EU Referendum Blog

Referendum Blog: May 7

Referendum Blog: May 7

PEACE MYTH (CONTINUED): The concluding part of Newsnight’s European Dream series, presented by Gabriel Gatehouse, confirmed that this was based entirely on the EU’s own roseate version of its history. In reference to Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet, the EU’s chosen founding fathers, he declared at the beginning of part three:

GABRIEL GATEHOUSE: Out of the ruins of war arose a vision of Europe.

ROBERT SCHUMAN 1950: It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity.

GG: The founding fathers dreamt of ever closer union.

GEORGES BERTHOIN Jean Monnet’s Chief of Staff: All governments wanted to remain half free.

GG: The goal was peace. But also prosperity. What’s become of the European dream?

In the analysis that followed, Gatehouse explored the problems of the euro and described how it had helped Germany to achieve export-led growth but caused acute misery in Greece. He pointed out that the UK had opted out and the euro, and suggested that the current ‘rift’ within the EU was based on that Germany embraced enthusiastically the single currency (and the creation of the European Union at Maastricht), while the UK did not; there, it had ‘split parties’. He concluded:

It’s been more than 65 years since Europe set out upon a journey that has led to today’s complex union of 28 member states. But from the very beginning the founding fathers identified one country as key to the European project.

GEORGES BERTHOIN: We wanted to give Germany a path to recovering their sovereignty, with us, not against us. Making sure that the German recovery would not become a threat, but an asset. And this is what happened. It just happened that the most powerful country in Europe believes in Europe, the European dream.

GG: And so we are back where we were at the beginning of our series…Whatever you think about the post-war European project, its greatest achievement surely is this: that it does now seem inconceivable for any member of the union to take up arms against another. If the European dream is peace then the EU has succeeded. But as Europe struggles to find common responses to the crises of the 21st-century, it’s clear: the EU is today about more than peace. The question is, how much more? That’s the issue that now divides this continent.

So in Gatehouse’s book, the EU has unquestionably been a success in its primary purpose: the generating and maintaining peace. As noted in the previous blog on this series, this is pure EU propaganda. The reality is that Jean Monnet’s goal, as first expressed in the 1920s, was the pulling together – at any price – of the European countries under an undemocratic supranational authority (what became the Commission). He and his cohort wanted above all the creation of a utopian, socialist Europe. They saw that framing this is the name of ‘peace’ would make such an idea difficult, if not impossible, to resist. The corollary is that anyone who challenges the need for the EU is putting peace at risk.

Photo by Karva Javi

Referendum Blog: May 6

Referendum Blog: May 6

MORE HISTORICAL BIAS:  Newsnight has been looking this week at the history of the EU in a three-part series called The European Dream.  As in other similar programmes – Europe Them or Us on BBC2, and The Inquiry on the World Service – it was pro-EU propaganda closely mirroring myths projected by the EU itself.

Gabriel Gatehouse claimed that the moves towards what became the EU were led in 1950 by a man who had a vision, Jean Monnet, who ‘in the broken remains of post war Europe’ set that vision ‘in motion’ by working with the French foreign minister, Robert Schuman.   He said the idea was ‘to bind the economies of Europe so tightly that war would become impossible’.

Gatehouse also maintained that his goal was ‘a continent prosperous and at peace’ and that Monnet and Scuman took the first steps towards ‘de facto solidarity’. He then spoke to Georges Berthoin, who was said to have been with Monnet as the plans for what became the EU were put together. Berthoin amplified the EU myths. He said that the ‘dream was to make peace among European countries stable and credible’; and that the aim was ‘not only to rebuild Europe but also to modernise Europe’.

Outside this EU version of its history, for example in The Great Deception by Christopher Booker and Richard North, a very different picture emerges.  It is true that Jean Monnet played probably a crucial role in founding the Iron and Steel Confederation – the body that laid the foundation stones for The Treaty of Rome in 1957 –  but his motivation is strongly challenged in other sources.

First, Monnet’s vision was not formed after 1945. He had been advocating European unity since at least 1917, and his ideas were rooted in socialist Utopianism.  Second, his methodology was based entirely on ruthless realpolitik rather than starry-eyed idealism. At the heart of his mission was the creation of a federal Europe. A crucial part of his plans was a supranational body that took away powers from national governments. He wanted that body to be run for the benefit only of ‘Europe’ by civil servants, and to be outside the democratic process.

Second, the reality was that in 1950, Monnet’s plan was only adopted because France, Germany and the United States could not agree how to move forward towards a more harmonious economic future. Monnet pitched his plan for the Iron and Steel Confederation into a policy vacuum, but it was carefully phrased so that the true intent was disguised. Schuman adopted the plan out of desperation rather than ideological desire.

The UK – then under the socialist Attlee government – was kept in the dark until the last minute, and when it did grasp what was being proposed, immediately said it could not support Monnet’s plan. The Cabinbet was deeply alarmed that it presented a huge threat to British sovereignty, and that it would severely compromise national security to hand over control of the iron and steel industries (then employing more than 1million Britons) to an unelected supranational body.

Gatehouse, of course, did not have time to go into such detail. But his version of EU history glossed over vital facts and presented simplistically the EU version of its own history. At a time of intense debate about the UK’s role in the EU, this was serious bias in that he presented a picture of a benign EU only there because its purpose was to create and maintain peace.


The transcript of the first programme is below:


EVAN DAVIS:      Well we all know that while this Thursday is important, there is another vote coming along on Thursday, June 23rd, which will have a big shape on party politics too. To help you think about the EU, we’re taking a step back this week, with three films that look at the grand vision of the EU founding fathers, and what has been achieved. The themes of peace and prosperity were to be delivered by among other things, ever closer union, free movement of people and monetary union. How’s it going? Well, we sent our reporter Gabriel Gatehouse in search of the European dream.

GABRIEL GATEHOUSE:   If the European Union has a birthplace, then it is here. In this little cottage in a woodland west of Paris. If the EU has a founding father then it is this man. Jean Monnet. In the broken remains of post-war Europe, together with a trusted circle of advisers, over coffee and cognac and fireside chats, they dreamed of a continent prosperous and at peace. Jean Monnet had a vision in this house. And from here he set the whole European project in motion. But what has become of that original vision? Over the next three nights we’re going to be asking what state of health is the European dream in today? (TITLE CARD: THE EUROPEAN DREAM Part One: Ever Closer Union.) Jean Monnet had an idea. To bind the economies of Europe so tightly that war would become impossible. He took his plan to the French Foreign Minister. Together they formulated the Schuman Declaration.

ROBERT SHCHUMAN 1950:           Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity.

GG:        Those early Europe builders began by pooling production of coal and steel, it was the first step towards that de facto solidarity. It would lead, they hoped, to a federation of Europe. There aren’t many of that generation left today, but in an apartment in the 17th arrondissement of Paris, we found one. Georges Berthoin is the last surviving member of Jean Monnet’s original cabinet at the European Coal and Steel Community .It was the first institution out of which would grow the European Union.

GEORGES BERTHOIN Jean Monnet’s Chief of Staff:            The dream was to make peace among European countries stable and credible. Then there was another element, the element was prosperity. So the problem was not only to rebuild Europe but to modernise Europe and in this respect we were looking at the example of the United States of America and especially the size of the market.

GG:        Peace and prosperity, that was the goal. Five years later, six countries would sign the Treaty of Rome, establishing the European Economic Community. But the ambition was for a much closer union.

GB:         The Schuman Declaration was the first step towards a European federation. When we started, we thought at the time that we were going to start something and we thought at the time that we were going to accede to all things including political development, within ten years.

GG:        And so it happened that France and Germany formed the central axis of a European Union. And they enjoyed decades of peace and prosperity. A de facto solidarity among member nations. This is Breisach on the Rhine in Germany. Across the river, Neuf-Brisach in France. The French built these fortifications to guard against attacks from the German side. These two towns that saw three wars in 70 years are now the heartland of the European Union. Here then are two towns from opposite banks of the Rhine. They are living together in peace, their citizens can travel freely backwards and forwards across this bridge. And whatever side they happen to find themselves on, they can pay for stuff in a common currency. In so many ways this is exactly what the European project has always hoped to achieve. Over the decades Europe brought with it all sorts of benefits. Jobs, common rights and protections for workers, but you don’t have to dig very deep here to discover that the river still divides. On the French side, around Neuf-Brisach, there were once many factories. This one used to produce pistons for the European car industry. But in 2013 high labour costs forced it to close.

FABIENT SIMON Demolition worker:        Taxes in France are too high. Labour costs are too high. That’s why businesses here are moving to Eastern Europe.

GG:        Unemployment in this part of France is around 10% and rising. GDP is well below the European average. For these French workers overseeing the demolition of their own factory, the EU today means seeing their jobs move to new member states in Eastern Europe. There was a dream, a European dream, in the 1950s, 1960s, about peace and prosperity. Do you think that dream is still alive?

DOMINIQUE GERBER: Demolition Worker:             I think no, peace is here in Europe, but prosperity I think no. In Germany I think a little prosperity but here in France, no.

