So, to imitate the way Mr David Frost often started sentences in his speech in Brussels yesterday evening, so this is how the MSM reported that speech: give it half the space in an article, and then go to what Brussels might say or has said already before the speech. It’s quite an art to reduce such speech to a slogan or two and then turn to “The EU”.
One might argue that we’re living in fast-moving times, nobody has the patience to read the whole thing anyway and space is limited. Well, yes, it is when editorial ‘decisions’ have been made that mean our papers feel reporting on the suicide of a TV presenter is more important than a speech that is actually vital for our Nation.
I’ll look at the speech in a special article (here) – it is that important and that long. But let me just round up my MSM critique with a report in Remaincentral that is so stunning it took my breath away:
“In an unexpected consequence of Britain’s departure from the European Union, farmers and manufacturers have said that they will have no legal basis to sell sausages in Europe after the transition period ends in December. Unless the EU grants a unilateral concession, about £17 million pounds worth of sausage meat, along with uncooked beef burgers and other products, could be turned away at the border.” (link, paywalled)
How perfectly appalling! No British sausages for the Continent! £17million worth of sausages and burgers! Have those mighty captains of the sausage industry not asked themselves if, in flawless reciprocity, EU burgers might then not be sold here in the UK, so we therefore eat our stuff while they can keep their stuff? Oh – and why does RemainCentral worry about sausages when they’re not really worried about our fish? Must Brexit now be reduced to who eats whose sausages?
And so to the truly important Brexit item today, that speech by Mr David Frost. Firstly, after the reports yesterday on the remarks by the French Foreign Secretary on how ‘we will rip our throats out’ or words to that effect, one might have thought that there’d be some reaction on the Continent. Well, there’s nothing at all in the EU MSM as far as I can see.
Even The Express with their good Brussels sources has so far only been able to report on EU ‘red lines’ which were made before that speech – see here and here. It looks as if Brussels wanted to get their retaliation in first. That’s not surprising, and it’s worth keeping in mind that at least some EU officials will have seen the text of the speech beforehand. The Express does report on some key aspects – here and here – while the DM has published a more extensive summary of that speech (link), containing some good quotes.
I suspect you’re now all on tenterhooks, desiring to know what was actually said. The Spectator, in laudable fashion, has published the transcript of the whole thing – here – and since this speech, long as it is, is indicative of the change in mood and attitude in our negotiating team, I’m going to dedicate an article on the whole thing later today.
Let’s see though what our dear MSM have made of it. Here’s what the DT picked up – for once I do concur with their Remain reporter’s selection:
“Boris Johnson’s chief negotiator David Frost said the freedom to diverge from EU rules was the “point of the whole project” of Brexit. […] In his first speech, David Frost said that if Britain were to continue following EU rules, it would betray the point of the referendum. […] Mr Frost said the freedom to diverge from EU rules and regulations was central to the Prime Minister’s vision to have the “ability to set laws that suit us”. He said: “It isn’t a simple negotiating position which might move under pressure, it’s the point of the whole project.”. (paywalled link)
This is something that Brussels needed to hear – it was balm to any Brexiteer’s ears. The rest of that report is given over to what the EU has said about ‘level playing fields’ and to what the EU might come up with when they agree to Barnier’s negotiating mandate later this week.
RemainCental picks this phrase up as well, turning it into a threat, that ‘we will walk away’. It’s interesting that their Brussels Correspondent managed to get a sniff at a reaction from the EU
“Britain will walk away from a trade deal if the European Union does not drop the demand for it to follow Brussels’s rules after Brexit, the government’s chief negotiator has warned. In his first public comments before talks next month, David Frost urged European leaders not to view Boris Johnson’s hardline stance on EU regulations as a “negotiating position”.”(link, paywalled)
The next paragraph is even more indicative of how RemainCentral interprets the gist of what was said to make it palatable to Remainers:
“However, as an olive branch he suggested that the UK might be prepared to make unilateral commitments on environmental, social and state aid standards as part of a Canada-style free trade deal. His remarks will be seen as a hint at compromise, with less than nine months to conclude a deal. The EU is expected to drop demands for the UK to adopt European laws introduced after Brexit. But France and Germany, among others, insist that Britain follow existing EU rules under “level playing field” provisions.” (link, paywalled)
This interpretation is a fine example of twisting words to make them come out in support of one’s viewpoint – ‘we must compromise’, according to RemainCentral. I’ve not yet found anything about this alleged willingness of the EU ‘dropping demands’. Is that another instance of EU sources trying to get their interpretation into the MSM?
In their editorial RemainCentral bends over backwards to explain why the EU is justified in insisting on that ‘level playing field’ because ‘British divergence clearly carries risks for the EU’ (link, paywalled). Mustn’t have risks for the EU, must we! There’s more, in the concluding paragraph of that editorial we find this astonishing assessment:
“The real issue is not whether Britain can diverge from EU rules but how the risks to the EU that might arise from such divergence should be managed. […[ That includes British firms soon to lose the protection of the European Court of Justice when trading in the EU.” (link, paywalled)
Goodness me – do I detect a whiff of historical British supremacy when it comes to ‘the continent’, in that it’s for us in the UK to help the hapless Continentals to sort out their mess? The concluding sentence, meant as spectre for our industries, is interesting. I believe we’ve not yet got to the point that the ECJ as final arbiter has been removed from any treaty. Does The Times know something we don’t?
It’s surely significant that none of them thought it worthwhile to mention the challenge Mr Frost made in his concluding remarks, regarding the forthcoming negotiations:
“We are always told we don’t have enough time. But we should take inspiration, I think, from the original Treaty of Rome back in 1957. This was negotiated and signed in just under 9 months – surely we can do as well as that as well as our great predecessors, with all the advantages we have got now?” (source)
Yes indeed – and Mr Frost ought to have added that all that was needed was some Good Will, something which has been lacking in Brussels and indeed M Barnier. Obviously Mr Frost is too good a diplomat to say so out loud.
I believe we’ll find out how important this speech was when we observe how those talks develop and evolve in the coming months. As indicator for a definite change in mood and attitude, this is an important milestone in Brexit History.
However … we do remember speeches by Ms May before her 2017 GE, before she fell into the clutches of (now Sir) Oily Robbins. The proof of the pudding is, as we know, in the eating, so vigilance is still the key!