BREXIT - the failure of the media
Posted by Frank Preiss, on 30 September 2019. Comments: 0
The future of Britain, our children and grandchildren, is now reaching a crisis point, in the hands of a government and parliament completely at odds with each other.
As a convinced remainer since 1975 I find the arguments in the present debate largely unreal. Most of all, the idea that a second referendum would be undemocratic seems illogical, to put it politely.
The referendum in 2016 deeply divided Britain. But more than 3 years later, the 17.4 million can't be the same people: leaving aside opinion polls, some 3 million voters have dropped off the electoral roll and about 3 million young people have joined it.
Equally, no one can deny that in those 3 years we have all, Leavers and Remainers, learned a great deal about the issues: both the exaggerations and untruths on both sides in the pre-referendum campaign, and the sheer complexities of unravelling 45 years of membership of the EU.
The media must take a lot of the blame for their part in this mess. From the start of the campaign in 2015, press and TV focused almost entirely on the politics and personalities, and how to leave the EU, barely at all on the fundamental issue of why we should leave.
For what it's worth, I think the 2016 referendum was a serious mistake, held for the wrong reasons. But for better or worse we had the misleading example of the 1975 referendum to follow.
The first big difference was that we voted in 1975 on a decision taken by the government and parliament in the 1960s, which was then publicly debated for several years before being implemented by parliament in 1973. We voted after many years of a troubled economy, 10 years of observing the French and German experience in the then EEC, and the first two years' of UK membership.
In 2016 we voted after a campaign in which the past was ignored, the EU and our 45 years of UK membership were hardly examined, and the future we were offered was at best speculative, based on completely untried promises about our future position in the world.
The other big difference was not just the size of the majority in 1973 - 67/33 - but also the way as a nation we changed our minds over the course of the campaign. (For the record, the Remain vote then was 17.3 million, almost the same as the Leave vote in 2016)
It looks as though the UK won't now be leaving on 31st October. According to the latest opinion polls there is today a modest - 53/47 - majority for 'remain'. And while there is a big majority for a quick solution to the crisis, it is wrong to believe that is the same as 'Get Brexit done'. Judging by the surge in LibDem support I suspect for many people the simplest and best solution would be to revoke Article 50 tomorrow.
The fact is we don't really know what the British people want. Reluctantly therefore I vote for another IN/OUT referendum to find out, and we must hope the media will accept their responsibility to spell out for us the respective cases for both Leave and Remain: not just the well-known issues of sovereignty, immigration, free movement, free trade etc, but also the specific EU laws and regulations which leavers find so restricting and undemocratic.
Leavers must answer a lot of questions: how will leaving make it easier, or even desirable, to have a trade agreement with the US? Why are we constantly told, as simple fact, that the Euro has been a failure? How does EU law override UK law? How and why is the EU responsible for the decline of our fishing and many other industries when other EU countries seem to be doing so much better?
Boring work for journalists no doubt, but essential if the crisis is ever to be defused, and who else can do it?
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