Barroso and the BBC – stuck in Groundhog Day?

It is quite fascinating to watch the alacrity with which the BBC gushes to accord semi prophetic status to the utterings of José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission. At least when he pronounces on Scottish independence and its future relationship with the EU. The BBC is not alone in this worshipping at the feet of the Barroso. Most journalists seem to lose their sense when Barroso appears in the guise of Guardian of the EU. But as the BBC is a publicly funded body, their dereliction of even the basic tenets of proper journalism and reporting when it comes to Scottish independence is a rightful matter of public concern.

For both the BBC and Barroso have previous in this regard. Way back in December 2013 Barroso could be found making the same kind of threats that he spouted to Andrew Marr on Sunday. I commented on that interview here. Basically Barroso’s claim is not only that an independent Scotland would somehow be cast out of the EU and have to apply or re-apply(there seems to be a bit of confusion here) to join, but that horror of horrors it would be “extremely difficult, if not impossible” to get all the other member states to agree to Scotland joining the EU. It seems according to the Barroso that the other EU states have a pathological objection to new members coming from one member state.

Now this is quite an assertion and one that is demonstrably nonsense, as I have previously posted about, here. Not that my scribblings are likely to count for much. However much more distinguished people than I have come to pretty much the same conclusion. For example Sir David Edward has written this excellent summary of both the legal and political position that would arise in the event of Scottish independence. And Sir David is no ordinary blogger, but the British Judge of the European Court of First Instance from 1989 to 1992, and of the European  Court of Justice from 1992 to 2004.  He is a Professor Emeritus of the University of Edinburgh, where he was Salvesen Professor of European Institutions and Director of the Europa Institute from 1985 to 1989. To give a flavour of his thinking, he contends, based on the existing EU treaties, that the EU institutions and all the Member States (including the UK as existing), would be obliged to enter into negotiations, before separation took effect, to determine the future relationship within the EU of the separate parts of the former UK and the other Member States. The outcome of such negotiations, unless they failed utterly, would be agreed amendment of the existing Treaties, not a new Accession Treaty. 

Now it is not the purpose of this post to offer a detailed rebuttal of Barroso’s assertions, Sir David and many others have done a sterling job in doing this. What I would like to emphasize is the damaging complicity of the BBC, both in London and in Scotland, in conniving with this kind of blatant scaremongering. Firstly there is the quite staggering ignorance of the various BBC journalists involved in the reporting. Barroso first made his latest intervention on the Andrew Marr Show, where he asserted that it would be all but impossible for Scotland to be admitted to the EU, on the grounds that some of the current member states would object. Now Andrew Marr is an experienced and very respected BBC journalist and interviewer. So I would have expected that any journalist, let alone one as experienced as Mr Marr would have immediately asked Barroso to provide some evidence for this assertion. Which member states have stated that they would veto Scottish membership of the EU? And on what grounds? But no, not a peep. Sr Barroso then went on refer to Spain and raised Spain’s refusal to recognize the independence of Kosovo as a reason why Spain would veto Scotland. Now this is just blatant lying. Spain refuses to recognize Kosovo because its independence came about as a result of a unilateral declaration of independence and not as a result of an agreement with Serbia. This is what Spain objects to. Now of course Scottish independence will come about as a result of a referendum agreed to and legally facilitated by the UK government. Spain has always recognized this fundamental difference between the Kosovo and Scottish cases. Now Barroso must know this. So why did he lie? And more to the point why did Andrew Marr let him get away with it unchallenged. Either Andrew Marr is simply ignorant of a key fact in this argument or he is willfully conniving with Barroso in lying to the British public.

This interview with Barroso then became an important item on the Sunday Politics programme, hosted by Andrew Neil. Here again Barroso’s intervention was just simply accepted with no attempt to challenge any of his claims. The three guests on the programme were all London base journalists, Iain Martin from the Daily Telegraph, Helen Lewis from the New Statesman and Sam Coates from the Times. All Unionists and none of them were remotely interested in challenging Barroso’s assertions. All they wanted to do was joyfully proclaim that Barroso had further dynamited the SNP’s prospectus for independence. All eagerly egged on by the presenter, Andrew Neil.

Now it is inconceivable that these two flagship BBC programmes would have reacted so spinelessly if Barroso’s assertions had been directed at rUK instead of Scotland. After all since Scottish independence entails the dismantling of the 1707 Treaty of Union, the bit of the UK that remains, rUK, will also have to apply or re-apply for continuing membership of the EU. So let us imagine for a moment the reaction of the BBC if Barroso had said that rUK would have to apply and membership would be extremely difficult, if not impossible. Just imagine the vitriol and scorn that would be heaped upon the hapless Barroso. He would have immediately ceased to be the distinguished and knowledgeable President of the European Commission to become an unelected bureaucratic upstart peddling nonsense at the behest of Brussels and Berlin. The BBC and the whole of the press would have a field day, vying for the most outrageous insult to bestow on Barroso. Even the Daily Mail and the usual anti EU suspects would round on Barroso for daring to interfere in an internal UK matter.

Yet this same Barroso can insult Scotland and our intelligences with nary a peep from the BBC. As far as I am aware, Scotland is still at present an integral part of the UK. So why is it acceptable for Barroso to pour scorn on Scottish aspirations? Barely hidden behind all this arrogance is both the disdain that the BBC shows for Scotland and the desperate lengths they will go to, all to ensure that Scotland remains in the UK. Collectively they have such little understanding of what is happening up here that they remain convinced that all it takes is a little bit of lying nonsense from a lame duck Commission President and we will dutifully fall back into line and become once again grateful for our luck to be part of this great and everlasting union. The other and more regrettable shame in all this is that the journalists at BBC Scotland are equally willing participants in this belittling of Scotland. No challenging questions from them either.

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