Brendan O'Neill has a very interesting piece at Spiked putting 'the progressive case for a Brexit'.
Whatever your views on leaving or remaining, the opening section of his speech-turned-article makes a point about the BBC which merits sharing here:
The Brexit camp has asked the BBC to do it one, pretty small favour in the run-up to the EU referendum: to differentiate between ‘Europe’ and ‘the EU’. To encourage its reporters to say ‘Europe’ only when they are referring to the vast continent we live in, and to say ‘the EU’ when they are referring to the Brussels-run union of 28 member states.
And the BBC has refused. Or it has at least failed to clarify when these two very different terms may be used by its staff. This means the BBC has implicitly given a nod of approval to its reporters to say ‘Europe’ when they really mean ‘the EU’.
Some observers think the Brexit lobby is mad for asking for this clarification from the BBC. A writer for the New Statesman said it showed that some people will find bias in the most innocuous of things. In other words: chill out; it is not a problem for the national broadcaster to use the terms ‘Europe’ and ‘the EU’ interchangeably; stop making a fuss about nothing.
But I think the BBC’s unwillingness to maintain a distinction between ‘Europe’ and ‘the EU’ is actually very revealing, and worrying.
It speaks to one of the worst aspects of the debate about the EU: the conflation of the Brussels-based oligarchy with the continent of Europe; the mixing-up of the small, unaccountable cliques who peer down at Europe from their air-conditioned towers in Brussels with Europe itself.
Think about some of the phrases that could potentially be uttered by BBC reporters if they use ‘Europe’ for ‘EU’. They could say that the people of Peterborough, one of the most anti-EU parts of Britain, are ‘against Europe’. They could say that people in Warrington, the seventh most Eurosceptic part of Britain, ‘hate Europe’ or are ‘voting to get out of Europe’.
But of course they’re doing no such thing. Britain isn’t leaving the continent of Europe. That isn’t what we’re voting on. And these people in Peterborough and Warrington might love Europe. They might holiday in Spain, have friends in France, love Swedish TV dramas. Many, if not most, of them won’t be anti-European — they’re just anti-EU.
The Stay campaign’s habit of conflating ‘Europe’ and ‘the EU’ means that those who are anti-EU can be easily depicted as anti-Europe, as xenophobic or nationalistic. These people’s political outlook — their dislike of the way Brussels can impose its writ on nation states — is reduced to a prejudiced outlook, a simple case of being anti-Europe. Their politics is pathologised, turned from opposition to a political system into opposition to a whole continent and its cultures and peoples.