GG:        Indeed, back across the river in German Breisach, they have full employment. The citizens of this region, Baden Wurtenberg, are among the richest in the EU. Just up the road from Breisach, we stumble across what appears to be the most pro-European place on the continent. Is this the stuff that dreams are made of? Welcome to Europa Park. Meet Euro Mouse, the mascot of this Europe in microcosm. Nestled among the roller-coasters are many of the member states. Scandinavia, Portugal, Greece, which includes Pegasus, Cassandra’s curse, and the flight of Icarus. There is even a British section. Black cabs, fast-food, and Shakespeare. Who knew the EU could be such family fun? Which is your favourite bit of the park?

VOX POP FEMALE:           Our favourite bit is Scandinavia, I think. Scandinavia, all right. The wooden roller-coasters. I like England, but the thing is you haven’t got a lot of variety.

GG:        The history of Europa Park reads like a sort of German industrial fairy tale. It was founded by the Mack family, stalwarts of German manufacturing since the late 18th century. The park opened its doors in 1975, inspired by the vision of a United Europe.

MICHAEL MACK Europa Park We chose Europe and we think it was the best way to go, even though nobody believed that that time Europe would be as big as it is today.

GG:        As much of Europe struggles with an economic crisis, in Germany the dream of prosperity still burns brightly. Today nearly half the park’s workers are from other EU nations.

MM:      We are growing really fast. We are about to open a water park in 2018. We need another 700 employees, so it is quite difficult because the unemployment rate is so low in this area.

GG:        You cannot find the workers?

MM:      You cannot find the workers.

GG:        Despite Europe’s economies pulling in different directions its nations are today united in peace. Back on the road, we drive through Verdun. Verdun is to the French what The Somme is to the British. 100 years ago hundreds of thousands of young men lost their lives in these fields. Along the roads that wind through Europe’s heartland, history lurks around every bend. Strasbourg. The city was once fought over. It is now at the heart of the European project. The home of the European Parliament. Throughout the EU’s development, from its beginnings in coal and steel, through the Treaty of Rome, the single European act, the Maastricht Treaty, the direction of travel has been one-way. Towards ever closer union.

GEORGES BERTHOIN:     Maybe it was a bit naive but we thought we were in a position to change European history. It sounds a bit stupid. But we believed in that. You know, at that time, we had the backing of public opinion on the continent. Because the experience and the tragedy of the war was in everybody’s personal history. I use the expression, but it was not one we used at that time, to build a kind of United States of Europe.

GG:        These days, if you say you support a United States of Europe, you might as well commit political suicide. Even here, in Strasbourg. These young activists are handing out leaflets for a by-election later this month. Last time round they took a third of the votes. This time they’re hoping to win. They are the Front National.

JULIA ABRAHAM Front National You know, I was born in 1992.

GG:        You were born in 1992?

JA:          And it was the year of the Treaty of Maastricht. And so we have not known this European dream. All we have known it’s only unemployment, the taxes, and all the disadvantages of this European Union. We have not known this European dream. For us it has been a failure.

GG:        The Front National is booming. A year from now, its leader Marine Le Pen could become president of France. She has promised to follow Britain’s lead and hold a referendum on EU membership. Julia says she will vote out.

JA:          We need to find back our borders, our sovereignty, our national freedom. To respect our own laws, which are not the same as in Germany or in Italy or Spain.

GG:        Some people worry that a party like yours is leading Europe back towards nationalism, back towards the place where it was in the 1930s.

JA:          You’re right, the European Union is leading us back. That is the problem. It is the European Union that creates unemployment and violence and insecurity.

GG:        The original founders of the EU had a dream. Of creating peace and prosperity through an ever closer union of nation states, based on common interests and common values. The thing about ever closer union is that it presupposes a corresponding weakening of individual national identity. Now it may be that the founders of the European Union thought that by the time we got to the second decade of the 21st century, the nation state would be a concept that had had its day. Well, it looks like they were wrong. Across Europe the politics of identity is on the rise. Tomorrow night we will be looking at borders. How the fall of the Iron Curtain led to a Europe more united than ever and how a quarter of a century later, the continent is in crisis over one of the cornerstones of the European dream, freedom of movement.

ED:         Gabriel Gatehouse there, Europe past and present.

Photo by waltercolor

Referendum Blog: May 5

Referendum Blog: May 5

MORE EU PROPAGANDA: Previous News-watch blogs have shown how Nick Robinson’s BBC2 programme Europe: Them and Us presented a false history of the EU in line with the EU’s own self-perpetuated myth that its existence has been an essential ingredient in keeping the peace since the Second World War. Listeners to BBC World Service have this week been heard their own concentrated version of the same propaganda, in an edition of The Inquiry called ‘What Happened to the European Dream?’  The full transcript is below.  The first part of the programme was about the founding of the EU. Presenter James Fletcher first spoke to Professor Desmond Dinan, who was introduced as being the holder of the Jean Monnet chair at the George Mason University in the US. What he did not say is that this is one of hundreds of such professorships round the world set up by the EU to study ‘European integration’ under the Jean Monnet project, and is a building block of Union’s massive propaganda project to convince the world – and figures such as the US President – that the EU is vital to peace in Europe. Professor Dinan did not disappoint.  He delivered a masterclass in the EU myth. This is what he declared that Monnet and his colleagues had delivered immediately after the war:

I think they were pragmatic.  It was an arrangement between countries which meant that war would not happen again and which meant also that countries would be not only peaceful but that they would be prosperous and that economic development and economic success in each country was not a zero-sum game, that all countries in Europe could prosper together and be peaceful together.

This was followed a few sentences later by:

And what cut through the Gordian Knot of this particular conundrum was Jean Monnet’s proposal to establish European-wide Coal and Steel Community.  So, what the European Coal and Steel Community did was two-fold.  First of all, it addressed very particular economic resource allocation problem.  And second, it built trust, because it required countries participating in it to hand over responsibility, national resource ability to a supranational authority, to make key decisions in these very important economic sectors.

Dinan’s first major propaganda point – writ large – was that the EU was set up to ‘look beyond a narrowly-defined self-interest’, then the second, that an essential ingredient was that a supranational body was required to make key decisions (the unelected and unaccountable European Commission, of course).

In the second part of the programme, Fletcher spoke to another ‘authority’ on EU history: Professor Sara Hobolt, from the London School of Economics.  Her credentials?  Exactly the same as Professor Dinan.  She holds the ‘Sutherland Chair in European Institutions’ and is also funded by the European Union Studies Association. He academic record includes dozens of publications about topics such as public attitudes towards integration. He role was to explain what had happened from the 1970s after Monnet had started the brilliant EU dream. As with Dinan, her focus was the importance of the EU, starting with:

The thing that happened in the 70s is really what has sometimes been referred to as the sort of European dark ages, or the dark ages of European integration.  A long period where there was no real integration in Europe.

Of course. Not enough integration.  At this point Fletcher colluded with the propaganda. He declared:

In the 60s and 70s, the Coal and Steel Community had expanded to become a broader trading area, known as the European Economic Community, and had admitted new members like the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark.  But the tension we heard about from our first expert witness, between national sovereignty and further political integration had slowed moves towards greater economic cooperation. 

Hobolt continued the propaganda with another observation that may have surprised Margaret Thatcher and the vast majority of Eurosceptics. She said:

Now, what we come to in the early 80s was a new dynamism, and a new willingness to bring European nations closer together both in terms of economic integration and also in terms of institutional reform.  So, the sort of golden era of European integration really goes there from 1995 and up to the signing of the Maastricht Treaty in ’91.

And then she moved on to Jacques Delors, who was:

….a visionary, he had a vision for closer economic and political integration, bringing nation states together, but not necessarily, sort of, a European superstate, that would supersede nation states to the extent that they wouldn’t exist.

Delors the superstar. Further analysis would be more of the same. The reality is that this programme, in the key area of the development of the EU, was one-sided pro- EU propaganda provided by figures whose job is to collaborate with EU myth-making.  They delivered in spades. That the BBC should have made a programme of this nature during the referendum campaign is  highly questionable, and appears to be in direct contravention of the BBC’s own Referendum Guidelines. The audience was led to belief that Dinan and Hobolt are authoritative, objective sources on the subject of EU history. But they are not.


Transcript of BBC World Service, The Inquiry, ‘What Happened to the European Dream?’ 3 May 2016, 3.06am

JAMES FLETCHER:           This week: what happened to the European dream? On June 23rd this year, British voters will go to the polls. On the ballot will be a simple question: should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union. No matter the result, the mere fact that for the first time in 40 years a member country is seriously considering leaving is a sign of the problems Europe is facing.  Across the continent anti EU political parties are on the rise. In April, Dutch voters rejected an EU deal with Ukraine. Even the president of the European Commission admitted recently that the EU project had lost part of its attractiveness. Bureaucrats are fond of phrases like ‘The European Project’ – but what does it actually mean and has lost its shine?  This week, we’re asking what happened to the European dream? (music)

FEMALE ANNOUNCER: Part One: A continent rebuilds.

NEWSREEL MONTAGE:  Pointing to Western Europe as a shattered ruin from which great masses of the people could never hope to rise without American a . . . France had miraculously emerged from general strikes which paralysed her national life.  But civil war had barely been averted.

PROFESSOR DESMOND DINAN:  Those days were grim, the circumstances were bad, Europe faced an enormous challenge of reconstruction immediately after the war.

JF:          Our search for the European dream begins in the aftermath of World War II.

DD:        And the men who would go on to become the so-called founding fathers of the European Community were very much immersed in that challenge.

