Saturday 23 January 2016

"It most certainly does not have a veto over any legislation"

Thursday night saw Radio 4 broadcasting its second major documentary of the year relating to a possible Brexit - In Business, with Jonty Bloom. The programme was called Norway's European Dream

I think it's fair to say that quite a lot of 'Leave' supporters weren't impressed by its 'impartiality' - or its accuracy.

Take, for example, Dateline London's Alex Deane:

There's also a write-up of the programme by Jonty Bloom on the BBC website headlined How does Norway's relationship with the EU work?

The case against Jonty Bloom is laid on on various blogs - the clearest statement (so far) being at LeaveHQ under the title Another pack of BBC lies

Its main point is that Jonty was wrong to write that Norway "most certainly does not have a veto". Norway's agreement with the EU (through the EAA), however, says otherwise - see Section 6.1.4 The right of veto which begins:
According to the principle of unanimity applied in the EEA Joint Committee, all the EFTA states must agree in order for new EU legislation to be integrated into the EEA Agreement and for it to apply to cooperation between the EFTA states and the EU. If one EFTA state opposes integration, this also affects the other EFTA states in that the rules will not apply to them either, neither in the individual states nor between the EFTA states themselves nor in their relations with the EU. This possibility that each EFTA state has to object to new rules that lie within the scope of the EEA Agreement becoming applicable to the EFTA pillar is often referred to as these parties’ right of veto. 
So far, this right has not been exercised. This is partly because when EU legislation is to be integrated into the EEA Agreement it is submitted to the EEA Joint Committee at the final stage of an extensive process of information and consultation between the contracting parties. The purpose of this process is to ensure that agreement is reached on such decisions. During the negotiations on the EEA Agreement, compromises were found if a state had constitutional objections to the content or could invoke fundamental national interests. Even though constitutional problems are unlikely to arise in the day-to-day EEA work, the will to reach necessary compromises must still be regarded as a basic condition for cooperation.
The interesting thing in comparing what LeaveHQ quotes from the BBC website article and the BBC website article article itself is that the passage LeaveHQ especially takes issue with -
It most certainly does not have a veto over any legislation and yet the consequences can be huge.
- isn't actually to be found in the BBC website article. Indeed, the word 'veto' is entirely missing from the piece.

The invaluable Newsniffer site provides the answer. 

The article has been through several versions since it was first published on Thursday, yet only one paragraph has ever been changed - and that's the one quoted by LeaveHQ (and other anti-EU blogs)! 

It originally said exactly what they quote:
It most certainly does not have a veto over any legislation and yet the consequences can be huge.
I'm guessing Jonty received some strongly-worded emails or tweets as that bold (and wrong) assertion was fairly swiftly (stealth-)edited out of the article. 

The first edit changed it to something that's considerably more accurate:
In theory it has a veto over any legislation but it has never used it, and yet the consequences of using the veto could be huge.
The final version, however, marks a step-back:
Now, as Norway is not a member of the EU, it has no say over these or any other EU rules. 
It can lobby against them, but it does not sit round the table when they are proposed, discussed, amended, debated, or voted into law.
The consequences can be huge.
That's very carefully (you might say 'knowingly' put). It skirts around the fact that Norway does have a say through the EEA agreement at certain stages outside of the EU's structures and can veto legislation (though it chooses not to).

This is evidence that someone at the BBC, probably Jonty himself, realised that he'd got it wrong and went it to edit the article and remove the offending passage - which had already been getting him into serious trouble with anti-EU bloggers.

Of course, you won't see a message at the bottom of the BBC article informing readers that the article has been amended. That would be far too honest!


  1. Guilty as charged! Outrageous bias.

    And let's not forget Norway could in any case have negotiated a separate treaty with the EU had it wished.

    Switzerland or Japan would be a more interesting parallel for a relationship with the EU, I think.

  2. Weird how Bloom seems to have parroted Cameron's and other 'In' campaigners' statements about Norway. Andrew Marr had a totally pro-EU propaganda session with Zac Goldsmith this morning as well. Apparently a euroskeptic is someone who wants to stay in the EU regardless and hopes there will be a little reform along the way.

    Later on, after letting Wee Jimmy Krankie (sorry, once I heard Gaunt call her that, I can't unsee it) get away with bold-faced lies about the Scottish economy and employment, we learned that an Out vote would trigger a mass movement for Scottish independence. So if you want the UK to remain intact, you must vote to stay in the EU.

    Also, we learned that BBC Alba doesn't count as a Scottish BBC channel. After being asked about anti-independence bias at the BBC, Sturgeon said she wanted a Scottish channel. Of course, Marr couldn't bring up BBC Alba because then she would have had to admit that hardly anybody actually speaks Gaelic outside of a few rural pensioners and the required bits at Holyrood ceremonies. What would happen to a BBC Scotland channel after the presumably inevitable Scottish independence, and the cognitive dissonance between insisting that it's inevitable yet wanting a British Broadcasting outlet of their own, was left unaddressed, and Marr was there today to help his guests with their message and not challenge them (aside from one minor quibble with Rona Fairhead about staff being afraid of management).


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