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Pro-Brexit press oddly muted over 11th-hour Irish upset

by Luke Lythgoe | 05.12.2017

Following the most dramatic setback in the Brexit talks so far, today’s front pages were clogged with headlines about how Theresa May’s “divorce deal” was scuppered at the 11th hour by indignant Irish unionists.

All the more conspicuous, then, was the muted coverage from three of the countries most pro-Brexit publications. The Sun and the Daily Express both led with other stories, relegating May’s woes to small sidebars. The Sun continued the story on pages 9 and 10, and the Express on page 5.

sun and express

The Daily Mail didn’t feature the story on its front page at all  – the only national paper not to do so besides the Daily Star. The Brexit talks were featured on page 6 and 7. Instead it splashed with a scoop about a police operation against paedophiles grooming children on live-streaming apps.

Daily Mail

The Sun told InFacts the newspaper had “covered (the story) pretty substantially” with their double page spread and leader column. The Mail did not want to comment on editorial choices. The Express had not responded at time of publication.

Each newspaper strongly supports a hard Brexit. The Mail in particular has stood firmly behind May’s Brexit strategy – remember how she was going to “crush the saboteurs” during the general election? There’s every reason for the papers not to want to draw attention to this blow for Brexit, which if anything is an opportunity for pro-Europeans to call for an end to the madness.

Their articles reflect this. The Express headline admires how “May battles on”. The Sun’s leader column insists the “only deadline that really matters is March 29th 2019” and urges the PM to keep her “no deal” threat in play. The Mail’s relatively straight news story is peppered with quotes from hard Brexiters, such as Jacob Rees-Mogg blaming Dublin for “spreading propaganda”. Its leader column says May was right not to be “railroaded” into an Irish border deal, pinning hopes on “smart technology” being able to cut through the “almighty muddle” on the table currently.

The contrast couldn’t be more different to the nation’s other great Brexit-supporting paper, The Daily Telegraph, which splashed a straight story headlined “May’s push for deal ends in chaos” accompanied on the front page by frank analysis from its Europe editor Peter Foster.

Telegraph

As May’s hard Brexit plans fall apart, her eurosceptic attack dogs in the press appear not yet to have decided which way to jump. As the logic of stopping the Brexit madness becomes ever more obvious, it will be fascinating to see how the right-wing press reacts.

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Edited by Hugo Dixon