JF:          Professor Desmond Dinan works at George Mason University in the United States, where he holds a chair named after one of those founding fathers, French civil servant Jean Monnet.

DD:        He had worked for the League of Nations in the late 20s and early 30s, he had worked for the French government, so he was very well known internationally, and he had never stood for elected office, he preferred to operate in the background, that’s how he pushed the goal of European integration forward.

JF:          Monnet’s main partner in France was government minister Robert Schuman who had been part of the French resistance with a price on his head.

DD:        Schuman was an experienced foreign minister, very committed as Monnet was to try to find a new way to manage relations between states and especially between France and Germany.

JF:          Monnet and Schuman were part of a group of European statesmen all in their 60s and 70s who had all lived through turbulent times.

DD:        They had experienced not just the Second World War but the entire inter-war period, and indeed, the First World War as well.  So for them, throughout their careers Europe had been in chaos, war, recession, unemployment was the norm.  They wanted to change that; they wanted to break that cycle.

JF:          And so how would you express what they came up with.

DD:        I think they were pragmatic.  It was an arrangement between countries which meant that war would not happen again and which meant also that countries would be not only peaceful but that they would be prosperous and that economic development and economic success in each country was not a zero-sum game, that all countries in Europe could prosper together and be peaceful together.

ROBERT SCHUMAN Speaking French, over music.

JF:          In 1950, Robert Schuman gave a speech proposing the creation of what would eventually become the European Union.  He talked about avoiding war and the importance of economic development.  Peace and prosperity.  Professor Dinan says this was the founding dream.  Of course, dream is just a dream unless you can figure out a way to make it a reality.

DD:        They saw this challenge, not just as a diplomatic challenge or a challenge of international relations, they saw it also, and this is very important, as an economic challenge.

JF:          Coal and steel were the key resources as Europe rebuilt after the war.  The problem for France was that Germany had most of the coal.  Being on the side of the victors, some in France advocated simply taking the coal from Germany.  But keeping Germany down wasn’t consistent with those goals of peace and prosperity.  So, it was clear that nations like France would have to look beyond their narrowly-defined self-interest.

DD:        And what cut through the Gordian Knot of this particular conundrum was Jean Monnet’s proposal to establish European-wide Coal and Steel Community.  So, what the European Coal and Steel Community did was two-fold.  First of all, it addressed very particular economic resource allocation problem.  And second, it built trust, because it required countries participating in it.  To hand over responsibility, national resource ability to a supranational authority, to make key decisions in these very important economic sectors.

JF:          Economic cooperation required political institutions to make it work.  European bureaucracy which stood above national governments and took some of their powers away from them.  So, from the beginning, signing up to Europe meant link wishing some national sovereignty.

DD:        Monnet described the Coal and Steel Community as a functional economic approach to greater European integration, but his hope was that this would result in policy spillover, that as countries cooperated very closely in one or two economic sectors that their cooperation and collaboration inevitably would spill over into other sectors.

JF:          So we’ve heard how the European dream was for peace and prosperity, achieved through economic cooperation.  The vehicle for this was the Coal and Steel Community, but crucially, that was seen by some as just the beginning.

FEMALE ANNOUCNER:   Part two: the golden age.

SARA HOBOLT:  The European Union has always been this fascinating experiment of change, a political experiment.

JF:          Our second expert witness is Sara Hobolt, originally from Denmark, now at the London School of Economics.

SH:        The thing that happened in the 70s is really what has sometimes been referred to as the sort of European dark ages, or the dark ages of European integration.  A long period where there was no real integration in Europe.

JF:          In the 60s and 70s, the Coal and Steel Community had expanded to become a broader trading area, known as the European Economic Community, and had admitted new members like the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark.  But the tension we heard about from our first expert witness, between national sovereignty and further political integration had slowed moves towards greater economic cooperation.

SH:        Now, what we come to in the early 80s was a new dynamism, and a new willingness to bring European nations closer together both in terms of economic integration and also in terms of institutional reform.  So, the sort of golden era of European integration really goes there from 1995 and up to the signing of the Maastricht Treaty in ’91.

JF:          The Maastricht Treaty is important, and will tell you more about it in a minute.  But first, let’s hear about the driving force behind this so-called golden era – Jaques Delors.

SH:        He was a visionary, he had a vision for closer economic and political integration, bringing nationstates together, but not necessarily, sort of, a European superstate, that would supersede nation states to the extent that they wouldn’t exist.

JF:          Delors was a Socialist politician and former Minister of economics in France.  In 1985, he became President of the European Commission, then and now, Europe’s executive body.

SH:        If you go back to the early years of integration, integration was very much about removing tariff barriers, but Jacques Delors as a Socialist was also one who wanted a more social dimension, this more, what we might think of as a welfare state at the European level, and add a political dimension to European integration.

JF:          He started by furthering the original European dream: economic integration.

SH:        What he did first was about the completion of the single market, establishing a common geographical area where companies can trade with each other without any kind of barriers to trade, but also they established sort of common external borders and tariffs, so they have a common policy vis-a-vis the rest of the world in terms of how difficult they see it is for the world to trade with this area.

JF:          The single market was considered a success, and that meant Delors wanted to go further – towards establishing a single currency.

SH:        Now, of course, I’m sure he wasn’t unaware that once you have a single currency there will also be pressure for more common fiscal policy.

JF:          Fiscal policy means taxes and spending – pretty fundamental functions of national governments.  Establishing a single currency was an ambitious step, that would require European states to give up much more control over their own affairs.

SH:        So what he proposed was a three-stage roadmap.

JF:          Stage I was the Maastricht Treaty in the early 90s.

ARCHIVE NEWS REPORT:             Fanfare at Maastricht as the governments of the 12 reassembled here two months after the haggling of the summit which finally produced the treaty now ready for signature – a treaty charting the European Community’s course closer to that of a superpower, with agreements on monetary union, moving towards a common foreign and defence policy, and increasing the Community’s scope to make law for all member states.

JF:          Maastricht also brought in a significant name change The European Economic Community dropped the ‘Economic’ and became part of the European Union.  Jacques Delors had taken Europe deep into political territory, and a long way from the dark ages we heard about earlier. (music)

SH:        That was the high watermark, you know, it was the establishment of an economic union, the prospect of a political union and all forces were sort of joined to say we are creating, you know, this grand new project. (music, with lyrics, ‘Unite tonight – Europe’ and applause)

FEMALE ANNOUNCER:   Part three: Overreach?

ADRIAAN SCHOUT:         They have the European dream, they believe in the European dream.

JF:          Adriaan Schout is from the Netherlands Institute of International Relations.  Back in 1988 he was living with people who’d studied at the College of Europe – considered an elite finishing school for budding European bureaucrats.

AS:         If you were the son of a diplomat, and you speak five languages and you’ve lived in several other countries, then it’s easy to believe in the European dream.

JF:          What’s that vision that they’ve had that they’ve signed up to heart and soul?

AS:         It’s about fiscal union, it’s about a political union, it’s about an economic union, it’s about the Parliament is being a true parliament that appoints a government and that has a sizeable EU budget. But all of that goes at the expense of member states.

JF:          As we’ve heard, around this time, people with this expansive dream of Europe were in the driving seat in Brussels.

AS:         We started to realise that the EU was more than just a market, but we didn’t know what it quite was, what it was going to be.  It was an abstract discussion, but it became clear with a remark by Jacques Delors.

JACQUES DELORS:          (speaking French)

AS:         That 80% of policies would be formulated at EU level.  And I think that remark really woke up and to European feelings, or at least Eurosceptic feelings that . . . ‘Hey, this is going too fast – that means we can more or less close our own Parliament and the EU will become a government’ so that remark was a bit the turning point.

JF:          Adriaan Schout says it started to become clear just how much political spillover, Jacques Delors’s vision of Europe was going to involve.

AS:         All sorts of policies came in, all kinds of areas, so you could see around 1990, you s— could see the resistance also in the public administration growing, of all these new proposals, are they really necessary?

JF:          There was just a sense almost of the paper piling up too fast on the desks?

AS:         Oh yes.


JF:          These concerns began to gain more traction with the public, as Europe move towards monetary union and the single currency.

AS:         You could see a dip in popularity of the EU, and, let me stress, that is not just only in the Netherlands but also in, for example, France and Germany, because while the popularity of the EU was going down, the integration process just continued with the momentum that it had.

JF:          The Maastricht treaty was narrowly rejected in a referendum in Denmark, and only just approved in a referendum in France. And what do you think was the fundamental difference between the vision of the European Commission, where they were taking Europe, and the people who were opposed or even tepidly in favour of?

AS:         Well, the first step was the enormous widening of the policy areas, then the introduction of the euro, and then subsequently the widening of the number of member states that happened from the first 10 Eastern European countries and then later some more joined, and then the final blow came when it became clear that the euro was much more than just a symbol and a coin.

JF:          We’ve moved fairly swiftly through a lot of history there, but essentially, Adriaan Schout is talking about the pattern we identified earlier: the move from economic to more and more political integration, and particularly in difficult times, more and more people becoming concerned about the loss of sovereignty that this entails.  The extent of public opposition to further EU integration became particularly clear in 2005 when moves to adopt European Constitution were rejected by French and Dutch voters.

VOX POP FEMALE:          To much power is going to the minster of that little countries like Holland.

