Expert View

BBC’s Kuenssberg spouts Brexiter referendum propaganda

by Denis MacShane | 20.09.2018

Denis MacShane is a former Minister of Europe and was a Labour MP for 18 years.

A typical piece of Brexiter propaganda is that a People’s Vote would be a trick imposed on a hapless electorate by Brussels. Laura Kuenssberg, normally precise and focused in her analysis, spouted this canard on the the Today Programme this morning (7.09am), saying: “The EU has form on this. If the leaders’ club doesn’t like the result, you get the public to vote again until they do.”

What the BBC’s political editor said is true of neither other countries nor the People’s Vote.

The EU27 have made no secret that they see Brexit as lose-lose for both the UK and the rest of Europe. But the demand for a new vote is home grown – and it is Theresa May who is stubbornly refusing even to consider a rethink or to acknowledge David Davis’s dictum that a “democracy that cannot change its mind ceases to be a democracy.”

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Kuenssberg is also wrong about other countries. When France and the Netherlands said no in 2005 to the EU constitutional treaty, that was accepted. When Switzerland said no in 1992 to joining the European Economic Area, that was accepted – as was Norway’s referendum which decided not to join the EU in 1994. So too were referendums in Sweden against the euro in 2003 and the Netherlands against the EU Ukraine treaty in 2016.

True, sometimes countries have changed their minds but this is because they reflected on their decision on the basis of new information. The Swiss held a referendum in 2014 which voted to ban immigration by EU citizens into Switzerland. When the result came through, it was Swiss businesses who rely on European immigrant workers who pushed Swiss MPs to come up with a new plan to help Swiss employees without banning migrants.

Denmark and Ireland voted in referendums in 1992 and 2008 to repudiate the Maastricht and Lisbon treaties. But it was national politicians, business leaders, civil society, trade unions and professionals that united within Denmark and Ireland to say that new referendums should take place once the facts about the dangers of amputating Denmark and Ireland from Europe became known. It was not Brussels or any “leaders’ club” that forced the Danes and the Irish to have a second look.        

A similar process is under way in the UK. The demand for a People’s Vote started with grassroots movements and is now being picked up by national politicians, trade unions and civil society. New facts have emerged that show Brexit is nothing like what Boris Johnson and others promised two years ago. Kuenssberg should brush up on her facts.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

7 Responses to “BBC’s Kuenssberg spouts Brexiter referendum propaganda”

  • And then there is the Danish opt-out on home and justice matters in 2015. No second referendum after No vote. Result stands.
    A contrary example, the Swedes voted in a non-binding referendum against switching from left-hand to right-hand driving in 1955 with a big margin (16% for, 83% against). Still, the changeover was decided and implemented twelve years later. without a vote. Enemies of the people no doubt!! Undemocratic!! And yet the EU was not involved.

  • Kuenssberg should indeed brush up on her facts. I was shocked to here her analysis; it was so wrong. Has she joined ERG – if so is not an independent broadcaster?

  • I was also disappointed to hear her comments. It is pure laziness to repeat the propaganda put about by ERG and their supporters in the press. I hope she will be back on form soon (post-holiday blues?) because she is one of the reporters on whose comments I rely. Still, there are plenty of opportunities to correct the mistakes before we up-sticks and join the Adam Boulton camp.

  • The BBC is not so much “not independent” as terrified of incurring the wrath of its principal paymaster – the government. Therefore, it will do all it can to avoid being controversial on any issue and at all times. I know, because I worked for the beeb (home news) in the sixties, and it hasn’t changed any since then.

  • A couple of corrections.

    Firstly it was the Nice and Lisbon treaties that were rejected in Ireland, not the Maastricht treaty.

    Secondly in the case of both the Nice and Lisbon treaties the Irish Government responded to the initial rejection of the treaties by finding out what voters concerns we’re, and then negotiating opt outs and guarantees to address them, before putting the amended treaties back to the voters, who approved them with large majorities.

    Also worth pointing out that in both the Nice and Lisbon treaties referendums the majority of campaigners on anti-treaty side were at pains to claim that rejecting the treaties did not mean leaving the EU (others disagreed of course).

    Support for EU membership is now over 85% in Ireland!

  • Paul,

    ‘opt outs and guarantees’. So this is how a second referendum was won in Ireland with regards to Nice and Lisbon. So why do you want a second referendum on Brexit when there has been no movement whatsoever by the EU?
    I actually think Laura Kuenssberg (and Katya Adler may I add) are shining lights within the BBC and most certainly try to be impartial. Something you lot ain’t!!!!!!

  • There is nothing wrong with checking a doubtful result anyway, it is good scientific practice. The polls were all over the place in the run up to the referendum, it could have gone any way. Deciding Britain’s future on the toss of a coin is completely reckless.,