Resolution statement 03065-16 InFacts v Sunday Express

    • Date complaint received

      17th November 2016

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Complaint 03065-16 InFacts v Sunday Express

Summary of complaint:

1. InFacts complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Sunday Express breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “EU seeks control of our coasts”, published on 6 March 2016.

2. The article reported that the EU had “drawn up plans to seize control of the British coastguard service” by creating a Europe-wide border force. It said that this would allow the EU to “take control of the British coastguard” and that while the British government had said it was “fighting the plan”, the EU proposal would allow the “1,000-strong agency to prowl Britain’s coastline and ‘intervene directly’ if it felt its borders were under threat”. It said that the EU could “also deploy the service […] ‘even without the approval of the country concerned’”. The article included a statement from a spokesperson from the UK Chamber of Shipping who said that the European Commission is “using the migration crisis to create a new agency that will be massively expensive and overambitious”, and from Immigration Minister James Brokenshire who said that, since Britain is not part of the Schengen area, it would not be part of the European Border and Coast Guard. 

3. The complainant said that the EU proposal only applied to Schengen countries. Britain is not part of the Schengen zone, and it was therefore inaccurate to state that the EU had plans to control British coasts or its coastguard service, and to suggest that the European Border and Coast Guard could “intervene directly” on the British coastline – without Britain’s approval – if it felt its borders were under threat. The quotation at the end of the article from the Immigration Minister did not cure the misleading impression the article had given about the potential power of the European Border and Coast Guard.

4. The newspaper said the article had been written after it had been contacted by the UK Chamber of Shipping which had expressed concerns about the proposal for a common EU coastguard. It said that, while the UK normally opts out of provisions relating to a common EU coastguard, there was a procedure by which it could opt back in, and that no final decision had yet been made. It said that MEPs had confirmed they had been waiting for the UK to make a final decision, but that it had not yet happened. Further, the Home Office had also confirmed that negotiations were ongoing.

Relevant Code provisions:

5. Clause 1 (Accuracy)

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.

Mediated outcome:

6. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.

7. After further correspondence, the newspaper offered to publish the following correction in print.

EU seeks to control our coasts – correction

In our article headlined “EU Seeks Control Of Our Coasts” we stated that, despite British objections, the EU Border agency would be able to prowl Britain’s coastline and ‘intervene directly’ if it felt that its borders were under threat. However this direct intervention applied to Schengen Member States, the Schengen associated states and those EU Member States which have not yet acceded to the Schengen area but are bound to do so. It did not apply to the UK. The ‘right to intervene’ proposal was later dropped by Brussels and replaced with a watered down version in June following objections over sovereignty from Schengen area states.

8. It offered to publish a substantively similar correction online, and to remove the original article from its website.

9. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.

10. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.

Date complaint received: 19/05/2016
Date complaint concluded: 04/10/2016