VOX POP MALE:                             It’s the wrong referendum, I vote against.

VOX POP FEMALE 2:       They never asked us anything, and we don’t have time to read all the 350 pages.

AS:         It was an attempt to make the EU more simple, in a way, by having clear, identifiable structures.  But these things, they just . . . were not supported in the Netherlands, ‘We don’t want European president, we don’t want European flag, we don’t want a European hymn’ and that still is the tension that we now see in Europe.  It was vetoed in 2005, but we’re actually still on this trajectory of more and more Europe.


JF:          As the European project has faced crisis after crisis over the past ten years, over the constitution, the euro, immigration, this key question has emerged again and again.  Are these crises caused or made worse by Europe travelling too far down the road of political integration? Or do you European nations need to bite the bullet and give up more sovereignty to make political integration work?

FEMALE ANNOUNCER:   Part four: Where to now?

NIKOLAUS BLOME:         My name is Nikolaus Blome, I’m the deputy editor of Bild, which is the biggest daily in Europe.

JF:          Meet our fourth expert witness, a man with his finger on the pulse of popular opinion in Europe’s most powerful country – Germany.

NB:        The euro is in dire condition, maybe it’s the worst (word unclear, ‘phase’ or ‘face’?) of the European integration ever witnessed.  It’s a multitude of crises, starting from the debt crisis, from the euro crisis, erm . . . Ukraine, refugees, but there are crises coming from within too. We’ve seen some sort of renaissance of nationalism.  So, all in all, it’s not in good shape.

JF:          And where do these crises leave the European dream?

NB:        The narrative we had over decades, all about preventing war in Europe.  That one is mission accomplished, definitely, so well it’s  . . . some sort of a problem, if you have success, what is your next story, what is your next project?

JF:          Nikolaus Blome says finding that next project is complicated by the fact that the low hanging fruit: politically uncontroversial stuff like lowering trade barriers has already been picked.

NB:        Member states, all over the years and decades, have given away a lot of their sovereignty already. And now you’re like coming to the very hot . . . issues of defence, taxes, domestic security. And so that’s, obviously, it’s more difficult to hand that part of sovereignty over to Brussels than it has been about car parts or  . . . cucumbers. And erm . . . I am not astonished about having a fierce debate on that.

JF:          And do you think there is still a fundamental belief amongst Europeans that there are some things that are done better, you know, together as Europeans?

NB:        That belief is shrinking – they don’t buy the dream, if you want, anymore.

JF:          This June, Europe will get a clear sign whether some of its inhabitants buy the dream, when the UK votes on whether or not to remain in the EU.

NB:        Already the campaign is setting some standards for future debates like this in other countries.  And if the United Kingdom steps out, this might trigger similar things in Austria, in Belgium and the Netherlands, whatever.

JF:          So, if Britain leaves – known as Brexit – what would happen to the idea of closer political integration?

NB:        I think if Brexit will happen, the next day some few member countries, Germany and France maybe will do something in terms of more integration, just to show to everybody that the European thing is still alive, but it’s going to be difficult to have more than six or even five member states to be part of that new phase of integration.

JF:          If Britain does vote to stay in, so there’s no Brexit, do you think that, that new phase of integration will still happen, is there this sense that there’s these five or six core countries that are going to keep moving ahead with the kind of broader project?

NB:        No, I don’t think so.  If Brexit does not happen, they will try to consolidate what they have, and they will let pass like, five years, before trying to renegotiate the whole thing.

JF:          Do you think even in five years’ time it might be possible to get all 28 member states heading down the same road at the same speed?

NB:        (two second pause) No not at all. There might be some . . . different, multispeed Europe, that’s fine, that’s in the treaties already, but still it’s getting more and more obligated to have decent relations between those in the faster pool and those staying out of that deeper-integrated pool of member states.

JF:          It’s a tricky balancing act.  Enough flexibility to address the concerns of those who think Europe is going too far, too fast, but not so much flexibility that a common project ceases to make sense.  And it’s even trickier to pull off in the heat of multiple crises.

NB:        Hopefully, in like, five years’ time, there’s no longer a refugee crisis, there has been some settlement with Greece, there’s more growth, and the European Union, somehow consolidated and gone through all those crises, might be able to take a new breath, and to start again.


JF:          So what happened to the European dream? We’re a long way from where we started – peace and prosperity achieved through economic cooperation.  Under Jacques Delors, political integration developed a momentum of its own, and since then the EU has found itself increasingly out of favour and under siege.  But the idea that what’s needed now is a pragmatic response after a time of crisis – that’s something that might feel very familiar to Europe’s founding fathers.


Referendum Blog: May 4

Referendum Blog: May 4

MARDELL BIAS: Mark Mardell was the BBC’s first ‘Europe’ editor, appointed to the role back in 2006.

The circumstances are very relevant to the EU referendum now underway.

Back then, the EU was trying to foist on the member states the so-called EU Constitution and many governments – including that of Tony Blair, as well as those in Ireland and France – promised referendums before it was adopted.

The BBC was facing – then, as now – strong criticism that its relevant coverage was strongly pro-EU.  in response, acting BBC Chairman, the Conservative peer Lord Ryder decided to appoint former cabinet secretary Lord Wilson of Dinton to undertake a review.

History shows that this enquiry was unique in BBC history because it was genuinely independent, made up of Lord Wilson himself, plus two Eurosceptics and two Europhiles, although back then ‘Eurosceptic’ did not include a definite supporter of withdrawal.

The report can still be read on the former BBC governors’ archive. It was strongly scathing of the Corporation’s output on numerous grounds, and especially to the extent there was ‘bias by omission’, a failure to cover EU affairs sufficiently.

Mardell’s appointment was made by the BBC executive in response. It was a specially-created senior editorial post with the specific brief of ensuring that EU-related affairs were properly incorporated into BBC reporting.

Ten years on – in his relatively new role as presenter of The World This Weekend (TWTW) – his coverage of the EU referendum can thus be regarded as a particularly important indicator of how fair is the BBC reporting of the referendum campaign.  Surely, of all the BBC staff, he would be expected to achieve balanced coverage?

News-watch has completed analysis of the 15 editions of programmes since January 24. The answer is a resounding ‘no’.

Three editions stand out as being particularly biased: one from Portugal on February 7, in which 11 pro-EU guests were ranged against Leave.EU funder, the business man Richard Tice; the second from Lake Como in Italy (10/4), in which Mardell carefully assembled a cast of impressive-sounding remain fanatics who denounced the idea of the referendum as ‘stupid’; and the third on the weekend of President Obama’s ‘back of the queue’ message (24/4). On this occasion, Mardell crowed about how popular and influential a figure the president was and how he had taken a ‘wrecking ball’ to the Brexit case.

There is not the space here to detail all of this failure of impartiality. But a couple more examples illustrate further the range of problems. One edition led on a warning from the UK’s sole European Commissioner Lord Hill that agriculture and farmers would be heavily caned by ‘exit’ (20/4). The programme on this occasion reinforced that message with extensive tweeting. Another programme, earlier in the year, before David Cameron’s so-called ‘deal’ had been reached, explored how the ‘British contagion’ was triggering ‘populist’ and ‘anti-immigrant’ reactions across Europe, concluding with a dire prediction from the lefty former Greek minister Yanis Varoufakis (now, predictably a firm BBC favourite commentator) that unless there was greater integration in the EU, the consequences would be the collapse of the EU itself, followed by 1930s-style turmoil and recession (28/2).

The overall point is that Mardell has been relentlessly keen to cover the EU referendum. It has figured in the majority of editions. The analysis shows that throughout, he has worked especially hard to promote the benefits of ‘remain’, and to seek out polished contributors who can articulate that case. Their claims about the dire consequences of exit have been heavily prominent, and, indeed, have dominated many editions.

Conversely, there has been no programme since January 24 in which claims by the ‘exit’ side have led the programme and have been projected editorially with equal vigour to the editions where the ‘remain’ case has dominated.   An example of the Brexit side treatment was in the edition from Portugal – Richard Tice was given less than half the time of ‘remain’ supporter Sir Mike Rake, the former CBI chairman.

In parallel with this, when supporters of ‘out’ have appeared, they have been given a much harder time than their ‘remain’ equivalents.

No edition has set out with claims from the ‘exit’ side on the ascendant, or has sought as its main editorial thrust to push the ‘remain’ side to justify their stance.

Another frequent editorial approach has also been the investigation of divisions over the EU within the Conservative party. There has been no equivalent exploration within Labour of issues such as the impact on the working class vote of the parliamentary party’s strong support of EU immigration policies.

All this boils down to that one of the BBC’s most experienced observers of the EU over the past decade seems to be working hardest to project the ‘remain’ case, and on the occasions he looks at the Brexit side, to make special efforts to expose its weaknesses.

The Lord Wilson of Dinton report, with clinical precision, drew attention to the BBC’s failings in the reporting of ‘Europe’. A decade on, the man appointed to fix those issues seems be Carrying on Regardless.  The central problem is that he and his colleagues seemingly love the EU as much as ever, and are almost entirely blind to their own journalistic shortcomings in reporting its true nature.

