Following 1009 days of preparation and the Prime Minister’s explicit promise that today was the day the UK stepped away out of its European Union membership after 40 years… We’re still there. Here. Everywhere. As you may expect, I’m pretty pleased about that, but not so much I can’t dig into the way the papers have celebrated one of the greatest damp squibs in this country’s history.
Last Saturday, an estimated million took to the London streets to state their case for a people’s vote, bolstered by a petition to Revoke Article 50 that’s fast approaching a tantalising 6 million signatures as I write. Today, the bedraggled Leave means Leave march arrived in London, having started their hike from Sunderland mid-month. They were met by thousands of Brexit campaigners, from broad factions, all gathering in Parliament Square on the day that should have celebrating the fruition of their narrow victory. It was promised…
Few dates have gained the same notoriety as 29th March this century. Christmas has a rival. But, no matter what happens in the future, as Parliament is still very much undecided, or perhaps as abruptly as 12th April (the date set by Europe for Britain’s departure, deal or no), today it’s major success is to have convinced MPs that they absolutely don’t want to back Theresa May’s weak deal at the third time of asking. As it stands, today will always be remembered as the day that nothing happened.
How did the divisive British Press handle a day that’s simultaneously momentous and nothing much of anything whatsoever?
Overview: An asymmetrical slant to The Times‘ front page, between a header aimed at property buyers (witness the economic confidence seeping back!) and the decline of British schooling at the bottom right (nothing to do with anything surely!). At the top is an extraordinary piece of misdirection: Lord Winston attacked by a cyclist. The focus falls on the heady mix of the profane saviour of British comedy, an American, and a psychopath (don’t tell her) – all framed in an excess of defiant pink. Yes, it’s Killing Eve. There’s a name for our times. Brexit emphasis: It takes the main headline – and The Times is preoccupied with the delay. What’s a year out of 45?
Overview: A three-word fest. Pinch of Nom! Two free tickets! Brexy’s Midnight Runners! That’s apart from a rather unfortunate shot of poor old Keith Duffy. Not only “in hospital drama” but rather voyeuristically surveying the forced tete-a-tete between the respective heads of the Conservative party and DUP that’s been cut together on the left. If you can ignore Keith, sadly for him forever enshrined in this Brexit Day edition, the emphasis falls on the pressure the two politicians are under…
Brexit emphasis: They’ve got May’s back and YES! They went and bloody did it. Too rye aye, eh? TOO RYE AYE!
Overview: Being a Friday, culture has invaded the main event. It all makes for a nice, youthful, if not sideways slant. There’s a focus on the web’s influence on coming of age films and Billie Eilish – two separate elements that offer promise, great art, but a whole load of pain on the way. UK home affairs and entertainment is boxed off at the bottom of the page, but the winner? The Govester’s Dogster!
Brexit Emphasis: They don’t have May’s back. Brexit Day, and The Guardian’s preoccupied with the Tory rebellion and a change of leadership.
Overview: Love, bangers, and Kelly Brook. That’s the distracting top line and as you may or may not imagine, not all is quite as it appears inside. After all, the Daily Star is not only cheaper than The Sun, but a lot more fun!
Brexit Emphasis: That fun may not quite fit with the confrontational grumpiness that occupies the lower half of the front page, quite defiantly broken from the red top, but they’ve seen a gap in the market: let’s just bloody stop talking about Brexit. They have a point, who isn’t fed up with it? Doesn’t mean you don’t want to get it sorted in the right way… It’s not like they’re fuelling apathy…
Overview: Perhaps the Mirror has it right. Brexit is almost at its most suppressed on the front page of this Red Top. The priority is given to Jill Dando, an astonishing 20 years on from her death, a case still unsolved.
Brexit Emphasis: Acknowledgement that it’s Brexit Day… And barely hiding the paper’s opinion on the state of the situation or May’s ‘Dire’ deal.
Overview: Beating the Daily Mirror is the free paper that limits Brexit to a sidenote. An important sidenote it must be said – a factor in the astronomical rise of anti-depressants. See the Daily Star‘s advice. The Metro’s prize goes to Princess Catherine ‘Scout and about’.
Brexit Emphasis: Brexit, and the innate uncertainty of it all. Oh, the irony that the bloody thing is highlighting social issues that it doesn’t allow anyone any time to do anything about…
Overview: A typically colourful and spacey front page that can’t hide its internationalism. There’s a profile on French child wonder turned musician turned author, Vanessa Paradis and also Solskjær’s Norwegian Dream at Old Trafford. There’s even a dash of skiing.
Brexit Emphasis: i take the leadership angle to the max, picking out one prominent and utterly disastrous pretender, decked out in cycle helmet of course. Under him, squashed, sit five rather wretched bullet points about the Tory leadership campaigns. You may say the Govester again accidentally wins the entertainment prize. Better than a comment on three pending elections…
Overview: Of course, the FT has a particular slant. The crusade of growing powerhouse Huawei and the plight of the lira – again, not Brexit-related – wouldn’t trouble any other front pages. That said, ‘Orwellian Facebook’ seems a little underplayed. Haven’t looked at it for a while – really needs to sort out its colour scheme to be honest.
Brexit Emphasis: When you run with the sodden Brexit March finally reaching the capital, the header ‘End of the line’ seems strangely optimistic.
The Daily Telegraph
Overview: Now we’re cooking, well, cooking more than ‘This book’! As the last of the main great, ancient broadsheets, The Telegraph has a lot of room, but in spite of that, or possibly because of it, Brexit dominates.
Brexit Emphasis: Again, a little optimistic. A day of reckoning takes top billing from the ‘bitter taste of betrayal’ felt by the ERG brigade The Telegraph broadly sides with.
A very delicately chosen lead image.
Overview: Well, the Daily Express reaches the melodramatic extreme.
Brexit Emphasis: A Martian, just arrived for a calming break on this shores, may be taken in by the main headline. The ‘small print’ makes the paper’s position clear even if the subtle WW2 vibe doesn’t. Quite extraordinary vitriol in there which can’t quite hide the truth that enacting Brexit is simply not the sole demonstration of democracy.
Those shackles of the EU, eh?
Overview: Naturally the last of the pick, the DM opts for the Elizabeth Tower, the clock set at the Brexit Moment of 11pm. There’s a grey background too. It’s almost like we’re being manipulated…
The paper wheels out its trademark shouty not-quite-headline font for an infamous ‘comment’.
Brexit Emphasis: One Last Chance! Has me singing Les Mis for the day – which could prove to be quite apt. The DM is seldom happier than when it’s fighting on multiple fronts, but today it hedges its bets. We could have been proud, instead we’re in paralysis. We could be sovereign, but MPs aren’t upholding democracy. If there’s a theme that unites the papers across the divide of Remain and Leave today, it’s a sense of optimism. The idea that this is ‘one last chance’ is woefully hopeful.
See you next Brexit Day!