Hostility of pro-Brexit press risks poisoning talks – InFacts
Hostility of pro-Brexit press risks poisoning talks. From hints of “blackmail” in Theresa May’s Article 50 letter to threats of war with Spain over Gibraltar, pro-Brexit newspapers seem intent on stoking anti-EU animosity even as politicians on both sides talk of goodwill. The press can reflect and influence public opinion. Whether it’s Gibraltar, free movement or the Telegraph’s “Cut EU Red Tape” campaign, politicians cannot simply ignore the papers. But they must not let these stories poison the negotiations. The stakes are too high.
In the first week of the Brexit negotiation process, politicians have largely set a conciliatory tone. May’s letter showed a marked shift from her previous “have cake, eat cake” rhetoric. Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, gave an emotional speech.
The prime minister has suggested further flexibility on key issues like free movement, to which the Brexit big beasts in her cabinet have reacted with perhaps surprising equanimity – for the moment anyway. Even the European Parliament’s red lines held no nasty surprises and included constructive talk of “association” agreements.
This is not, however, the impression you get from much of the British press. Under headlines which can be as shrill as they are misleading, their reporting latches onto any perceived political slight. Of course they have readers to entertain, at a time when printed papers are under intense pressure from newer forms of media. Lengthy international negotiations seldom make for thrilling reading – especially if everyone involved is trying to keep things civilised.
(…) But there is an ideological element to this too. For decades, many of these papers campaigned loudly for Brexit, often a particularly hard form of it. Editorial pride would be grievously hurt if those jubilant front pages on June 24, or the Sun beaming farewell messages onto the White Cliffs of Dover, ended in a deal which looked remarkably similar to EU membership. If only from habit, papers stoke hostility to make Theresa May’s “deep and special partnership” untenable.
To portray this agenda as straight reporting, the newspapers quote a roster of Brextremist idealogues on the fringes of power. Regulars include Nigel Farage, Iain Duncan Smith, and Jacob Rees-Mogg.