Photo by cogdogblog

Referendum Blog: April 29

Referendum Blog: April 29

MORE ROBINSON BIAS: One of the most extraordinary questions of the EU referendum so far was posed by Nick Robinson when he interviewed Lord Patten on the Today programme on Wednesday (27/4). In essence, it seemed that the Today presenter – having first noted how wonderful he (Patten) thought the BBC was – invited the former BBC Chairman to say that the Corporation’s coverage was favouring too much the Brexit case.

The relevant sequence was at the end of the interview. This was it is full:

NR:  A last word on an organisation that you used to be in charge of, you were Chairman of this organisation, of course, which you . . .

CP:         (speaking over) (word unclear)

NR:         . . . generously called ‘the greatest broadcast in the world’ the BBC . . .

CP:         Hmm.

NR:         There are people on your side of the argument now who are in favour of remaining in the EU who, to paraphrase them say ‘the BBC is bending over backwards to produce balance in this argument, and doing so in a way that does not produce the facts.’

CP:         Well . . . erm . . . I think the BBC has an extremely difficult job. Erm, it’s having to cover this referendum, er, with the shadow of a Charter Review and Mr Whittingdale hanging over it, erm, I think that may make people excessively deferential when trying to produce balance.  You have the Govenor of the Bank of England on, or, or the IMF chief, so you feel obliged to erm, put up some, er . . . some Conservative backbencher that nobody’s ever heard of on the other side of the argument.  And it does, it does . . . occasionally raise eyebrows, but I think I would prefer the BBC to be being criticised for being so balanced, excessively balanced, than for, than for doing anything else. It’s a very great broadcaster, which is dedicated to telling the truth, and that’s an unusual thing in the world of the media.

Fundamental points here before considering in detail how seriously irregular this exchange was are that Lord Patten is a) an ardent Europhile who served as one of the UK’s  European Commissioners. He is thus bound by the terms of his pension never to criticise the EU; and b) while BBC Chairman, he vigorously resisted efforts by the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee to investigate perceptions that the BBC coverage of EU affairs was strongly pro-EU.  He refused three times to appear before the Committee. It was only after he had resigned the post and Rona Fairhead had taken over that the Chairman did appear, in January 2015.

Against this background, a reasonable adversarial question to have put to Patten would have been whether – in the context of the blanket coverage by the Corporation of President Obama’s threat the previous week to put Britain to the ‘back of the queue’ for a trade treaty – BBC reporting had been rigorous and balanced enough.  Instead, Robinson tamely asked what Lord Patten thought of the suggestion (from the remain side) that the BBC was bending over backwards to produce balance in the argument in such a way that it was distorting the facts. In other words, Robinson asked a strongly pro-EU figure whether the Corporation was doing too much to bring the ‘exit’ arguments to the audience. This gave Patten the opportunity both to agree with the main point, and then to be extremely condescending and dismissive of the ‘exit’ case – and to amplify the threat that Robinson suggested was an issue of concern. At this point, he cannot have believed his luck, and, indeed, he appeared slightly surprised (in his rather halting response) that he had been presented with such a wide open goal to attack his Brexit foes.

Patten replied it was extremely difficult for the BBC to cover the referendum because of the ‘threat’ hanging over it from Culture secretary John Whittingdale and the Charter Review. His agenda here was almost certainly deeply political: that John Whittingdale was considered a threat to the BBC by the ‘remain’ side because he had formally warned the Corporation that its EU coverage was considered in some quarters to be pro-EU.  Patten suggested that in the face of this threat, BBC staff were being ‘too deferential’.  His next point stuck the boot in further and was both smug and condescending: against the high quality figures that the ‘remain’ side could marshal, such as the Governor of the Bank of England, or the IMF chief, this deference meant that producers felt ‘obliged’ to scratch around and put on ‘Conservative backbenchers that nobody’s heard of on the other side of the argument’.  His parting point was that he would nevertheless prefer the BBC to be ‘excessively balanced’ in this way than to do anything else – which is why, he claimed, it was ‘a very good broadcaster dedicated to telling the truth’.

Robinson thus elicited an answer from Lord Patten to vent in full his ‘remain’ prejudices, to concur with his interrogator’s observations that the BBC was a very high quality broadcaster, to attack the calibre of of the ‘exit’ speakers, to imply the Charter review process was biased because it was in the hands of Brexit supporter John Whittingdale, and to air his belief that, if anything, BBC coverage of the referendum campaign was ‘excessively balanced’;  in other words, heavily  biased towards) the Brexit side.

Nick Robinson, as well as being Today presenter, is a former BBC political editor. It is arguably an affront to journalism that this exchange ever happened, and – coming after his aggressive interview of Nigel Farage on the same day also noted on this blog – seems to be blatantly against the BBC’s referendum coverage guidelines.

Photo by bobaliciouslondon

Referendum Blog: 28 April

Referendum Blog: 28 April

PRO-PATTEN BIAS: After his interview of Nigel Farage on Radio 4’s Today, in which presenter Nick Robinson attempted in every way he could to say that Ukip was an irrelevant political force, Robinson then interviewed Lord Patten, the former BBC chairman about why, in effect,  he thought it was vital for the Brexit side to lose.  The contrast between the two was stark. Here, numbers count:

Nigel Farage

Total Package Duration: 6 minutes 44 seconds

Total words from Nigel Farage: 846

Longest uninterrupted sequence: 118 words (next highest were 112 and 80)

Number of times Nick Robertson spoke over or interrupted Nigel Farage:  10

Number of times ‘control’ of discussion passed between the two: 62 times

Chris Patten 

Total Package Duration: 6 minutes 10 seconds

Total words from Chris Patten: 682

Longest uninterrupted sequence: 154 (but two others of 150 and 142)

Number of times Nick Robertson spoke over or interrupted Chris Patten:  1

Number of times ‘control’ of discussion passed between the two: 18

Put another way: Farage could scarcely get in a word edgeways, whereas Patten had a relaxed opportunity to put his various points.

Nigel Farage managed to say that Ukip was fighting the May election, was hoping for a breakthrough., was challenging on open-door immigration, which was rising, that families would be £40 a week better off outside the EU, and that the UK could survive outside the EU with a deal for trade which it would be able to negotiate. None of these policy points were more than a few words long, all of them were strongly challenged by Nick Robinson, and most of the time, Farage was defending negative points raised by Robinson. He chose not to ask about policy, and focused instead on the problems faced by both Farage and his party.

By contrast, Lord Patten was interrupted only once.   Because of the more relaxed approach, he had five sequences  of 154, 150, 142, 110 and 80 words in which he variously made the points that it was vital for the UK to stay in the EU  and take a lead role in it; that Britain had a natural leadership role in Europe, and those at our great institutions, such as academics, desperately wanted to stay bin the EU; that Margaret Thatcher was against referendums, and was a strong believer in the EU; that although ‘Europe’ as an issue had gnawed away at the Conservative party for years, but he now hoped it would be resolved and those who supported exit would be magnanimous in defeat; and that the BBC  was working ultra-hard – despite an absence of speakers and evidence to – convey  the Brexit case.  Robinson was ‘adversarial’ in that he pushed that the EU had caused divisions in the Conservative party and suggested that Margaret Thatcher had come to oppose it. The ‘Tory splits’ approach that News-watch research has shown has dominated the BBC coverage of the EU for 16 years, and suggests that the in/out debate is about party politics rather than issues of principle. Overall, Robinson seemed most focused on allowing Patten to put the anti-Brexit case; with Farage he aimed to prevent him as much as possible from making positive points at all.


Transcript of BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’, 27th April 2016, Interview with Nigel Farage, 7.51am

NICK ROBINSON:             Is this the year the job is finally over for the UK Independence Party? The moment it can claim victory in its battle to free the country from the clutches of Brussels, or have to accept that the people have spoken and they’ve chosen to stay within the European club?  Or is UKIP, which of course is fighting council, Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliamentary elections in just a few weeks’ time, here to stay whatever the result of the referendum?   We’re joined by UKIP’s leader, Nigel Farage, who joins us live from Cardiff.  Morning to you Mr Farage.

NIGEL FARAGE: Good morning.

NR:        People have a referendum, the people will decide, so what’s the point of voting UK in any other election?

NF:        Well they will decide on June 23 you’re quite right. However on May 5 as you said in your introduction, we’re fighting the Welsh Assembly elections Scottish Parliament elections, we’re fighting seats in Northern Ireland for Stormont,  we’re fighting the London Mayor, London Assembly, one and a half thousand council seats and we’ve got 34 people standing as police and crime commissioners.  So it’s er . . . it’s rather like a British Super Tuesday isn’t it really (laughter in voice) it’s remarkable.

NR:        What’s the point though?  People might think, well, look, I used to vote UKIP, if they did, to send a message, as it were . . .

NF:        (speaking over) No, no, no, no, no . . .

NR:        (speaking over) Why not?

NF:        No, no. We’re way beyond people voting UKIP as a protest or to send a message, and what we’re seeing is a very strong consolidation of the UKIP vote, where people now want to vote UKIP in every possible form of election.  We’ve made some big advances in councils over the course of the last couple of years, and I do anticipate more of that on May 5. But for me, I mean, the big goal on May 5 is to win representation in the London Assembly, the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Irish Assembly, and I think I’m the only party leader who’s got a chance of winning seats in all four of them.

