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Newsnight accused of EU bias over Owen Paterson interview

29 October 2015

9:57 AM

29 October 2015

9:57 AM

After the Prime Minister was criticised yesterday for warning of the cons of leaving the EU long before his renegotiation has been completed, Cameron will no doubt be relieved to learn that the heat was taken off of him on last night’s Newsnight.

Owen Paterson appeared on the current affairs show to put forward the argument for leaving the EU, in an interview with Evan Davis. While Paterson tweeted his excitement for the interview ahead of appearing on the show, things soon took a turn for a worse when Davis decided to ask him the five questions Cameron had suggested were important to answer when discussing a Brexit.

Davis asked whether the UK would have to pay a subscription fee to the EU — like Switzerland and Norway — if we leave. Paterson replied that he wanted Britain to take a full seat on the World Trade Organisation, before attempting to explain the position by discussing Norway’s business position when it comes to fish. However, Davis was having none of it and repeatedly cut him off before declaring that he did not want to hear about fish.

OP: You had a segment on fish with Allegra, and Norway — which was missed out by their minister — chairs the global party on fish, it’s very important, they export 3 billion dollars of fish.

ED: This is not an answer to the Prime Minister’s Question which is ‘would the UK be paying an EU subscription’ you’re going have to explain, I’m sorrry I don’t want to hear about fish, I want to hear about the UK subscription under the scenario that you are advocating

OP: Evan, you might not want to hear about fish but fisherman do, and we want to get our seat back…

ED: But when I ask about fish, we’ll talk about fish. We’ve talked to you about fish before and Norway, I can actually remember sitting over there doing it

OP: You interrupted me last time, you’re interrupting me now

ED: I won’t interrupt if you answer the question about the EU subscription, will we pay one or not?

OP: I want to move to a global system where we have full representation on global bodies, at the moment we are represented by a 28th of a commissioner which is highly unsatisfactory as we move to global regulation, the EU is retreating as a law creator. It’s the global bodies that are moving so you’ve got to think outside your EU box

ED: Is that an answer to the question will the UK still be paying subscriptions to the EU?

OP: Well it depends

ED: Have you answered the question?

OP: Err… no, no, no… but hang on Evan you are presuming that we will be in an EU. The EU is going to leave us.

While Paterson struggled to get his point across, many have blamed Davis for the poor interview. Kate Hoey — the Eurosceptic Labour MP — tweeted Davis to accuse him of pro-EU bias. Hoey says Davis must either be ‘quite ignorant on how the EU works’ or ‘completely biased’.

Hoey was not alone in her criticism:

In fact, even one MP who wishes to remain in the EU was left unhappy with Davis’s interview tactics. The SNP’s Angus MacNeil called for the Newsnight presenter to ‘drop his ego’ and stop interrupting Paterson:


With both sides criticising Davis over the interview, Mr S suspects that producers may need to rethink their approach when it comes to the EU debate. After all, only this month BBC bosses were forced to deny claims that they were overly sympathetic to the pro-EU cause as a result of funding that comes from Brussels.

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