Betfair seems fairly certain on the outcome of the referendum. (Photo: Betfair/Instagram)
Business as usual or "independence day"?
Today British voters vote on whether to stay in the EU or not. Months of campaigning has left Britain deeply divided. The referendum has not only split the Conservative party and many families across the country, but also the media. Britain's print media is extremely eurosceptic, especially compared to most other European countries. According to a recent study by the Oxford Reuter's Institute, 45% of published news articles are pro-Brexit and only 27% are for remaining in the EU. The widely read tabloids are overwhelmingly anti-EU and are often willing to spread lies and ignore facts. They take huge advantage of many voters' lack of knowledge of the rather complex EU institutions to further their political ideology - often against the interests of their readers.
by the Know Nothing Enquirer 23/06/2016
The recommendations (in some cases rather propaganda) of the national newspapers are mostly no surprise. Yet the Sunday editions of The Times and the Daily Mail back different campaigns than their daily editions. While The Times has remained neutral on the subject, featuring articles and columns supporting both sides, the Sunday Times advocates leaving the union. Similarly, the Daily Mail is also deeply split. While the Mail on Sunday urged their readers to vote remain last Sunday, the Daily Mail reminded their readers why the British should leave the EU today.
Not all papers are giving recommendations, such as the politically neutral "i" that highlighted the importance of voting and rather chose to give its readers facts on the issue. Similarly, the online newspaper The Independent, presents their readers on the front page 40 facts on Britain in the EU. However, it concludes that "it is not a vote to cede control but to get things done collaboratively in a globalised world" and hence urges their readers to vote remain. The Financial Times urges voters to acknowledge that the vote is about the future of the country, i.e. the lives of the young, and not about older Brexiters' obsession with an "imperial past".
The front pages of the national newspapers on 23 June 2016. (Photo: suttonnick.tumblr.com)
The EU referendum also features on the front pages of many European newspapers. Germany's Bild Zeitung, Europe's most widely read tabloid, urged the British to stay in the EU and humorously added that they will acknowledge the "Wembley goal" in the case of a Bremain.
The Dutch daily De Telegraaf and the French La Croix highlight the need for EU reforms to make the EU more accessible to its citizens, yet stress that a Brexit would only harm Britain and the EU. Both agree that the European Union is needed to give a collective answer to global problems and make European countries a global player on the world stage, along with the United States and China. Similarly the overwhelming majority of all respectable European newspapers featured leaders arguing for Britain to remain in the EU.
Whatever the result of today's referendum, the numerous British newspapers basing their recommendations on emotional sentiments and fantasies will have to justify themselves to a disappointed public. The examples of Switzerland and Norway have shown that participating in the single market (which Brexiters want to), while not being a part of the European Union, is not necessarily as favourable as The Telegraph, The Daily Mail or The Sun might want you to believe. The countries still pay into the EU budget, have to adopt EU laws - and most importantly - are part of Schengen, which Britain is currently not part of. Instead, they propagate fantasy stories of "Britain's resurgence".
Germany's Bild is willing to make big sacrifices to convince British voters to stay in the EU. (Photo: Bild Zeitung)
The Vote Leave campaign is centred around the topic of immigration. Yet the campaign and the pro-Brexit papers completely ignore that Britain cannot be part of the EU free market and not accept the core principal of free movement of workers. Why should the EU suddenly accept this in the case of Britain but deny it to Switzerland and Norway? Especially considering that other countries might follow Britain's example and undermine the very existence of the EU. Brexiters have failed to offer a coherent plan for Britain's trade relations after exiting the union.
The Brexit debate will not end when the results are published tomorrow morning. Not only has it split the Conservative party, it polarised the entire country. Holding a referendum on such a complex issue was a huge mistake. It has also once again highlighted the insecurity of British identity. Is Britain a forward-looking country that is willing to shape the continent's future for the better. Or is it rather obsessed with its "imperial past" and reluctant to face the global problems of the 21st century with its neighbours. Britain might be an island but today's issues do not show much respect for national borders and can only be solved collectively. The print media should accept their huge responsibility and give their readers a holistic picture of what a Brexit really means, instead of playing down the risks, ignoring facts and spreading lies.