NR:        You see, the suspicion some people have is that UKIP is a . . . curious combination of a one-man band – you, of course – and maybe this one-man is carrying a sack full of fighting ferrets.  You’re speaking to us from Cardiff, you’ve got prominent candidates, Neil Hamilton and Mark Reckless who are not from Wales, and you’ve got the leader of the UKIP (sic) in Wales who says he wouldn’t have chosen them if he’d had the chance to do so.

NF:        Well, we put it to the members, and the members chose, so, you can’t argue with that, if that’s what party democracy comes up with.  Not everyone is going to like the result, but it is what it is, I mean . . .

NR:        (interrupting) You can’t argue with it, you say, but the leader of UKIP in Wales has done precisely that, he’s argued with it and he said it’s not who he wanted.

NF:        Well, it’s not who he wanted – that’s up to him isn’t it? Look, the point is this: we may have some discussions about who should and should not be candidates in winnable positions, but I look at the Conservative Party, which is literally ripping itself to pieces, and a Labour Party where over 80% of the MPs don’t want Corbyn as leader, and I look at their problems and think, ‘what I’ve got is nothing.’

NR:        (short laugh) You say it’s nothing, but of course, one of your most prominent members – well, is she a member?  It’s an interesting question, isn’t it?  Suzanne Evans, wanted to run against you for leader, was a prominent figure on television and radio, she’s now been suspended.  It sounds again, you can’t really deal with the competition.

NF:        Nothing to do with me.  I, I’m party leader, Nick, I tour the country, I try and raise money, I try and get the (fragment of word, unclear) the party coverage, I try and enthuse the troops.  I don’t deal with discipline or candidate selection, and I never have done.

NR:        Nothing to do with you? Suzanne Evans . . .

NF:        (speaking over) I have nothing . . .

NR:        (speaking over) You have no influence over what the party does.

NF:        Zip.

NR:        Okay, well let’s take the opportunity now, why don’t you take the opportunity now to say, ‘I want her back, she’s one of our best and most prominent voices, we need her, she’s a contrast to me, we don’t get on, but let’s have her back.’

NF:        (speaking over) Well, I don’t think she behaved terribly well, so . . .

NR:        So you don’t want her back?

NF:        I don’t think she’s behaved terribly well, she’s suspended for a short period of time, but, but frankly (words unclear due to speaking over)

NR:        (speaking over) Do you want her back or not though, I’m just asking you that.

NF:        (speaking over) Well, as I say we’ve got, on May 5 UKIP is going to make a significant breakthrough into lots of levels of parliament and assembly to which we’ve never been before, and off the back of that we’re going to fight a big, strong campaign in the run-up to the referendum on June 23, and I think it’s very important, in this referendum campaign that the Leave side actually gets into the other half of the pitch and starts to challenge the Remain side about open-door immigration, about the fact, the figures that are out this morning, saying we’ve underestimated Eastern Europ— Eastern European migration by at least 50,000 people a year . . .

NR:        (speaking over) There are some other figures out this morning as well, you may have heard them, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the OECD, says Brexit is like a tax, that it will cost people the equivalent of one month’s salary . . .

NF:        (speaking over) Yeah, yeah.

NR:        . . . by 2020.  Do you say, ‘Yeah, yeah’, but . . .

NF:        (speaking over) Yeah, yeah, yeah. IMF, OECD, you know, a whole series of international organisations, stuffed full of overpaid people who failed in politics mostly, (fragments of words, unclear) and frankly . . .

NR:        (speaking over) Well presumably you’ve got . . . would you like to give us a list of the organisations that agree with you, because it, it’d be very . . .

NF:        (speaking over) Yeah.

NR:        . . . useful to have them.

NF:        (speaking over) Yeah. Yeah, they’re called ‘markets’ they’re called ‘consumers’ they’re called ‘people’ and they’re called ‘the real world’, and . . .

NR:        (speaking over) Well can you, can you name an organisation of economic . . .

NF:        (speaking over) And I have the advantage . . .

NR:        . . . forecasters, private or public, that agrees with your view . . .

NF:        (speaking over) Oh well, I mean, I mean . . .

NR:        . . . that you’d be better off outside the EU.

NF:        (speaking over) I’m in . . . I’m in Cardiff.  I’m in Cardiff, I mean, the Professor of Economic at Cardiff University, Patrick Minford, said very clearly that outside the European Union the average British family would be £40 per week better off.

NR:        He’s one individual, Mr Farage, isn’t he? He’s not an organisation . . .

NF:        (speaking over) Well . . .

NR:        . . . he’s not . . .

NF:        (speaking over) It’s very interesting, you know . . .

NR:        (speaking over) an international body.

NF:        Yeah, well, of course.  These international bodies, there’s virtually nobody working for any of them that has manufactured a good (sic) or traded a product globally.  I did that for 20 years before getting into politics, and the fact is, whether we’re in the European Union or outside the European Union, we will go on buying, buying and selling goods between France and Germany and Britain and Italy, because ultimately, markets aren’t created by politicians, it’s about consumers making choices.

NR:        Just like Albania, is it?  Because Michael Gove suggested the other day we could have a trading relationship with the rest of Europe like Albania’s?

NF:        Well, I don’t think he really did, I think that’s sort of, sort of spin, no I mean look . . .

NR:        (interrupting) Well, if he, if he didn’t, forgive me, which country would you like . . .

NF:        (speaking over) Look . . .

NR:        . . . us to have a relationship like, if you see what, sorry (words unclear due to speaking over)

NF:        (speaking over) I would like us to have a relationship like the eurozone’s biggest export market in the world, the market they need more than any other to have as free access to as possible, and I want is to have . . . I mean, if little countries . . .

NR:        Like? Like?

NF:        . . . if little countries like Norway and Switzerland can get their own deals, then we can have a bespoke British deal that suits us.

NR:        Well, they both, as you know, have to take immigration through free movement, so just . . .

NF:        (speaking over) Well . . .

NR:        . . . we’ve only got ten seconds, can you name a country . . .

NF:        (speaking over) they’ve been betrayed . . .

NR:        . . . that you would like to be like?

NF:        They’ve been betrayed by their politicians in both Norway and Switzerland, and they’re now rebelling against that . . .

NR:        (speaking over) Just five seconds left, can you name a country that you would like us to be like (words unclear due to speaking over ‘after Brexit’?)

NF:        (speaking over) Yeah, the biggest market in the world.  The United Kingdom will have its own deal with the EU and be free to make its own deals with the rest of the world, we will be better off.

NR:        Er, I think the answer’s no you can’t name a country, but Nigel Farage . . .

NF:        (speaking over) Because, because we’re, because we’re the United Kingdom, we’ll do our own deal.

NR:        Thank you very much for joining us, Nigel Farage.


Transcript of BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’, 27th April 2016, Interview with Chris Patten, 8.34am

NICK ROBINSON:             It’s been another interesting week in the story of those everyday folk, who just happened to be running the country.  The Justice Secretary says the Health Secretary could pay junior doctors more, if only we got out of the EU.  The Home Secretary disagrees, she wants to stay in the EU, but she would like to tell you that she wants to get out of the ECHR, which the Justice Secretary says we’re staying in.  Meantime, the Mayor of London . . . you get the idea.  I hope you’re all following this.  Well, no, let me summarise, the Tory party is more publicly divided than it has been for years, since, in fact, the 1990s, when (fragment of word, unclear) John Major fought to keep his party together.  Alongside him then was his Conservative Party Chairman, Chris – Lord – Patten, who joins me now. And was of course also Chairman of the BBC for a period of time.

CHRIS PATTEN:  (speaking over) Happy families, Nick, happy families.

NR:        Happy families.  There were those Conservatives who believed that this referendum would, and I quote their phrase, ‘lance the boil’.  Isn’t the truth that it is merely spreading poison?

CP:         Well, I think that depends, erm, on the outcome.  I very much hope that will vote to remain in the European Union, I think that’s in the interests of not least my kids, and the next generation, I think it’s in the interests of a better future, but erm, I, there will be a lot of collateral damage, erm, if we vote to come out.  I hope that if we vote to stay in, those who have been campaigning to withdraw will actually not take the Alex Salmond (fragments of words, unclear) path and think this is a nef— neverendum, rather than a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Erm, and I think, I hope that they will support the very elegantly put proposition of Theresa May yesterday that we should, or, the day before yesterday, that we should erm, be self-confident and take a leading role in the European Union.  So, I hope that’s the position they’ll take.

NR:        In order to win, do you believe that the Remain campaign has to do rather better than say, ‘You’ll be a few quid worse off, if you dare to leave’?

CP:         Well it is, of course (short laugh) decidedly relevant that will be poorer – I think everybody accepts that, except for a few diehards on the other side, but I do . . .

NR:        (speaking over) It’s not (words unclear) you served in Brussels, though, is it, as a Commissioner, (words unclear due to speaking over)

CP:         (speaking over) No, it isn’t, it isn’t, it’s, it’s because I think that erm, er . . . Britain has a natural role leading Europe, er, I, I believe passionately that a lot of the problems we face in the country, and in other countries today can only be dealt with through international, greater international cooperation, and I want to see Britain leading that.  We are a great country, we’ve got great cultural institutions, greatest, if I may say so, public service broadcaster in the world, the greatest universities in the world, some of the greatest researchers. When researchers say they how much they hope, desperately, that we’ll stay European Union, that, that resonates with me, and I want us to be able to play a leading role internationally, I want us to be part of the global, liberal order, which makes the world more stable and more decent today than it used to be.

