One feature of the right-wing press’ Brexit reportage has been the constant stream of claims telling us that we are in a stronger position than the EU, that the EU is somehow falling out, weak and divided, and that they will blink first. This has been one of the few consistent strands running through the coverage. It has also been consistent in one other crucial aspect: it has been consistently wrong, even spectacularly so.
The EU is a rules based organisation; therefore it has applied its rules to the negotiations with the UK on Brexit. This its chief negotiator Michel Barnier has done, and as a a result, with all 27 member states behind him, he and they have shown those claims to be plain flat wrong. But that has not stopped one paper from pretending otherwise.
To no surprise at all, that paper is the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph, which has now run a piece by Sherelle Jacobs, who we are told is a “Daily Telegraph columnist”. It is headlined “As the panicked EU goes into Brexit meltdown, Britain finally has the upper hand”. The EU isn’t doing, so Britain doesn’t. But do go on.
“It is becoming desperately clear that the EU has no actual negotiation strategy”. It will follow its rules, as it has done all along. “The EU is scoffing with panic. This week, its leaders neurotically laughed off the threat of a Parliament shutdown, as bureaucrats slammed their fists over post-Brexit budget cuts. Press officers tuttingly buried an economic report warning that Brexit will rock bloc economies”. This is total drivel.
And there is more. “But they struggled to firefight raging speculation as to who might follow Britain out the door. As rumours rumbled of an Italexit debt crisis, Marine Le Pen thundered that a global Eurosceptic movement has infiltrated Brussels”. Ah, the old claim that someone else will leave - except they never do. Plus talking up the far right.
“Perhaps the most intriguing development this week, however, is Michel Barnier’s shift in persona. Mere months ago, Mr Barnier was gloomily instructing Britain to sign up to vassalage. Lecture highlights included ‘why Britain must take responsibility’ (by becoming an EU satellite state) and why ‘choices’ (for example liberty) must have ‘consequences’”. One wonders which planet Ms Jacobs inhabits. And she’s not finished yet.
“But suddenly, the school master has a snake oil salesman. His arid presentations on Britain’s self-inflicted fate have morphed into buttery pitches for ‘a best in class free trade agreement’”. I hate to break it to Ms Jacobs, and the editorial staff who passed this heap of steaming fantasy island bullpucky as fit to put before the readers, but Premium it is not.
We know that the Tel is duty bound to put Europhobic knocking copy before its readers. This is what they want to read; the idea that they might be allowed to encounter reality cannot be allowed to enter. But rapidly dwindling profits and a print circulation in freefall show that, apart from the Brexiteer hard core, very few others are interested.
This article merely recycles tired old tropes that have been so many times round the block that the wheels have finally fallen off. Ms Jacobs might believe in what she writes - after all, for Brexiteers, belief is what it’s mostly about - yet that does not make it true.
But she has achieved one thing: this level of ignorance is unlikely to be surpassed,
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