Brexit European Union Political Parties

Brexit and the ‘Get on with it’ Myth

Is Brexit too important to be turned into a pantomime by the news media's desperate attempts to entertain?

Oliver Pridmore

Naked Politics Blogger

Brexit: One word, so many emotions. For some, it conjures up feelings of triumph, hope and glory. For others, more pessimistic rumblings of despair and sadness. But for most, it seems, Brexit evokes a weary sense of malaise.

This is perfectly understandable. When the vote took place two years ago, few could have imagined the avalanche of jargonistic obfuscation that we’d be faced with as warring factions continue to squabble. The Customs Union is a prime example. Talk of maximum facilitation, “a” customs partnership, customs agreements, backstops, hard borders, soft borders… it’s easy to see why people become disillusioned with the process. However, just because people are sick of the tedious running commentary, that doesn’t mean that no progress has been made.

The comments from last week’s Question Time audience suggest a common misconception that the Government has achieved nothing in the last two years and it is now time to “get on with it”.

One member argued that the parliamentary debates that have been occurring over the EU Withdrawal Bill were less about ensuring a fair and measured piece of legislation and more about “prolonging both the process and the agony“. Indeed, one member agreed with Foreign Secretary’s suggestion that more progress would be made if Donald Trump was handling the negotiations. She also took a rather grim view of our parliamentary process by saying, “I am really fed up of all the arguing, and nothing is getting sorted out, all this bickering is going on too long“.

But let’s be clear: Since the vote, the Government has triggered Article 50, managed to get the EU Withdrawal Bill through despite attempts to block it by staunch-remainer MPs and Lords, settled the contentious issue of the divorce bill, secured agreements on citizen’s rights and paved the way to move onto trade talks over the course of the Summer.

To say that no progress has been made is an utter fallacy and one that is rooted in the way that our media choose to report on it.

Desperately attempting to entertain at the same time as reporting, the news media seems to focus almost entirely on sensationalist sideshows that only serve to prolong the confusion that surrounds Brexit. Headlines are dominated by resignation threats and hypothetical leadership challenges rather than providing any real clarity on what is happening with the negotiations. Yes, at times, the detail can be a little dry. They can also be contradictory, overwhelming and vexing all at the same time. Nevertheless, the importance never wavers and, sadly, that isn’t being properly reflected in the media.

It is not often that I find myself in concurrence with the former Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, but the same episode of Question Time he offered some very sage words of warning when discussing some of the media coverage: “It’s a level of debate which makes rational discussion impossible, and it’s deliberately designed to do it.”

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Yes, everyone now looks forward to the day when this is all done and dusted and we can move on into whatever future may be in store for post-Brexit Britain; but this will obviously take time. The Government has its own deadline and only when they fail to meet this should we criticise them in regards to ‘getting on with Brexit’. Until then, we should be scrutinising their trade proposals, their proposals on parliamentary legislation post-Brexit, their policies on the environment once we leave and so on and so on. Unfortunately, information for the public in the mainstream media on all of these areas is severely lacking. Yes, the media circus features the parliamentary entertainment surrounding Brexit, but very little of the hard facts. As Dominic Grieve said, that would allow the public to engage in ‘rational debate’. Perhaps, given that we voted the “wrong way”, they’ve heard enough of our opinions!

Surely though, as we approach the two year anniversary of the vote and the process really begins to heat up, ‘rational debate’ is more sorely needed than ever?!

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