Thursday, 17 Jun 2021

Brian Cox told to ‘learn his lesson’ and ‘live by democracy’ after call to ‘shelve Brexit’

Brian Cox addresses 'why we exist' on This Morning

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Prof Cox returns to TV screens this evening with his new BBC series ‘Brian Cox’s Adventures in Space and Time’. He will look back at the last decade of discovery and assess how far exploration of the cosmos can go. But away from physics, Prof Cox has often attracted criticism for his outspoken condemnation of Brexit. The prominent Remainer even called for Brexit to be “shelved” once Britain had left the EU, despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson having taken the UK out of the bloc after his thumping majority in the 2019 general election.

Describing the Leave victory as a “self-indulgence from another age,” he called for Brexit to be “shelved for an indefinite period” in March 2020 as the scale of the coronavirus crisis became truly apparent.

He wrote: “Brexit is a self-indulgence from another age.

“It should be shelved for an indefinite period until we have dealt with the long-term economic and social fallout of COVID-19.

“There can be no justification for imposing a second, voluntary shock on the country in early 2021.”

Prof Cox was responding to news that Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove had met with European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic for the first round of talks on EU citizens’ rights and the Northern Ireland Protocol.

His comments attracted a huge backlash on social media, though.

One Twitter user wrote: “I thought you’d have learnt your lesson by now! Call yourself a professor.”

Another added: “Brexit can’t be ‘shelved,’ Brian, because it’s already happened.

“We’re no longer an EU member. We’ve left the EU.”

A third stated: “Get over it. Democracy is a gift to a free society. Live by its rules.”

While a fourth simply said: “Stick to Physics and try to accept the fact that we have already left.”

Prof Cox returned to Twitter to clarify his point and insisted he accepted Brexit “can’t go back”.

He added: “My language is lazy in the above tweet. Let me clear it up.

“Brexit has happened so we can’t go back ‒ no point arguing about that. What we should do (and surely will) is to extend the transition until we’ve dealt with the pandemic and its aftermath ‒ focus on the task in hand.”

Prof Cox did not get his way.

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After months of tense negotiations, fronted by Britain’s Lord David Frost and the EU’s Michel Barnier, an agreement was reached on Christmas Eve last year.

A euphoric Mr Johnson described the deal as his Christmas present to the country and toasted a “happy and successful” relationship with the EU.

This was not the only time Prof Cox attracted criticism online, either.

In August, he replied to a tweet by Home Secretary Priti Patel on plans to intercept migrants crossing the Channel.

She wrote: “We need the cooperation of the French to intercept boats and return migrants back to France.

“I know that when the British people say they want to take back control of our borders – this is exactly what they mean.”

He replied: “I’m so sick of this ‘the British people’ nonsense.

“It’s inflammatory and divisive and also errant vacuous nonsense with no meaning in a multi-party democracy.

“The phrase should be banned from political discourse.”

Many took issue with his “woke” stance.

One response read: “Woke professor calls for the phrase ‘the British people’ to be banned.

“He would never say this about ‘the French people’ or ‘the German people,’ of course.”

Another message noted that Prof Cox had previously used the phrase “European citizens”.

Prof Cox attempted to clarify the situation later.

He said: “Some are misunderstanding this.

“The point is that invoking ‘the will of the people’ or derivatives in promoting policy is a well-rehearsed propaganda technique and has no place in our democratic dialogue.

“Once elected, the Government must seek to unify, not to divide.

“Furthermore, governments can be radical and reforming without using division as a governing technique.

“This government has a large majority and need not apologise for its policy choices – it was elected on a manifesto. But it should calibrate its language much more responsibly.”

Brian Cox’s Adventures in Space and Time airs tonight at 9pm on BBC Two.

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