Hard Brexiteers were today accused of a pattern of “21st Century McCarthyism” by the pro-single market campaign Open Britain.
Government whip Chris Heaton-Harris MP faced a barrage of criticism this week for his letter to vice chancellors requesting a list of academics teaching European studies and information about their syllabus relating to Brexit.
But Open Britain claims the “sinister” behaviour is not an isolated incident. Senior Leave campaigners, such as Andrea Leadsom and Jacob-Rees Mogg, have a recent track record of attacking business and the media for a “lack of patriotism”, or being funded by Brussels.
James McGrory, Executive Director of Open Britain, said: “A letter from a Government Whip to universities asking for lists of academics teaching about Brexit is a sinister development but it follows on from a pattern of behaviour from the Brextremists.
“We are lucky in Britain to live in an open and free society in which academics, journalists and others should be free to teach and speak as they please without being lambasted by Leave campaigners launching a 21st Century McCarthyism.
“There is a clear pattern of politicians in favour of a hard and destructive Brexit attempting to shut down reasoned debate. It is a reflection of the utter bankruptcy of their ideology and their lack of confidence in how Brexit is unfolding.”
In June, Leader of the House of Commons and staunch Brexit supporter Andrea Leadsom told the BBC that broadcasters should be more “patriotic” and “helpful” in their coverage of Brexit negotiations.
In July, Secretary of State for International Trade and long-time Brexit proponent Liam Fox claimed the BBC was “wilfully” ignoring positive stories about Brexit, leading some to brand him a “tinpot dictator”.
Former Leader of UKIP and hard Brexit supporter, Nigel Farage claimed that the BBC had a “blatant anti-Brexit bias” in an interview with Radio 4 Today Programme presenter Nick Robinson. More than 70 MPs signed an open letter accusing the BBC of bias over Brexit in March.
Earlier this month, Jacob Rees-Mogg claimed the reason that the CBI supported a transition deal was because it was “EU-funded”. The CBI’s chief exec Carolyn Fairbarn said the claims are “complete nonsense” and EU funds account for 0.6% of the organisation’s budget.
Conservative MP, Government Whip and hard Brexit supporter Chris Heaton-Harris wrote to UK universities asking for lists of their academics teaching European affairs and information about their syllabus on Brexit.