"If you think that the EU referendum is an unprecedented battleground and that either side could be telling the truth, think again. One side has form for telling huge porkie pies - and with a small amount of reasoning, it's quite easy to prove."
|Hancock experiences the TV equivalent of driving a Bugatti Veyron off the cliffs of Dover|
Claim, counter claim, counter counter claim. With so many "facts" flying through the air, unless you're going to make it your full time job to research and check, it's impossible to know who to believe on the matter of the EU referendum. Poker faces have never been so in vogue.
Surely the media with all its well trained journalistic expertise will be able to sort this mess out for us - after all, the "facts" have been peddled on high rotation for some time now, available for proper scrutiny. With only a handful of exceptions (and one absolutely huge one which I will mention later), mostly the "facts" are wheeled through unchallenged.
So how can we, as punters, find a way through the brown mist of political rhetoric and divine a truth that we can be comfortable with? After all, there is no precedent in our lifetime is there. And those scaremongering stories of an epic drop in investment and a crippling impact to trade - they could actually be real, couldn't they? Well actually, with some confidence, I'd like to say "No".
There are two axes of falsehood here that we need to recognise. One is a constant force that has been blowing like a wind for years now and the other compliments the former like a tiller, steering the direction of the ship. Throughout the history of the EU, power has only ever effectively travelled in one direction, away from the nation states and towards the EU. And when the EU wants nations to accept change, they are guided by all the right noises in order to point opinion in the right direction.
The prevailing winds ...
We don't need to delve too deeply here to see that the general direction of travel for the EU. There is no secret: continual enlargement and expansion of the EU in terms of member nations; establishment of a Eurozone which demands the kind of harmonisation that requires centralisation of policy, undermining domestic sovereignty; the obscure conflation of trade union with political union; the growth of an unsightly bureaucracy that increasingly invades every facet of our lives yet fails to provide democratic accountability.
If this were not true - and if the EU were prepared to be flexible and reform, then the threat of the second largest EU economy leaving ought to be enough to motivate real change. Ask yourself - did David Cameron get real change? Does the EU recognise that reform is necessary?
The guiding force ...
And here's a prime example of the guiding force in action, trying but failing to steer the UK towards adoption of the ill fated Euro. As you read these 'sage' comments from 'industry experts' trying to drive us in one specific direction, keep at the forefront of your mind the current state of the Eurozone: Flatlined, riven with economic disparity and plagued by unemployment with several of the countries appearing to be on the verge of bankruptcy.
Example 1 - A letter from 26 "business leaders" 2003
Quote: various inc: BAE Systems / Vodafone Group / Boeing UK / CBI / KPMG / Ford Motor Company / BP / Siemens
"The weight of independent economic evidence suggests that the conditions for entry are right. Commercial reality strongly dictates that the risks of staying outside the euro far outweigh any risks of joining. The European single market has moved on and we are no longer full members. We hope that the Government will have the courage of its convictions and recognise that membership of the euro is in our long-term national interest. To do otherwise would have serious consequences for Britain's future prosperity."
Serious consequences. I think it's fair to say the opposite is true. So much for the wisdom of "business leaders".
Example 2 - News item 2003
Quote - Chris Bryant (Labour)
"If the prime minister just folds his hands now we risk political and economic isolation."
Quote - Malcolm Bruce (Lib Dem)
"The Liberal Democrats have been warning of the damage our isolation from the euro would cause since the moment the new currency came into being in 1999"
Isolation, isolation isolation. The only thing dividing us from those nations neck deep in Euro idealism is our comparative prosperity.
Example 3 - Guardian news 2003
Quote - Peter Mandelson
"...we will be turning our backs on what has become our domestic market for goods and services. It will mean fewer foreign businesses investing here, fewer jobs being created and less trade being done with our European partners."
And did any of this come to pass? Are we a ruined nation begging for Eurozone entry? So why should we let these clowns influence how the ship is steered now?
If we're honest with ourselves, we know what the EU wants, yet we're not having an honest debate about it. Cameron has only sought to obfuscate the matter, acting as a rather obvious and hapless deceiver. In spite of the fact that withdrawal from the EU would be a significant blow to them, he still failed to gain any genuine concessions. Why? Because the power of the EU is a confidence trick and to concede by way of reform is to admit to the illusion. Hence the EU direction of travel is a one way ride and statements about removal of ever closer union without treaty change are irrelevant - especially when they don't appear to be legally binding.
Combine that with the army of false prophets trumpeting the apocalypse if we didn't commit to the Euro and contrast it with similar recent stories about Brexit, and you have a recipe for sanity in the madness of the EU referendum debate. At last, you can make a judgement call for yourself. You may not be able to account for every drop of water in the river, but you can see how it flows.
Lastly .. and also at last, I did mention that there was a huge exception to the rather tawdry level of journalism that's been peddled in the mainstream media for the span of this referendum. Nothing is more frustrating than watching an interviewee spin yarns unchallenged with facts that you know to be falsehoods. As an example, even one of my favourite journalists, the forthright John Humphries, allowed Peter Mandelson to ride his coach and horses through Radio 4's Today program without being seriously challenged once. Mandelson - who has pledged allegiance to the EU and must continue to support it in order to receive his significant pension. A man who predicted doom and gloom thirteen years ago if we failed to join the Euro. A man who boldly stated on the Today program that Norway must accept ALL EU law in order to continue trade. This, and I'm sure he knows it, is a barefaced lie.
So for me, it was a matter of some significance that Andrew Neil decided to buck the trend and tear the Norway 'fax democracy' myth to shreds on live TV. On the day that the 'so called deal' was met by the latest Government 'dodgy dossier' of Brexit scenario scaremongering, they peddled out a doe eyed, un-briefed Matthew Hancock (the epitome of a snivelling careerist Tory) to defend what is a blatant handbook of scare stories that even Stephen King would be frightened to read. The results of this car crash interview can be seen here and I urge you to take some time to watch it:
Car crash is the polite way to refer to this. Let's put this in to context and underline its significance. When the EU referendum became 'a thing', the very first strategy that David Cameron took was to undermine the Norway option. He attacked it again and again with his 'no say, still pay' mantra. Europhiles quickly rallied around the narrative, becoming an echo chamber of voices that suggested Norway had to take all the laws in order to trade.
Simply put, Cameron had to attack the most viable exit path first in order to cast it out of reasonable debate. Once that was done, the rest would only be easier. It's been a matter of huge frustration for many of us Brexiteers that he's managed to get away with it for so long.
What Andrew Neil managed to do in around two minutes was to crush the entire Norway 'Fax Democracy' argument, almost as if he casually trod on a snail. Whereas the 'government analysts' appeared to have conjured "facts" from thin air, Andrew Neil cited the EFTA secretariat as his source. The joy of the interview is that 'Fax Democracy' was just one of the myths that was savaged by this heavy weight. It was a masterclass.
And a final word on Neil, I don't suspect for a single second that his motivation here was some latent bias towards - or desire for Brexit; it's that rare gem of journalistic integrity that seeks out the truth in politics - and to share that truth with the reader or viewer. I have no doubt that he will shake both pillars of the debate equally hard - which is why he's so compelling to watch, even if he's de-constructing every prejudicial belief you've ever held on a matter.