13349-16 Various v Daily Express

    • Date complaint received

      6th April 2017

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 13349-16 Various v Daily Express

Summary of Complaint

1. The Independent Press Standards Organisation received a number of complaints that the Daily Express breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “BRITONS WANT TOTAL EU EXIT”, published on 17 November 2016.

2. The article was a report into the findings of a poll undertaken by NatCen Social Research. The article’s sub headline stated that “70% demand strict limits on migrants. Seven out of 10 people want Britain to make a clean break with Brussels”. The article also reported that “nine out of 10 people want free trade with EU nations to continue after Brexit” and that “the poll revealed” there was “massive support for a decisive break while retaining trade links”. 

3. IPSO received four complaints about the article, all of which raised similar issues. The complainants said that the article was a misleading report of the research poll’s findings. They said that the article’s headline suggested that almost all of Briton’s want an end to every aspect of the current relationship with the European Union. They said that, given that the poll found that more than 90% of voters wanted to remain in the single market, it was inaccurate for the article to report that Britons want a “total” exit“ or a “clean break” from the European Union.

4. The newspaper did not accept any breach of the Code. It said that the meaning of “total EU exit” in the headline, was clarified by the sub headline. It said that an EU member state cannot have strict limits on migrants, which would conflict with free movement, and also remain a member of the single market. It said it was therefore entitled to use the phrase “clean break” to describe a new relationship with the EU that would restore full immigration controls, outside of the single market.

5. It further said that the term “clean break” represented a decisive detachment from the EU in the form of a “hard Brexit”, in contrast to a “soft Brexit”, where Britain would remain a member of the single market and therefore would be bound by rules on free movement of EU citizens. On that basis, the newspaper said it was entitled to characterise 70% of people wanting strict limits on migrants, as demonstrating that Britons want a “total” exit or “clean break” from the EU.

6. The newspaper said that the 90% figure was based on a question in the poll, which asked whether respondents were in favour or against free trade with EU countries, and made no mention of the phrase “single market”. It said continuing free trade between the UK and EU countries after Brexit, is not the same as the UK continuing its membership of the single market. It said that the poll suggested that support for continued membership of the single market is less than 90%; in response to “should the UK allow people from EU freely to come and live and work in return for allowing UK firms to trade freely with the EU?”, 49% said the UK definitely or probably should agree to freedom of movement if that was necessary to securing continued free trade, 51% said that it definitely or probably should not.

Relevant Code Provisions

7. 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.

iii. A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.

Findings of the Complaints Committee

8. The Committee acknowledged that the use of the phrase “total exit” in the headline, created some ambiguity as to how, and on what terms, the respondents wanted the UK’s exit from the EU to take place. However it acknowledged, as was the newspaper’s position, that what constitutes a “hard” or “soft” Brexit, is a matter of debate. In that context, the newspaper was entitled to characterise the poll’s finding that 70% want strict limits on migrants, as wanting a “total exit” or “clean break” with the EU. This was not rendered misleading by the finding that nine out of 10 people want free trade with EU nations to continue after Brexit, where this finding was reported in the article and where the poll and the article distinguished between the terms “single market” and “free trade”. Given this, and in light of the newspaper’s interpretation of the findings of the Poll, the Committee did not consider that the headline was significantly misleading. There was no breach of Clause 1.


9. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required


Date complaint received: 17/11/2016
Date decision issued: 13/03/2017