An Express.co.uk headline claiming the UK would “build a trading zone ten times bigger than the EU” following the Brexit vote has been ruled inaccurate by press regulator IPSO.
The headline related to an exclusive story reporting Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox’s (pictured) claim that the UK had ten trade deals lined up with “economic powerhouses” around the world.
The headline appeared online on 17 July, 2016, less than a month after the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.
Clare Race complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) that the headline breached the accuracy clause in the Editor’s Code of Practice.
“The complainant said that the online headline inaccurately suggested that the UK would enjoy 10 times the level of trade it currently enjoys with the EU,” said IPSO.
“She said that the EU’s level of economic output represented a significant portion of the world’s total economic output, and that it was therefore impossible for the UK to find ten times this level of trade with the countries referred to in the article.”
The newspaper said that according to Fox, the UK had ten trade deals lined up with other countries, including India, China, Japan, Australia, Canada, America, Singapore, Malaysia and Brazil.
It said that the combined population of these countries was 3.391 billion people, and that the population of the EU – excluding the UK – was 444 million.
But it agreed the online headline was inaccurate and amended it to read: “UK has 10 trade deals lined up with economic powerhouses”. It also published a correction at the foot of the article.
IPSO’s complaints committee ruled the headline had been inaccurate and upheld the complaint under clause one of the Editor’s Code of Practice.
The committee said the article did not make clear the basis on which the online headline claim, that the UK would build a trading zone that is “ten times bigger” than the EU, could be made.
According to IPSO, the newspaper accepted that the total population of the countries it had listed amounted to approximately 7.6 – rather than ten – times the population of the EU.
The committee said the initial claim was unsupported by the text of the article and the newspaper had not been able to provide a convincing explanation.
It added: “The newspaper had promptly amended the online headline to remove the inaccuracy, and published a correction beneath the article documenting the change, and making the correct position clear. It appeared in a sufficiently prominent location.”
*This article originally said the complaint was made against the Sunday Express, following an error on IPSO’s part.