EU referendum: the press, the floods and the narrative.

Well at  2 Belgian tweeters are laughing at us Brits following this headline in our esteemed paper, The Daily Express-


I wouldn’t normally comment on a Daily Express article- to be honest, I wouldn’t normally see a Daily Express article- but I couldn’t quite let this one go. For me, it highlights the real need for a proper debate on the EU, one which I know we won’t get……

A quick look at this article. Firstly, the paper claims that it is farmers who are blaming Brussels for the floods. But immediately, in the first paragraph, it is clear that this isn’t a statement from a group representing farmers-

”  The millionaire leader of a campaign for the UK to leave the EU has blamed rules from Brussels for flooding as he called on Britons to vote to “liberate” themselves in the referendum on EU membership promised by David Cameron.”

So, not farmers but the backer behind the Leave EU campaign, Arron Banks, which supports UKIP.

But this ban on dredging is something we should look into though isn’t it? These meddling bureaucrats are always banning things aren’t they?

Well, no.

I have not checked out the relevant directive- I don’t need to. The Express says;

However, an EU directive says rivers should be left as close as possible to their natural state,”

which does not sound like a ban to me and the rest of the sentence is a non-sequitur-

      “effectively banning farmers and other landowners from dredging.”

Right. No farmers blaming Brussels for a banning directive that doesn’t exist. The story continues to disintegrate as the Express obtains quotes from the Environment Agency confirming that they do do some dredging (so not banned then…) and that dredging isn’t a simple solution to the floods.

But of course it is the headline that sticks. This “one headline, different story” from the Express is not new and can be found across the media. I despair that this will be the level of debate on the EU in the coming months.

I found this particular story irritating for 2 reasons. Firstly, neither side of the brexit campaign seem to want to inform us what the EU actually is and what it does and how it operates. And how we could change it. The Pro-EU campaign- so far- has been similar to the No campaign in the Scottish referendum; a negative, fear-of-change campaign. Not a positive campaign.

Secondly, the mainstream media coverage of the floods has been appalling in my view. Plenty of feel good stories  about the resilience of communities but very little of the politics behind the floods. George Monbiot has tweeted that there has been little or no interest from the media on his views of what could be done despite considerable interest on social media.

Those of you who follow me on twitter will know that I have been particularly preoccupied by the mysterious case of the lack of claiming from the EU solidarity fund. My post can be found here-

Put succinctly, we could claim money from the EU Solidarity Fund for damage caused by the floods. But we won’t. And the mainstream media is not challenging the government to ask them why not. This is important primarily as there is a source of funding which would help people affected by the floods which the government refuses to acknowledge for political reasons. It is also a prime example of the type of issue that should be discussed in the EU debate- but won’t.




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