At 11pm tomorrow, the UK leaves the EU. The 31st January will become, for many, the UK’s very own Independence Day.
Much has been written about why 52% of the country felt that life would be better outside the EU than in, but a decisive factor was the tireless campaigning of large sections of Fleet Street.
Within hours of the referendum result being declared, Sun editor Tony Gallagher reportedly texted, “So much for the waning power of the print media”.
Indeed. Fleet Street deserves much of the credit. Antipathy towards the EU has been a consistent editorial line in the Sun, Mail, Telegraph and Express for over thirty years. The Sun’s famous headline ‘Up yours Delors’ was penned in 1990 ("Sun readers are urged to tell the French fool where to stuff his ECU").
Over the years, the anti-EU messaging has been relentless. The EU was a danger to our democracy and the British way of life. No opportunity was missed to remind readers just how preposterous the EU was and what a bright future awaited us, once we were restored to our rightful place on the world stage. Counter arguments were given short shrift.
Fleet Street, even with its print sales diminished, still sets the agenda, and the determined advocacy of these newspapers helped set the terms of the national debate and give real momentum to the Leave campaign.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of such one-sided coverage, certain sections of Fleet Street will wake up on Saturday morning knowing that they are the winners. It’s been a long struggle but they are the ones wot won it. A moment I’m sure they’ll savour.