In a competitive field yesterday’s bridge across the English Channel, proposed in a solo run by foreign secretary Boris Johnson, must rank as the zaniest piece of headline-hunting since the Brexit referendum. The occasion was the visit to Britain of French president Emmanuel Macron, to meet Theresa May rather than Boris. May and Macron agreed an Anglo-French committee to consider future, but unspecified, collaborative projects, just the ticket to fill out an otherwise thin official communique from the two leaders. How to upstage?
The Boris Bridge worked a treat, reported deadpan as a news story by the BBC, prominent in the Daily Mail and the front-page lead in the Telegraph. The Express was able to offer a real scoop:
‘Emmanuel Macron has jumped at the chance of building a giant bridge linking the UK and the EU after Boris Johnson floated the idea during meetings yesterday, it has been revealed.’
Revealed to the Express only. Denials that the bridge is on any official agenda were duly issued on both sides of the channel and the wretched FT, read mainly by foreigners, did not mention the story at all.
A day later the BBC and the newspaper websites finally got round to phoning a few engineers, some of whom were unsporting enough to mention the last two great Anglo-French collaborations, Concorde, cost over-run 450%, and the channel tunnel, a snip at just 80% over budget.
The British media, including the BBC, have done an appalling job in covering the continuing Brexit circus.