Complaint to IPSO about the Express

I have just received a response to my complaint to IPSO about the Daily Express article that wrongly placed the blame for supermarket price rises on the EU (I have placed their e-mail at the end of this post).

IPSO appears to have totally ignored the main thrust of my complaint which was that the prices rises have only arisen as a result of Brexit and that therefore it was both inaccurate and misleading for the Express to infer that the price rises were caused by the EU as they did.

I have therefore asked for the matter to be referred to their complaints committee for review on those grounds and would urge anyone else who has received the e-mail to do the same.

You can do so by simply replying to their e-mail asking them to do so.

My Reply to IPSO

Dear Molly,

Sorry but this is not acceptable and I wish this matter to be referred to the Complaints Committee.

The headline in the Express clearly stated that ‘EU Red Tape’ was responsible for the price rises.

Whilst the changes could be characterised as red tape as you describe in your e-mail, to portray the EU as being responsible for the price rises, or indeed that red tape, in the way that the headline and story infers was both factually inaccurate and misleading as the additional red tape is only being encountered because of Brexit and would not have been encountered had the UK remained in the EU, something which is not reflected in the article in anyway.

The cause of the price rises reported in the story is therefore not the EU as claimed by the Express but rather Brexit itself. To attempt to lay the blame at the door of the EU is therefore both misleading and inaccurate.

It is this misleading and inaccurate placing of blame on the EU for those additional costs and that red tape that I and other are complaining about, not the use of the words ‘red tape’.

Kind Regards

Adam Poole

E Mail from IPSO

I write further to our earlier email regarding your complaint about an article headlined “Food shop alert as YOUR supermarket bill set to soar due to EU red tape” published by the on 2 June 2021.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) has received a number of complaints about this article. In order to be able to respond in a timely manner, we have prepared a response which addresses the various concerns raised by these complaints.

When IPSO receives a complaint, the Executive staff review it first to decide whether the complaint falls within our remit, and whether it raises a possible breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The Executive has now completed an assessment of these complaints.

The majority of complainants said the article breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code because they believed the article and headline suggested supermarket price rises are due to “EU red tape”, whereas they believed the higher prices are a result of Brexit. They also said the article implied that these rules were new, rather than existing rules the UK benefited from when it was in the EU. Several complainants suggested the article was inaccurate because import tariffs imposed by the UK are the reason for the increase in supermarket prices.

The article outlined the link between the UK’s predicted higher food prices and the changes to the UK’s trading circumstances, including through comments from the chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, who was quoted as saying “We will likely see these costs filter through in the second half of this year, and with the additional Brexit red-tape this autumn”. It also referred to “Boris Johnson’s new Brexit trade deal” and the “reintroduced customs checks on the trade of many products between the bloc and Britain”. It did not appear to be in dispute that new regulations would apply to the movement of goods; the publication was entitled to characterise regulations as “red tape”, and this provided adequate support to the headline. As such, we did not identify grounds to investigate a breach of Clause 1 on this point.

Some complainants believed that the article was inaccurate because it presented the EU as doing something “underhand or unfair”. The Editors’ Code of Practice makes clear the press has the right to be partisan, to give its own opinion and to campaign, as long as it takes care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, and to distinguish between comment, conjecture and fact. The article included critical commentary from several individuals about the changes and the decisions by the EU, including comments by the Brexit Minister Lord Frost describing them as “unsustainable”, and another comment describing it as “obscene and a disgrace that bureaucrats in Brussels are thinking there is something potentially illegal or wrong with M&S lasagne.” We understand that some complainants disagreed with these opinions, but the publication was entitled to report these critical comments, which were distinguished as such; this did not constitute grounds to investigate a possible breach of Clause 1.

A few complainants also said the article breached Clause 12 (Discrimination) because they considered it blamed Europeans for price rises instead of the UK Government, and stirred up anti-European feelings. Clause 12 is designed to protect specific individuals mentioned by the press from discrimination based on their race, colour, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation or any physical or mental illness or disability. It does not apply to groups or categories of people. Concerns that the article discriminated against Europeans in general did not relate to an individual. This meant that the terms of this Clause were not engaged..

A few complainants also said the article breached Clause 13 (Financial journalism) because they believed it suggested British people are financially disadvantaged due to new EU policy; despite the EU regulations pre-existing before Brexit. Clause 13 relates to journalists not using for their own, or other’s profit, financial information they receive in advance of its general publication. As complaints did not relate to this, the terms of the Clause were not engaged.

You are entitled to request that the Executive’s decision to reject your complaint be reviewed by IPSO’s Complaints Committee. To do so you will need to write to us in the next seven days, setting out the reasons why you believe the decision should be reviewed. Please note that we are unable to accept requests for review made seven days after the date of this email.

We would like to thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider and respond to the points you have raised.

Best wishes,

Molly Richards