think so, I, I believe there will be many people coming back, I don’t know how many, but, erm, apparently there are some, there are some . . . 900,000 people, er, here in the Great Britain, I think a couple of (fragments of words, unclear) hundreds of thousands, er, may come back over the next five, er, ten years, and Poland is now a very low level of unemployment, highly educated staff and, and businesses are growing as nowhere in Europe.

DO:          And tragically, we had a Polish man attacked and killed in Harlow in Essex on Saturday, do you fear actually that some Poles might be motivated to return simply because they fear the Brexit vote has stirred some racist feeling against them?

MM:        This is a very sad day, this was a very sad day (words unclear ‘a sad event day’?) er, I think this, this might be the case that some people might think about this in that context, I know one line of the investigation erm, investigation by the police was that it might have been a, a hate crime, it remains to be seen what were the reasons, so condolences for the family and for the local community, I hope it will never happen again, but, but, but yes, this will, this will pose a question mark in many families, Polish families in Great Britain.

DO:          Thank you very much, Mateusz Morawiecki