International Fact-Checking Day

On April 2nd, it was International Fact-Checking Day.

Let’s celebrate by checking various claims made in British politics.

Claim: The overwhelming majority of the EU-27 have no steel industry to protect.

Rating: False

Reasoning: Andrew Bridgen MP (Conservative, North West Leicestershire) claimed that the “overwhelming majority” of EU countries have no steel industry.

Full Fact looked at crude steel production, finding seven EU member states produce more steel than the UK in 2017. The UK produces about 4% of the EU’s total crude steel.

Claim: In the 2017 General Election, Welsh Labour “missed the mood of the country fully”.

Rating: False

Reasoning: In The Guardian, Dawn Foster suggested that — by distancing itself from the national party — Welsh Labour had “missed the mood of the country fully”.

Of the 12 regions in Great Britain, Wales had the fourth highest swing from the Conservatives to Labour in the 2017 General Election. Additionally, Wales had the highest absolute increase in Labour vote share of any GB region.

Claim: Leaving the European Union without any deal would have the support of the overwhelming majority of the public.

Rating: False

Reasoning: Owen Paterson MP (Conservative, North Shropshire) suggested that leaving the EU “without a withdrawal agreement” would have the support of the “overwhelming majority” of Conservative MPs, the Conservative party, and the public. These three claims should be examined.

A ‘No Deal’ exit from the EU does not appear to have backing of the “overwhelming majority” of Conservative MPs. Exactly half (157 of 314) of Conservative MPs supported such a motion during indicative votes.

Leaving with no deal has a majority among Conservative members, according to YouGov polling in December 2018, commissioned by the ESRC Party Members project.

Leaving with no deal is the single most popular course of action among 2016 Leave voters, but does not have majority support among the public. In a three-way hypothetical referendum question, ‘No Deal’ is usually placed second below ‘Remain’, with ‘Deal’ finishing third. In a direct contest between Deal and No Deal, the negotiated deal usually has a small lead.

More support for leaving the EU without any deal is recorded, when the question starts with ‘the EU does not change its position on the Brexit deal’, or options are whittled down. As Prof Curtice notes:

Trouble is, asking such a question invites respondents to express their views about how the EU have handled the negotiations (about which many voters are critical) rather than simply their view of the merits of no deal.

Claim: Non-EU immigration is twice as high as EU immigration into the UK.

Rating: False

Reasoning: For the year ending September 2018, the central long-term international immigration estimates were 340,000 non-EU citizens and 204,000 EU citizens.

Immigration statistics are based on the International Passenger Survey, and these estimates are subject to uncertainty. Long-term immigration means the person intends to stay in the country for a year or more.

Since the 2016 EU referendum, non-EU immigration has risen, whilst EU emigration has increased coupled with EU immigration falling.

This blog looks at the use of statistics in Britain and beyond. It is written by RSS Statistical Ambassador and Chartered Statistician @anthonybmasters.

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