NR:        What do you say to those though who remember that people like yourself fought Mrs Thatcher over the issue of Europe, and they say, look, she was right to warn about Brussels’ creeping power, she was right to say the single currency couldn’t possibly work and would drag us all into an economic crisis, she was right to have some worries that enlargement wouldn’t have a, produce a shallower Europe, but a deeper one with mass immigration.

CP:         But she was also right to argue passionately against referendums, which she regarded as being the favourite . . . I think these are her, almost her words – the favourite devices of despots and dictators. Erm, she was also right . . . erm, to argue that there was a huge political case as well as an economic case for Europe.  And she was right, erm, to argue that we should be playing a leadership role in Europe, not withdrawing.

NR:        When you quoted those words, which I think you did to David Cameron, said the referendum was the last resort of dictators – I don’t imagine he was best pleased, was he?

CP:         Erm, I’ve, I’ve disagreed with party leaders, erm, for years about referendums.  I think referendums undermine parliamentary democracy.

NR:        How does the Conservative Party avoid the mess, frankly, much worse than a mess, wasn’t it, the disaster of what befell the government that you were a central part of in the mid and early 90s?

CP:         Well, you’re quite right, erm, that this is an issue that’s been gnawing away at the unity, the integrity of the Conservative Party for years.  I very much hope that this will decide the issue once and for all.  It will require spectacular quantity of magnanimity on the part of the Prime Minister, but it will also require a commitment by those who lose, which I hope they will, on the Brexit side, to pull together now and work for the interest of the country, and for the interests of the future, so that we don’t find ourselves once again as . . . David Willets might put it, ‘Committing an act of intergenerational theft against younger people.’

NR:        A last word on an organisation that you used to be in charge of, you were Chairman of this organisation, of course, which you . . .

CP:         (speaking over) (word unclear)

NR:        . . . generously called ‘the greatest broadcast in the world’ the BBC . . .

CP:         Hmm.

NR:        There are people on your side of the argument now who are in favour of remaining in the EU who, to paraphrase them say ‘the BBC is bending over backwards to produce balance in this argument, and doing so in a way that does not produce the facts.’

CP:         Well . . . erm . . . I think the BBC has an extremely difficult job. Erm, it’s having to cover this referendum, er, with the shadow of a Charter Review and Mr Whittingdale hanging over it, erm, I think that may make people excessively deferential when trying to produce balance.  You have the Govenor of the Bank of England on, or, or the IMF chief, so you feel obliged to erm, put up some, er . . . some Conservative backbencher that nobody’s ever heard of on the other side of the argument.  And it does, it does . . . occasionally raise eyebrows, but I think I would prefer the BBC to be being criticised for being so balanced, excessively balanced, than for, than for doing anything else. It’s a very great broadcaster, which is dedicated to telling the truth, and that’s an unusual thing in the world of the media.

NR:        Lord Patten, Chris Patten, thank you very much indeed.

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Referendum Blog: April 27

Referendum Blog: April 27

GET FARAGE!: Here we go again…almost exactly a year ago, during the general election, Evan Davis slammed into Nigel Farage, interrupting him no fewer than 50 times and hardly letting him utter a single word about policy. Today, it was Nick Robinson’s turn on Today. Ostensibly this was an interview about Ukip’s chances in the various May elections, but Robinson had another agenda, which at core, was to work flat out was to show the party was hopeless, divided and clueless. First off, what was the point of voting Ukip at all in these elections, because their relevance was only to the EU referendum?  Next – a BBC constant ever since Nigel Farage entered the national stage – he was a ‘curious’ one-man band. Then, the party he is leading is a ‘sack of fighting ferrets’. The next point was a new one: Farage ‘can’t deal with competition’ because his rival for leadership, Suzanne Evans had been suspended. Whether or not she had behaved badly became a central point of the interview.  Next were  figures from the OECD, which, said Robinson, showed that Brexit would cost people the equivalent of one month’s salary.  Farage tried to answer, but Robinson was having none of it. Before he could explain why the figures did not add up, Robinson introduced another challenge. He wanted ‘a list of the organisations that agree with you’. NF tried to say what counted was consumers and markets rather than the big organisations, but Robinson slammed him again to demand that he name ’an organisation of economic forecasters…who agrees with your view that you’d be better off outside the EU’. Farage said that Patrick Minford, the professor of economics at Cardiff University (where he was) said that the average British family would be better off by £40 a week.  That, however, in Robinson’s book, did not count because he was not an international body. Farage said the that international bodies did not have figures working for them that traded manufactured goods, and that outside or inside the European Union, the UK would continue trading. Nick Robinson asked if the trading relationship would be like that of Albania’s as mentioned by Michael Gove. Farage said what Gove had said about Albania had been spun. Robinson asked what country he would like to base the UK’s relationship on.  Farage said that if small countries like Norway and Switzerland could reach their own deals, the UK could arrive at a bespoke deal.  Robinson then gave him ten seconds to name a country ‘that you would like to be like’. Farage repeated that the UK could forge its own deal. Robinson responded:

‘Er, I think the answer’s no you can’t name a country’.

All these issues were legitimate lines of questioning. But the point here was the tone: Robinson from the outside was massively aggressive and on a mission to push Farage as hard as he could. He gave him very little space to answer and in every case, crashed in with another reason why his answers were unsatisfactory. The contrast between that approach, and, for example, Huw Edward’s handling on Sunday of his interview with President Obama could not be greater, even allowing for the fact that the latter is President of the USA. An important perspective here is that the BBC has form. Nick Robinson’s belligerent approach to Farage was yet another example in a long line of similar encounters.  In nearly all of them the formula has been the same, especially the idea that Ukip is a one-trick pony and grossly incompetent.  This was ostensibly an interview about the party’s prospects in the forthcoming UK elections, but it was nothing of the sort. It was an unsubtle, disproportionately hostile, attempt to discredit the Brexit case and to yet again to undermine both Farage and Ukip.

Photo by Euro Realist Newsletter

Referendum Blog: April 25

Referendum Blog: April 25

CROWING FOR OBAMA?: Mark Mardell’ the BBC’s former ‘Europe’ editor and now presenter of World This Weekend, was in no doubt on Sunday about how important President Obama’s observations about the EU referendum were. He declared:

The UK part of his farewell tour wouldn’t even count as a long weekend, but it might prove the most important 50 hours in the referendum campaign so far.  Here was one of the most popular and powerful politicians in the whole world pulling no punches. 

Next came an extract from the president’s interview by Huw Edwards in which he outlined in detail and in full the horrors that would befall the UK if it left the EU.  Mardell then visited the president’s staged ‘town hall’ question and answer session, where, he said, Obama seemed to be ‘a bit of a rock star to some’.   There followed a vox pop in which the first respondent said that Obama ‘had every right to speak out’ in the way he had because Britain was not an isolated country. The second voice agreed it was OK for the president to intervene, the third said he could have an opinion, but it was up to the British people to decide. Mardell concluded:

Of course, what any President of the United States says is important, but this one perhaps strikes a different chord.

He then asked ‘former adviser to the Labour leadership’ Aisha Hazanika how it struck her that Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson had mentioned his Kenyan ancestry.  She responded:

It sort of smacked of a completely unnecessary, weird undertone that was pretty unpleasant, and I think actually, very un-British.  I think people were quite embarrassed about it, and I think it ties into what’s actually happening with the mayoral election at the moment, we are seeing quite an ugly strain of dog whistle politics.  There are people in the Conservative Party saying ‘We’re not saying Sadiq is necessarily a terrorist, but . . .’ and that kind of smearing with innuendo and association is not something that has really happened in British politics, and I don’t think that that sends a particularly progressive message around the country and to the rest of the world.

Mardell then observed with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and the Queen’s 90th birthday, it could have been a week for ‘inward looking staring backwards at the past’, and the president’s political intervention had been wrapped in appeals to British sentimentality. He said:

But the blunt, unsentimental job he set himself was to take a wrecking ball to the Leave campaigners’ case

Mardell then spoke to Simon Hix, introduced as a professor of political science at the London School of Economics. He noted that the ‘leave’ side was calling Obama a lame duck figure, but then said that the president was ‘telling it pretty straight’ and was ‘articulating the policy that was probably that of the Washington establishment’. He added:

I think the onus is on the people campaigning for Brexit now to articulate the post-Brexit vision of the UK in the world, and one of the big question marks there is Britain’s relationship with the United States.  They always assumed that we could leave the EU and we’d naturally be able to set up some Anglospheres, some global, English-speaking trade bloc, as a substitute for the EU in a way, and I think Obama has put paid to that idea.

Mardell then interviewed ‘former defence secretary’ Liam Fox and noted first that, before the visit, with the backing of 100 other MPs, he had written a letter to the US Embassy urging Obama not to intervene. Mardell noted that the advice had been ignored and then asked what impact the intervention would have. Dr Fox replied that Obama’s claim that Britain would go to the back of the queue in arriving at a trade deal would not apply because the negotiations would not be handled by his successor. Mardell said that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton would follow the same policies. Fox replied that what was said in primaries could not be trusted, and pointed out that negotiating trade deals with the EU was highly complex as 27 countries were involved. Mardell interrupted to state that the president was quite clear – it was impossible to queue-jump and it could take ten years. Fox disagreed and claimed that several deals were dealt with at the same time, it was not a system of one at a time. Mardell observed that Fox was an ‘Atlanticist,,,someone who was very much believes in ties with the US’. It was now clear that Obama wanted Britain inside the EU.  Fox responded that the president had also observed that the bond between the two countries was unbreakable. Mardell said:

But nevertheless, doesn’t the President’s whole tone rather blow a hole in the argument for an Anglosphere, for an Atlanticist approach of a Britain outside the European Union?

