Concerns about the less than total lack of bias within BBC News and Current Affairs has not been assuaged by the occasional off-piste excursions of star interrogator Andrew Neil, not least because he is also responsible for the increasingly alt-right Spectator magazine. And one subject on which Brillo is less than totally brill is the EU, which has once again caused him to attract severely adverse comment on his stance.
Sometimes, it takes just one Tweet to spray all that residual credibility up the nearest wall, and one Tweet was all it took Neil: “I do wish British journalists - esp Brussels-based - would stop repeating the false mantra that the EU holds all the cards in upcoming negotiations. It holds many, perhaps more than UK. But if UK left on WTO rules it would have total regulatory freedom. EU’s worst nightmare” he pontificated.
Where to start? Nick Gutteridge, one of those implicitly targeted, responded “I don’t think this is a fair representation of how British journos in Brussels have reported on the EU throughout Brexit. We‘re here to inform people on the EU’s positions and how it works, but I don’t know any who have done so unquestioningly or espoused such a ‘false mantra’”.
Dave Keating was on the same page. “Neil has gone out of his way to express disgust with British journalists based in Brussels many times and I don't understand where it's coming from. This is a pretty small group of people he's talking about here so it seems especially nasty and targeted. And also wrong”. Quite. It then got worse as the detail was unpicked.
Pauline Bastidon explained “even if the UK were to leave the transition period without an agreement, it would not have 'total regulatory freedom' as you claim. The UK has signed up to many international conventions & is thereby bound by rules which set global or regional standards”. Did she have some examples of these?
She did. “Many of these rules constrain what the UK Government could do, from WTO most favoured nation principle to the ISPM-15 standard for pallets and the CITES convention for endangered species, AETR rules for professional drivers to the WCO Safe Framework and many, many more besides”. Also, she had one last reminder.
“We all live in a globalised & rules-based world, and I don't think that many countries have full & absolute regulatory freedom these days. So let's not pretend it would be the case or that the only thing required would be to leave the transition without an agreement in place”.
David Allen Green backed up all of them. “Have followed all Brussels-based UK journalists for 3.5 years on Brexit, and not one has ever said this - and indeed most give ongoing informed critical accounts of EU27… UK would not have total regulatory freedom post-Brexit, as it is still party to a plethora of treaties”. It’s almost like Neil didn’t do his research.
And just to show that this was a campaign destined to progress not necessarily to Neil’s advantage, Dan Davies had one last reminder of the number of hats The Great Man juggles: “If the publisher of the Spectator has decided he doesn't like false narratives about Europe he's got a bloody funny way of showing it”. Wallop!
It seems that the well-informed presence of Andrew Neil was for a time, but not for all time.APPEAL The Legalballs Fund: I made a mistake. Now I need to raise £16,500 to cover a legal bill. You can chip in to help me HERE - all help is gratefully received. Thanks for reading this far!