The media’s analysis of the
EU referendum muddies the waters

The trouble with a long EU referendum campaign is that the media wants to keep up continuous coverage of the subject and does so by prattling on about irrelevancies and cobbling together fabricated narratives that lead us into a world of dramatic speculation and misinformation.

Neither the BBC nor the newspapers seem to have the patience for the lengthy build up and complicated process, nor for the subtleties of the government remain strategy. So, to compensate for this, and create filler for slow EU news periods, they speculate and create stories from nothing and then they try and conceal their errors and poor judgement beneath more made up nonsense.

Minor events and non-events are made into dramatic turning points, arguments, or significant developments. The papers pretend they’ve just discovered new information which changes things… changes things from the situation they made up, to either the reality they failed to report or yet more imaginary “news” that attempts to make sense of their meandering narrative and poor reporting.

The Telegraph would rather write elaborate fiction than admit its own errors and improve its commentary.  With an editorial of a major newspaper asserting the below, it’s clear that those who wish to be informed on this subject have to look elsewhere:

“The British Prime Minister got dangerously ahead of himself in hinting that his key demands would be settled at the meeting, thereby clearing the way for a British In/Out referendum as early as spring next year.”

The British media don’t have a deep enough interest in the subject matter, barely attempting to read between the lines or look beyond oversimplified analyses, and so they fail in their duty to keep us informed.

Many political writers seem to lack any deeply held interest in actual politics, just the spin, charade and soap opera element of it, not the nitty gritty. And there is a level of ignorance about the EU amongst the commentariat that leads us into an intellectual cul de sac.

This is exemplified by the ridiculous assertion, floated by several major newspapers and the BBC, that Cameron is looking to wrap up a new EU deal by February and might hold a referendum in June. Not only is it false to say that the PM is attempting to seal a deal this early and that any specific “demands” have been made, it is also totally unfeasible to have a referendum as early as June, it simply will not and cannot happen.

Prepare yourself for the long haul; there will be no early referendum. The timetable was set out last June in the Five Presidents’ Report. The process of EU treaty change will begin in 2017 and will look to create a two-tier EU, it is on the basis of that treaty that David Cameron will present Britain with its “reformed Europe” and “British model” of membership.

Despite this reality having been apparent for quite some time the media are still gossiping about an early referendum, and depicting a soap opera with demands being made, rebuffed and backtracked on. It muddies the waters.

Leave.EU and VoteLeave meanwhile discredit themselves by reacting to the erroneous media coverage with gullible and uninformed pronouncements and stumble into every Europhile trap left in their path due to their lack of a credible plan or referendum strategy.

Contrary to media reports, the PM has not actually said at any point that a “deal” would be reached at the December European Council. When it was confirmed that this definitely not would not be the case, quashing tabloid gossip, a number of media outlets continued with their false narrative rather than admit their mistake/dishonesty.

They are now saying that the PM has rowed back from a negotiating position that he had, in-fact, never occupied.

The PM has not made any “demands”, he is not in Brussels banging his fists on the table in a huff, he hasn’t set out detailed demands and then back pedaled, and has never at any point stated a possible date for a referendum. This has all been misleading media fluff that obscures a more sophisticated government referendum strategy and reveals a lamentable level of ignorance amongst the media.

Mr Cameron explicitly said in his Chatham House speech that he had not made any demands, but merely set out “the four main areas” where the United Kingdom was seeking reform. It is on those foundations that the political theatre designed to secure a remain vote will take place.

Even though change in these areas will be achieved by the second tier status built into the already drafted EU treaty, they will be presented as Cameron’s victory in negotiations, probably with a lot of media spin accompanying the “achievements” in each area. “EU concedes to Cameron’s closer union opt out demand”, and such like.

Most importantly, the media continues to ignore David Cameron’s repeated declaration that he is seeking a “new relationship” with the EU in the form of the “British model” – which is the “associate membership” strategy in its early stages of implementation.

Instead of providing clarity and information, they create confusion and misinformation. This doesn’t give me much hope that they will properly scrutinise the so-called “British model” and expose it for what it is, second class status in the EU, third rate influence in the world and an inferior prospect to Brexit.

This is not what is best for Britain. There is no status-quo on offer, the EU is changing and will continue to develop and progressively supercede its member states on every global body that matters. Voting to remain is a risk and a leap into an uncertain future, with the only guarantee being subordination.

We need a new relationship with the EU and the world, one based on intergovernmental co-operation. We can and should make use of, and help to further develop, the existing institutions that are facilitating global trade and driving the harmonisation of trading and industry standards.

We need to take a proactive, positive and constructive role in improving the process of economic globalisation, helping to spread prosperity and leading the charge in the creation of a global market to suit our own national interest and that of other free trading nations.

A new relationship that recognises the sovereignty of the British people and acknowledges their right to decide how we are governed, and by whom.

None of this can be achieved by settling for second class status in an outer ring of the EU and accepting our subjugated role in a post-democratic age in Europe.


  Ben is the Conservatives for Liberty Web Editor and a Brexit campaigner. He advocates the restoration of constitutional liberty and national independence. He blogs at The Sceptic Isle. Follow him on Twitter: @TheScepticIsle

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The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty