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Prejudicial reporting of the Brexit that never was

Bruce Oliver Newsome
March 30, 2019

On the day that was supposed to be "Brexit Day" in British law (Friday, 29 March 2019), pro-Brexit marchers brought Parliament Square to a standstill in protest against delay. Simultaneously, government motioned the same proposal for Brexit that it has now motioned without change three times in four months. Parliament rejected it, but their next best idea is a second delay. Then MPs came out to tell journalists how determined they are to turn towards something more like Remain. MPs and journalists sound ever more ignorant and prejudicial.

Theresa May herself again mischaracterized Parliament as unable to make up its mind (even though it has a clear mind, three times running, about her proposal). Labour's shadow justice secretary said the Conservative Party needs to "go for a soft Brexit". The Green Party leader said that "voters didn't get a chance to say what Brexit they wanted". Heidi Allen (the Conservative defector to "The Independent Group") announced that she would be interim leader of a new Party called "Change UK", as if Parliament is short of Remain parties. Allen's explicit "solution to everything" is a second referendum, which would fulfil "democracy." The first referendum shouldn't be honoured because "so many people voted Leave last time who now regret it". Incidentally, she dishonestly denied that she had campaigned in 2017 to honour the first referendum, but Guido Fawkes compiled the footage to refute her.

The mainstream media are equally prejudicial. The BBC News website reported "thousands" of Brexit protesters, having reported more than a million last Saturday (an exaggeration by three times). BBC News television channel kept cutting live to Katya Adler – the  BBC's Europe Editor, who explicitly speaks for the EU. For years, her nauseating line has been that the EU has never known what Britain wants. At each chance to report from Brussels on Friday, she repeated this line without burdening herself with evidence or theory. Nobody asked her: What about the free trade agreement that May initially requested, but the EU dismissed out of hand? On BBC Radio, Adler whined about the EU's declining "trust" in Britain, and summarized why it was all Britain's fault.

On Channel 4 News, Kathy Newman introduced her report on the Brexit marchers by claiming that most just wanted a "day in the sun," the soundtrack was "sectarian," and those who objected to her conduct were just "rowdier". Her colleague chased down the man who leads a campaign against May's surrender of Britain's fighting rights in order to accuse him of far-right links. At the end, Jon Snow signed off with the warning that protesters were gathering outside Downing Street, their mood was turning "ugly" (it wasn't), the police were wearing "riot gear" (they weren't), and he had "never seen so many white people in one place" (he had – the Remainer protest the week before). Channel 4 edited out his sign-off when it posted his segment online.

Both the Financial Times and The Guardian newspaper kept off their front pages any options other than re-presentation of May's proposed Withdrawal Agreement for a fourth time, a "softer Brexit," or a general election. The Guardian newspaper prejudicially reported an anonymous government source saying: "Last one out, turn off the lights."

The Daily Mail's headline "The Brexit Betrayal" didn't mean Parliament's frustration of Brexit, but those MPs who voted against May's proposed Withdrawal Agreement. The Sun also blamed MPs who voted against, not the woman who re-presented a bad offer for the third time.

The Times newspaper perpetuated May's own false terminology with a headline "Britain faces election risk as MPs crush Brexit deal." As I have explained before, May wasn't offering a "deal" – her proposed Withdrawal Agreement is an indefinite transition, without the powers of membership, but with all the obligations.

By contrast, the Daily Telegraph led with a story admitting that at least one cabinet minister is urging consideration of leaving on 12 April without any agreement (leaving without a "deal"). Credit to the Daily Express too, which headlined "We'll Never Give up on the Brexit We Voted For," over a photograph of the pro-Brexit protesters in Parliament Square.

Politicians and journalists are incredibly intransigent considering that they represent the most hated professionals in Britain, and do not represent the majority of Britons

Bruce Oliver Newsome, Ph.D. is a lecturer in International Relations at the University of San Diego
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