Imagine that you are a patriotic British journalist who believed that Brexit was best for this country and who voted for it accordingly. Imagine further that you felt the evidence, two and a half years after the end of the transition period in December 2020, proved Brexit was a success. Imagine also that you have a public platform in a national newspaper in which you can promulgate these views. So what is your reaction when thousands of pro-EU people march through London, calling for a return to the EU?
Presumably, you would roundly debunk them as Brexit non-believers. You would explain how the UK was in a much better position because of Brexit. You would recount the successes that Brexit has achieved and point them out to the marchers, reminding them of what would be lost if the UK rejoined the EU.
Well, that’s what I would presume, if you had the courage of your convictions.
Singing and dancing
I would not imagine you would use your platform simply to ridicule the singing and dancing of some of the marchers. And yet that has been the main point of attack on the National Rejoin March and the pro-EU movement by a columnist in one national newspaper.
Now, appreciation of art is a matter of personal taste; far be it from me to question anyone’s freedom of speech on the matter. Personally, I thought the dancing was expressive, artistic and appropriate but my opinion doesn’t really matter, any more than the columnist’s. But what is significant is not so much the actual content, but the content that is missing. There was no mention of Brexit benefits, merely an opinion on the quality of the dance.
If the article lacked any substance, the response of the main UK TV Channels to the march was equally limp. They virtually ignored it. The BBC made a token gesture of including it on their news channel, but had nothing on their main news bulletins.
That was not what happened elsewhere. This event was newsworthy. The world sat up and took notice. It knows that Brexit is a catastrophe, as Stephen Fry had observed on the BBC. The march was reported with great interest in the news outlets of many countries in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, the Americas and the Far East (see the footnote for sources.)
Press organisations noted the thousands of marchers who felt it was important to represent what is now – according to polls – the majority will view of the British people and the overwhelming judgement of young people. It seems odd that a democratic protest in the UK against the direction the country is taking, which is of great interest around the world, should not be considered worthy of a mention on UK TV news bulletins.
I am curious why this is. You would imagine that a demonstration on a topic of significant public interest would be newsworthy. The BBC was aware of the march happening. What editorial decisions were taken that there should be no coverage in the main news bulletins, even though a small demonstration supporting XL Bully dogs was featured? Was the BBC, being unable to present any evidence of support for Brexit, afraid to provide any evidence of support for Rejoin?
Cast your mind back to the ‘Conspiracy of Silence’ about Brexit, where TV presenters would attempt to block the mention of Brexit as a factor in anything. That had crumbled by the end of 2022, and to be fair the TV channels played their part – belatedly – in allowing the Government’s Brexit implementation and impact to be examined. But for some reason, very newsworthy images were kept away from the TV screens in September 2023.
The Brexit benefits cupboard is bare
One does not have to look far to see why that is. The cupboard of Brexit benefits is bare. The UK Government’s own cut-and-pasted document on the Benefits of Brexit had a combination of trivia, events that were nothing to do with Brexit and wild speculation with no underpinning plan.
To find a Brexit cheer-leader recognising that the cupboard is bare would be noteworthy. But nonsensical journalism, such as that piece criticising some dancers, is a distraction from what is an increasingly uncomfortable truth for Brexit cheerleaders. They have nothing to cheer and nobody is cheering.
You would imagine that if there was anything positive to be said about Brexit then this would be mentioned. There isn’t. Two and a half years after the end of the transition period, public opinion has swung away from Brexit and in favour of joining the EU again. More than 60% of those polled now (excluding ‘don’t knows’) feel we were better off as members. There is a certain symmetry in this statistic; two and a half years after joining the EEC, the referendum in 1975 confirmed that 67% of those voting believed that we were better off as members.
The current trend across the UK is particularly marked among 18-25 year olds, many of whom spoke at Parliament Square in the rally at the end of the National Rejoin March. The politicians have not yet caught up with this change in the public mood and will make only cautious moves towards better relationships with the EU, but thousands and thousands of people are prepared to give a lead to our politicians.
With no Brexit Benefits apparent and with changing demographics playing a natural part, the move back to the EU seems inexorable. “It’s going to happen anyway, so why delay?” as Professor A C Grayling said in his speech at the march.
Patriotism is wanting the best for your country
I wrote in September for Central Bylines that patriotism involves wanting the best for your country. Thousands marched because they believe that joining the EU again would be best for the UK. Supporting that cause is patriotic.
Sniping from a privileged position in the national press about a dance performance is not. I had a conversation with Femi Oluwole at the end of the National Rejoin March. We reflected that abuse typically indicates that the sender has no valid response – and so it should arguably be taken as a compliment, albeit an unintended one.
I have highlighted two very different responses to the National Rejoin March – writing abuse about it, and ignoring it. What these responses have in common is that they do not engage with the challenges posed by the evidence or the arguments of the speakers at the rally in Parliament Square at the end of the march.
It seems that the Brexit cheer-leaders are worried.
If they have no answer to the questions posed by Rejoin, does that mean that the argument to Rejoin is starting to prevail?
Thanks to Colin Gordon of Grassroots For Europe who compiled links from the following countries:
France, Le Figaro, Euronews, Italy, Spain, Scotland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal, Germany, Netherlands, Turkey, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Dubai, Qatar, Lebanon, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, China, the Philippines, Nigeria, South Africa, USA, and Brazil.
We need your help!
The press in our country is dominated by billionaire-owned media, many offshore and avoiding paying tax. We are a citizen journalism publication but still have significant costs.
If you believe in what we do, please consider subscribing to the Bylines Gazette from as little as £2 a month 🙏