Why does Rupert Murdoch want a Brexit?

The Sun has urged readers to vote 'Leave' in the UK referendum, and the anti-EU sentiment is nothing new...

murdoch, wedding

Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall outside St Bride's Church in London after a ceremony to celebrate their marriage (John Stillwell/PA Wire)

The front page was always coming: on Tuesday, The Sun emphatically declared itself - as if it was staying out of it up until now - for the 'Leave' side of a Brexit debate which comes to a head with a UK referendum in a mere nine days' time.

Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, media commentator Roy Greenslade said the stance was "no surprise at all" and did not believe The Sun's editorial would influence voters.

He said:

"I think when you tell people what to do, it doesn't work."

Instead, he figured it would be the "40 years" of anti-European stories The Sun has run that will have had the bigger impact.

The latest declaration would have a "symbolic importance": "It will certainly make David Cameron and the 'Remain' campaigners even more jittery about the outcome."

 

 

The Sun remains one of News Corp's most prized British possessions, the best-selling daily newspaper in the UK, still shifting 1.8 millions copies in an ailing print industry.

As Greenslade put it, the tabloid's anti-EU position has been known for decades, but so has the attitude of the man ultimately calling the shots, Australian-born News Corp founder Rupert Murdoch. That was, until a shocking about-face seemed to be on the cards last year.

A Mail on Sunday article from May 2015 confidently "revealed" that Murdoch had made a "spectacular U-turn" and had abandoned "plans to campaign for Britain to withdraw from the EU."

The article argued that Murdoch felt Britian would suffer in the event of a 'Leave' vote: "Mr Murdoch’s view of the EU has mellowed in recent years. He is no fan of bureaucratic blocs but if it comes down to a choice between Britain getting out of the EU or staying, he would stay in." Surprising, but possible, until Murdoch took to Twitter:

So that was that. This year, his tweets have confirmed where his allegiances lie, with compliments for British Conservative MP and pro-Brexit figurehead Michael Gove and digs at the British government's campaign:

The EU has been a pet peeve of his for years. Former British PM John Major told the Leveson Inquiry that Murdoch had pressured him over Europe back in 1997, saying that his papers (which includes The Times) would oppose the then-Tory government if Major did not alter his policy.

Major said:  

"So far as I recall he made no mention of editorial independence, but referred to all his papers as 'we'."

The incoming Labour government also felt his breath on its neck, with Murdoch himself admitted that the only heated discussions he had with Tony Blair during his time as PM were over "Europe".

So what's in it for Rupert?

Inevitably, it comes down to power. While Murdoch continues to wield a huge amount of influence and – as evidenced above – has the ear of the most powerful policy-makers in the UK, Europe is a different story.

Expansion of News Corp into the Continent is attractive, but stymied by regulation. The less influence Brussels has in places where Murdoch does business, the better for him.

These words from an Anthony Hilton column for the Evening Standard might just sum it up:  

"I once asked Rupert Murdoch why he was so opposed to the European Union. 'That’s easy,' he replied. 'When I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice."