We like to try and get behind the biggest stories, to come at them from a different angle. I am pleased to report that in Britain today, nothing has happened. Have you ever heard a newsreader say this? “I’m happy to report that today, nothing has happened. Good night.”
Our morning headlines are all about Trump’s latest nothing. Virtually every story at the top of BBC News right now is a “world news” story. This is a good thing. Given that news these days means “bad news” then, quite literally, no news is good news.
This gives us time to take a step back to a story that featured prominently a couple of days ago, about massive delays at EU airports. These were typically smaller airports popular with tourists on the edge of the Schengen free movement zone. The delays seemed particularly bad for travellers coming from outside Schengen, of which Britain is a prominent example.
Because the weather is so awful in northern Europe, British holidaymakers have since the 1960s flown to Europe in vast numbers. With modern cheaper air travel and visa-free travel to the EU and beyond, Britain filled her boots. And then came Brexit. Would it have an impact? Would anyone care?
Over on Twitter, I bridled at respected BBC presenter Paul Lewis for taking a cheap shot. He claimed that if only Britain had joined Schengen, our holidays would proceed without delay. Of course, that is true. But we were never going to join Schengen. How does leaving the EU suddenly mean that we might one day have joined Schengen? We were never ever going to do that, even had we voted to remain. Another thing we were never going to do was join the Euro. Had things gone the other way last June, I can guarantee that the Remainers would not have pressured us into either the Euro or Schengen.
So if UK had joined Schengen area holidaymaking Brits would be avoiding all this major queuing https://t.co/wRniBA5pr1 welcome to the future
— Paul Lewis (@paullewismoney) August 2, 2017
Feeling justified, I returned to work. Not for long. In walks an Irish journalist based in London, Maria Farrell. She calmly and patiently explained why my flippant blaming of the EU for this crisis was unjustified. It was a rare moment of clarity on Twitter, which more commonly is associated with bile.
My attack on Lewis had blamed the border delays on “Brussels”, which is a common shorthand here for anything to do with the EU. I was half right. Someone in Europe had dictated stronger border controls at the edge of the Schengen area to target terrorism and immigration. But, as Maria pointed out, this was the European Commission. They had the power to increase checks at airports, but not the power to force the airports to schedule more staff to undertake the work. The airports failed in their duty to predict demand and staff accordingly.
So there you have it. A look behind the headlines. Not Brussels, or in fact the EU, but the European Commission. I could choose to claim that this just proves that Europe is not joined up, not able to find its bottom in a darkened room. But instead I choose this: I choose to make the point that Twitter can be a force for good. Use it well, in case you lose it.
If you want to see more of Maria’s excellent Tweets, you can do so here.