Richard North, 19/12/2016  

Coprophagia is alive and well in the legacy media as the Mail online copies out the Sunday Telegraph report in which a "secret plot" by Labour to reverse the result of the EU referendum is "exposed".

So secret is that plot, it seems, that relies on a heavily amended "own initiative report", by Guy Verhofstadt, which was introduced into the system two years ago and has still to come before the full parliament.

Together with all the other documents, the amendments which apparently form the basis to this "secret plot" are published on the European Union website and are freely available to anyone who cares to read them.

Such is the overheated nature of the Telegraph coverage of Brexit now that they have given up reporting real news, and are basing their "exclusives" on watching Sky News, and – currently – on publicly available documents published on the European Parliament website. Small wonder, the author of the amendments describes the coverage as "silly and contrived".

As to the "documents, at heart of this is an "own initiative report", which has no legislative role and is about the equivalent to an early day motion in the Westminster parliament. In other words, it has very little political significance at all.

Yet, following the Telegraph dribble, the Breitbart website, in another example of galloping coprophagia, repeats the story of the "sneaky" Labour plot, describing Verhofstadt's report as "official reports preparing for Britain to leave the European Union".

You can see the "prestige" game in full flow here. If the completely unimportant nature of an own initiative report was properly explained, there would, of course, be no story. Thus, Labour has to be seen amending "official reports preparing for Britain to leave the European Union".

Where there might be some passing interest in the original Verhofstadt report is that he suggests a new type of "associate status" as one of the possible outcomes of the United Kingdom leaving the EU.

As might be expected though, this completely passes by the Telegraph and it coprophagic friends, without comment. All the Sunday paper is interested in doing is stoking up out of nowhere Labour's "secret plot", one so cunningly hidden that it is in plain sight for all to see.

Possibly, this supports my long-standing claim that the best way of keeping a secret is to publish it on the European Parliament website, and then send a press release to the legacy media, summarising the contents. But that was to reckon without the stupidity of the Telegraph and the continued inability of the legacy media to report sensible on Brexit.

No more so is this evident than in the ongoing commentary of membership of the customs union, where the mere mention of this term seems to turn the media's collective brains to mush – to say nothing of the politicians on whom they report.

Leading the charge was the Marr show, which had Liam Fox arguing that we could follow the example of Turkey which, he said: "is in part of the customs union but not other parts".

Yet, instead of challenging this absurdity, this idiot Marr thought it "very interesting to hear Liam Fox talking about the possibility of hybrid arrangements and being partly inside the Customs Union".

Matching the failure of the broadcast media, we again have the Telegraph out of its depth, uncritically swallowing Liam Fox's stupidity, with the headline that, "Britain could be like Turkey and remain part of the customs union after leaving the EU".

We've written before of "issue illiteracy", with the newspaper so lacking in knowledge of the functioning of the EU that it is unable to separate fact from fiction – even (or especially) when uttered by a senior minister.

The customs union, says the Telegraph, "includes all 28 EU member states, alongside Turkey, Monaco, San Marino, Andorra and non-EU UK territories such as the Channel Islands". And thereby, it betrays a most fundamental ignorance, failing to understand that Turkey is not part of the EU's customs union but has its own separate agreement – as does San Marino and Andorra.

The point that should have emerged, had the Telegraph known what it is talking about, is that Fox can't pick and choose elements of the customs union. It is all or nothing and, bearing in mind that we cannot stay in the EU's operation without remaining in the EU, it really should be nothing.

What Fox is saying, therefore, is garbage, but when the media – Marr in the first instance – and then the press, don't even realise this, then we are in serious trouble.

This intellectual poverty, as one imagine, also extends to the Financial Times, with this newspaper blithely telling us that the customs union, "sets out common rules for checks on goods entering the EU". Accurate information, it seems, is beyond the reach of its journalists. They're not even on the starting grid.

Largely, the Financial Times always has been part of the problem and there is nothing any human agency can do to change that. But it is part of the broader media problem that simply isn't going away. After a dreadful referendum campaign, the debate seems to be going downhill even further. The media are losing ground fast.

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