Why was I not at all surprised to read of the huge shortfall in EU spending of £259 billion pounds? Yes, the one to which, all of a sudden, Britain will be expected to contribute to some £34 billion?
I am talking about that hole in the EU budget that the BBC has kept the British public so abreast of, the one it made sure we all knew about prior to the EU elections.
Of course the BBC did no such thing. It has never fulfilled its mission to ‘inform and educate’ us about our progressive capture by and capitulation to the EU’s changing agenda since we joined, let alone how it spent our taxes.
The BBC’s output from day one has never reflected the importance of the EU in ordinary Britons’ lives – how it spends their money. I know. This is what the consistent and painstaking monitoring of its output by News-watch, the BBC bias monitoring website, since 1999 has demonstrated. The unsurprisingly low turnout for the 1999 European election was described sneeringly by Jeremy Paxman as an ‘outbreak of narcolepsy’. And whose fault was that?
The BBC’s lack of interest persisted through important summits as well as the process of creating the new EU constitution.
Awareness of the the EU’s catastrophic finances has been a long time coming. Yet the evidence that all in the garden was far from rosy was there back in 2001. Then the EU’s former chief accountant Marta Andreasen refused to sign off the 2001 European Commission accounts for good reason; she said its accounting system was open to fraud.
Her criticisms ignored, Andreasen went public with her concerns only to be sacked for her pains (she was suspended from her job by the Commission for “violating Articles 12 and 21 of staff regulations, failure to show sufficient loyalty and respect”).
Yet, despite her stand, few people in the UK were made aware of this financial catastrophe in the making; not least because of the BBC’s bias and negligence in its reporting of all matters EU.
They kept the British public in the dark by virtue of that BBC default – bias by omission.
You can either put their indifference down to their being part of a liberal metropolitan conspiracy whose main concern was to avoid reporting the encroaching powers of Europe. Heaven forfend that they should thereby antagonise the public and made them more Eurosceptic than already.
Or you can accept the BBC’s own excuse (on the rare occasions that they have ‘fessed up’) that much of what takes place in Brussels and Strasbourg is complex and boring and the British public don’t want to know – the lazy excuse of an organisation that had weakened its own raison d’etre by its continuous dumbing down, as the Daily Mail’s Stephen Glover once put it.
You might have thought that the rise and rise of UKip and Nigel Farage would have forced a reconsideration of the BBC’s approach to EU coverage. But no, the BBC continued to forgive all EU failings in the name of that higher cause – “Europe – the European idea”; the one that European Council President Herman van Rompuy and his predecessors, all the way back to Jean Monnet, adhere to.
Despite the fact that the demand for an EU exit is now political mainstream – made all the more so by the former Cabinet Minister Owen Paterson’s speech on Monday – the BBC’s coverage remains not just resolutely negative but totally inadequate. Worse it has continued to smear and sideline Ukip’s best efforts to raise the issue of our membership.
This I believe is why, before Owen Paterson raised it, there was never any discussion on the BBC of David Cameron’s option of serving notice on the EU – that of invoking Article 50 of the EU’s governing treaties.
Correct me if I am wrong, but my guess is that apart from the Sunday Telegraph’s Christopher Booker, forensic Brussels expert Richard North and Tory MEP Dan Hannan, few people in the British Isles would have known this was an option – let alone a strategy.
Whose fault is that?
The Sun thinks we can do without the EU; Ukip’s defiance has changed the game plan. When, if ever, will the BBC catch on?
Yes, I know, Cameron’s promised referendum hangs in the balance of the next election but the pressure to quit the EU is not about to diminish any time soon.
After reading the Telegraph’s headlines this morning, a whole load more people must have been thinking, like me: ‘Wouldn’t it be better to be out before the bill lands on the mat.”?
Ukip, one way or another, may force a referendum sooner rather than later, leaving us with the question of how we are to get out.
Yet, despite Mr Paterson, no one in the BBC is addressing it – anymore that they addressed the EU’s financial black hole.
Have you heard any discussion of this? How we get out – outside the hallowed realms of right wing think-tanks? Certainly nothing serious on the BBC.
Yet, how we do it matters a lot for our future trading prosperity. Never more was there something that we need to get right.
So, since there is no way we can rely on the BBC to inform us, I plan to make my best effort to get an informed debate going – here on TCW.
Soon, I will blog on a lunch-time discussion I attended at the Centre for Policy Studies led by Dan Hannan and founder of the Trade Policy Research Centre Ronald Stewart Brown. It certainly opened my eyes to the question of whether we would be best to negotiate some form of free trade association with the EU or negotiate to stay in a ‘customs union’ on a new intergovernmental basis.
It may sound arcane. It is actually vital that we get it right.
Kathy Gyngell is co-founder of News-watch and co-editor of The Conservative Woman, where this article was first published.