What could possibly be wrong with government ‘guidance’ …!
Something quite extraordinary has occurred – something quite unprecedented. The Brussels correspondents in our MSM have either gone on holidays or are on strike. Or they have finally given up their job as lost cause. Perhaps though there’s something a bit more sinister going on.
This is what happened: the Trade Negotiation talks in London finished early – again. They were supposed to go on until today, but ended because of ‘significant divergences’. The BBC had a thin report yesterday afternoon (link), after the DT had published their version in their live blog at 3.52pm (link). Even The Express has had nothing to say except the official statement which was inserted into an article on Ms Lagarde:
“A European Commission spokesman said: “The EU is engaging constructively and in good faith, as Michel Barnier pointed out earlier this week. We are working hard to overcome the significant divergences that remain between us.” (link)
Both the BBC and the DT refer to a tweet by Barnier – see the DT’s note here:
“Michel Barnier sounds note of realism as he confirms ‘significant divergences remain’ –The truncated Brexit talks this week “confirm that significant divergences remain” between the two sides, Michel Barnier has said. The chief negotiator sounded a note of realism as he left London after a shorter-than-billed round of discussions in London. “Regardless of the outcome, there will be inevitable changes,” he tweeted.” (link)
That Michel-tweet refers to an EU document date stamped 9th July 2020 (link). It lists all the changes which are going to happen from next January but a quick glance at the table of content shows there’s one glaring omission: Fisheries are not mentioned. Instead, it’s a list of changes which will happen in any event, i.e. regardless of a FTA with the EU or a no-deal WTO Brexit.
One would have thought though that between yesterday afternoon and now the Brussels correspondents might have had something to write about. Instead – silence. Not a word from the top Remain correspondents in the DT and The Times. What is going on?
We did get something on ‘us Brits and the EU’, namely one report in each broadsheet that the UK government had opted out of the EU CV-19 vaccine procurement scheme. None of these reports were written by the usual suspects, the Brussels correspondents, again raising the question ‘what is going on’?
These reports are based on ‘government sources’. Given the similarity in the reports, I suggest that it’s just one ‘source’ sitting in Mr Alok Sharma’s ministry. Here’s the DT:
“The Government has turned down the opportunity to join a European Union coronavirus vaccine scheme after ministers expressed concern over “costly delays”, The Telegraph understands. Alok Sharma, the Business Secretary, is believed to have walked away from the plan after failing to secure “sufficient assurance” that the UK would receive the number of vaccines it needs on time.” (link)
And here’s The Times:
“It is understood that Alok Sharma, the business secretary, tried to win assurances over access but was not given a “sufficient” commitment that the UK would receive vaccines in the quantity and times needed.” […] “The terms just weren’t right for us. We have our plans in place, and the EU scheme wouldn’t allow the UK to do anything more than it currently is,” a Whitehall source said.” (link, paywalled)
So far – so similar. Then we’re treated to what MPs or ministers “might” think, with a ‘Brexit’ garnish, or rather, the Remainer moans to be expected. Again, first the DT:
“The decision not to participate in the scheme is likely to provoke a backlash among opposition MPs, who believe that the Government is reluctant to take part in EU projects after Brexit.” (link)
Next, here’s The Times:
“Ministers are braced for renewed accusations that they are putting Brexit ideology ahead of the national interest.” (link, paywalled)
Yes, we definitely needed to know that! ‘Tis a nice little nudge for Remainers to get moaning. The explanation for that withdrawal decision though makes eminent sense:
“However, Government sources on Thursday told The Telegraph that officials believe signing up to the scheme could delay the rollout of a successful vaccine in the UK by up to six months as negotiations on distribution took place.” They added that countries that opted in would also be subject to a so-called “volume ceiling” or cap on the number of doses allocated to each member state.” (link)
RemainCentral somewhat grudgingly reports this as well, hinting that this decision might have merit:
“Aides insist, however, that the decision was taken on official advice that joining the EU scheme risked delaying access to a successful vaccine by between three and six months. Under the terms of joint procurement, member states are required to hand over “live” negotiations with producers to the commission and empower it to distribute a successful vaccine in the order and quantities it sees fit.” (link, paywalled)
The Express has dug a bit deeper, reporting the actual reason (forgive them their shouty headline) behind that decision:
“But mandarins in Brussels said the UK would be barred from attending the scheme’s steering committee because of Brexit – and ministers have interpreted this as meaning Britain would have no say in either EU-wide coronavirus strategy or distribution amounts and who gets it first. […] Initially, the EU insisted Britain withdraw backing for a national vaccine which is being developed at Oxford University and Imperial College.” (link)
Amazing, isn’t it! Of course this doesn’t fit the Remain spin in the broadsheets where the decision is made to look as if ‘we’, in the form of government, are rejecting the helping hand of the mighty EU. Perhaps past experiences with Brussels’ ‘level playing fields’ might have concentrated the minds in Sharma’s business ministry somewhat?
I suggest that it’s not an exaggeration to assume that Brussels might have been keen on getting their hands on yet another sector of British industries. The implacable Sir John Redwood describes in his Diary this morning what has happened to our building materials industry, thanks to Barnier’s beloved single market and that even more beloved level playing field. Read all about it here and weep – and ponder if Brussels was set on a repeat action in regard to British vaccine producers.
Let’s now go back to my cryptic question above, if there’s something more sinister going on, given the scant reports on the break-up of those Trade Negotiations. In his newsletter to members of the Free Speech Union – of course I’ve joined, what did you expect! – Toby Young refers to cases where journalists were ‘reprimanded’ when reporting on CV-19. He reports that these reprimands were based on ‘guidance’ issued by Ofcom:
“[Ofcom] published its first guidance note on 23rd March, the same day the government imposed the full lockdown, and then issued further “confidential” guidance on 27th March, advising its licensees to exercise extreme caution when broadcasting “statements that seek to question or undermine the advice of public health bodies on the coronavirus, or otherwise undermine people’s trust in the advice of mainstream sources of information”. (quoted from the FSU Newsletter to members)
Toby Young speaks for all of us when he comments:
“Have you been puzzling over why it’s so one-sided? Why almost no-one challenges the official Covid narrative or the absolute necessity of the lockdown? Well, now you know.“ (quoted from the FSU Newsletter to members)
Just so! The FSU has now applied to the High Court for permission for a judicial review, to force Ofcom to withdraw their guidance. However, I wonder if a similar ‘guidance’ has now been issued in regard to the EU Trade negotiations. I wonder if that is why nothing except that one Barnier tweet has been reported in ‘Our MSM’. I wonder if the ancient ‘D-Notice’ has been superseded by ‘confidential Ofcom guidance’.
If so, then Free Speech is under threat because future reports on facts on important issues which diverge from ‘government guidance’ will vanish from ‘Our MSM’ and be relegated to blogs which can easily be brushed aside if not closed down altogether.
I hope I’m too pessimistic in this assessment, but in view of the CV-19 reports which we’ve all witnessed, produced under ‘confidential Ofcom guidance’, I am suspicious, very suspicious.