Fox disagreed and said leaving the EU would make the UK open and outward looking rather than in the strait-jacket of the EU, ‘heading for massive economic failure as a result of the single currency…and the collapse of Schengen’.   Mardell noted that Fox’s letter to the US embassy had said that the intervention of the president could undermine the vote itself’. He asked if this had now happened. Fox said that in the interview with Huw Edwards, there had been a lot of backtracking, and his message had been softened so that it was now ‘more appropriate’.  Finally, Mardell asked what Fox thought about Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage raising the president’s ‘half-Kenyan ancestry’. Dr Fox said it was important that the debate was about the issues.

That’s a long analysis, but important to show the range and parameters of this Obama package and to illustrate the extent of Mardell’s imbalance.  First, it should be noted that Liam Fox was given a reasonable opportunity to respond to some of the points raised by the Obama visit, and made a decent fist 0f doing so.

But the negatives in the construction far outweigh that. The first issue is Mardell’s extravagant, open admiration of Obama. Of course, the president of the United States is powerful, but Mardell emphasised and amplified that on at least three occasions, leaving listeners in no doubt whatsoever that this was a very important man making a very, very important contribution to the referendum debate. Second, his vox pop sequence was weighted to the ‘in side’; those he spoke to expressed only one slight reservation that this was an important, relevant message delivered at an appropriate time.  Third, the former Labour party ‘leadership adviser’ Hazarika was given a totally open goal to call Boris Johnson’s mention of Obama’s ancestry ‘unnecessary, weird and pretty unpleasant’ – and then to deliver a withering attack on the Conservative conduct in the mayoral elections. In effect, Mardell presented her with the platform to call him ‘racist’, without explaining at all that Johnson’s newspaper about article about Obama’s intervention contained detailed argument as to why his background in Kenya was relevant. Fourth, Mardell included comment from Professor Hix that the intervention of Obama ‘was a serious blow to one of the key pillars of the Brexit campaign’ without including anything that challenge such an extreme statement. President Obama had already set out his position in the feature; this amplified it. Of course, Liam Fox then rebutted the point, but the construction meant that this was a 2-1 argument, not a straight 1-1 equation. And that was the overall position. Much more time was allocated to the Obama pitch, and Mardell exaggerated its strength by his extravagant praise of Obama.  He gave the distinct impression that he was crowing against the Brexit case, and enjoying it.


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Referendum Blog: April 24

Referendum Blog: April 24

MORE NEWSNIGHT BIAS: Newsnight continued their series EU Referendum Road on Friday night with a visit by reporter Katie Razzall to the Shetland Isles, the UK’s most northerly outpost.  The full transcript is below.  As with her previous report, it heavily favoured the ‘remain’ side – although not so obviously. The ‘in’ case was articulated by two figures: the managing director of a local green energy company, and a woman, who it was said had been passionately ‘out’ at the 1975 EU referendum – to the extent that she had been involved in noisy protests and arrested – but was now firmly ‘in’. Razzall buttressed their pro-EU remarks with an observation at the end that all 15 of the regulars of a local pub were in favour of staying in.  Ranged against that were two ‘out’ figures – one a former ‘Viking chief’ who now ran a local real ale brewery, and who looked to Norway as a model that the Shetlands might follow because the place was ‘absolutely pristine’; and a farmer who said the local economy needed to adopt a more global outlook. He claimed that ‘little Europe’ was ‘not for us’. On the face of it, therefore, there was a form of balance, two ‘ins’ against two definitely ‘outs’.

The bias stemmed from other factors., One was that Razzall said that in the 1975 EU referendum, the islands had been one of only two electoral areas of the UK that had voted ‘out’. She then set out to show that this had been based on that the economy back then had been primarily linked to fishing – and spoke immediately to the green energy manufacturer who said strongly that he supported ‘in’.  She asserted:

‘But how changeable are Shetlanders’ attitudes to the EU four decades on? New industries have grown up since the fishermen swung the vote, Shetland is pioneering tidal power, and Fred Gibson’s firm, which has received some EU funding, is making the fibreglass blades.

FRED GIBSON Shetland Composites The first one is up and running at the moment. As we speak it is actually producing electricity which is going on to the local grid.

KR:        So you will be voting to stay in?

FG:        Oh, absolutely. I think it is going to be very interesting, what’s going to happen here, this time. I can see exactly why they voted no last time. And that was purely down to the fishing industry.

KR:        That’s still important in Shetland, but it employs far fewer people these days.

FG:        When I was at school, there would be at least three or four other pupils in my class whose fathers were going out probably every day to go fishing. It’s funny because I asked that same question to my children quite recently, and they said that they didn’t actually know anyone, and then one of them said, oh, he thought that somebody’s father was a fisherman in his year group. So that has completely changed.’

Thus Razzall’s editing and selection of comment suggested that although the fishing industry remained ‘important’ it was at a far lesser level to the point that fishermen were rare. Checks on Google, however, soon reveal that, in fact, fishing, remains the islands’ main source of income, accounting for 28% of all economic activity. This is what the Shetland Economy website says:

‘The fishing industry – which includes the catching, farming and processing of fish and shellfish – is Shetland’s biggest sector by some way. It has always been at the absolute heart of Shetland’s economy and community. The seafood industry is worth £300m a year to the local economy.’

She deliberately projected a misleading impression to viewers. The reality is that more fish is landed annually in Lerwick than the whole of Wales, England and Northern Ireland combined; the only fishing port bigger than Lerwick in the entire UK is Peterhead; the value of the catch is £76m annually (plus there is a very substantial salmon farming industry); and very substantial numbers of local people are employed in fish processing and related activities.

In ignoring the fishermen, Razzall glossed over a vital strand of local opinion. The local fishermen’s association, as is revealed by their website, is clearly unhappy with the Common Fisheries Policy.

Further analysis: a brief but important ‘remain’ contribution was overlooked.  After the remarks supporting ‘remain’ by the green energy manufacturer Fred Gibson, Shetlands postmistress Valerie Johnson was asked if islanders would vote in the same way as 1975.  She responded that she could not see that happening, and when challenged by Razall why, she stated:

I think the unknown is if you are not in it, of what would happen.

KR:     It’s the unknown. Project Fear is working.

VJ:       Yeah, yeah.

This tipped the overall balance of contributions to three in favour of ‘remain’ against two for ‘exit’. At a very basic level, therefore – on top of the observations above –  Katie Razzall edited her feature so that it was against the ‘exit’ case.

Photo by Reading Tom

Referendum Blog: April 22

Referendum Blog: April 22

ROBINSON  ‘USES SAME EU PROPAGANDA AS OBAMA: In this News-watch post about his television series Europe: Them or Us?, it was noted that former BBC political editor  Nick Robinson had chosen to call Winston Churchill ‘the father of a united Europe’ , and in so  doing, collaborated with – and amplified – the EU myth that the primary reason for the foundation of the EU was to create peace. His projection was that Churchill’s ideas were forged in the crucible of war to create lasting peace.

The Richard North and Christopher Booker book The Great Deception illustrates decisively that the primary goal of the founders (led primarily by the Frenchman Jean Monnet)   was Utopian and socialist. The driving ideology was to reduce sovereign states to municipalities, with the EU run by an unelected central bureaucracy (now the European Commission) whose only loyalty was to the idea of ‘Europe’ defined by the Commission itself.

In this context the ‘peace’ myth has been one carefully cultivated by the Commission (and its predecessor bodies), since its earliest days. How could anyone argue for the dismantling of a body with such an important core function?

It is that territory and that concept that US President Barack Obama has chosen for his full-frontal attack today in the Daily Telegraph on supporters of Brexit.

His central message is about the EU’s peace-keeping role. He talks of the special relationship between the US and the UK being forged ‘as we spilt blood together on the battlefield’, and then claims that the European Union came from the ‘ashes of war’, and says it was an institution that was set up to provide foundations for ‘democracy, open markets, the rule of law’.  It had since underwritten more than seven decades of relative peace and prosperity in Europe’.

Obama  concludes:

‘Together, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union have turned centuries of war in Europe into decades of peace, and worked as one to make this world a safer, better place. What a remarkable legacy that is. And what a remarkable legacy we will leave when, together, we meet the challenges of this young century as well’.

He thus relies – as the central pillar of his attack on the ideas of those who wish to leave the EU – that the EU has been a major factor in the relative peace most of Europe has enjoyed since the fall of Nazi Germany, and more than that, has removed the reasons for war. Nick Robinson’s analysis in Europe Them or Us? was drawn from the same propaganda stream.  The timing of his message so close to Obama’s visit may have been coincidental, but it echoes and reinforces it, and, intentionally or otherwise, is calculated to undermine the Brexit case by scaring voters into believing that without the EU, there is a danger of future European wars on the horrendous scale of the past.

Photo by dcblog