Express overstates Brexit trade deal value, again

18 January 2022
What was claimed

Since Brexit, Britain has been able to strike new free trade deals with 70 countries worth over £760 billion.

Our verdict

£760 billion is the total value of bilateral trade with these countries, not the additional value of the trade deals. Many of these deals were rolled over from when the UK was a member of the EU.

What was claimed

Membership of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) will mean tariffs are slashed on 99.9% of UK exports.

Our verdict

85.4% of UK exports are already eligible for tariff-free access to the bloc. Joining the CPTPP would increase this to 99.9% of goods.

What was claimed

Joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) has the potential to boost GDP by up to £20 billion a year.

Our verdict

This is based on government modelling which assumes the US also joins the bloc, which it has indicated it will not do, at least at the moment.

“Since Brexit, Britain has been able to strike new free trade deals with 70 countries worth over £760billion, according to the Government.”

The Express has repeated a misleading claim about Britain’s trade deals, despite having already amended a previous article which made the same claim, after being approached by Full Fact. 

The Express wrote: “Since Brexit, Britain has been able to strike new free trade deals with 70 countries worth over £760billion, according to the Government.”

As we previously reported, this figure refers to the total value of the trade in 2020 between the UK and countries with which it has a trade deal—not the additional value of the deals themselves, which will be much less.

Many of these essentially rolled over existing trade deals the UK had as a member of the EU. 

Full Fact contacted the Express after it first published this claim in November 2021, and it issued a clarification.

The article also makes several  other misleading claims about trade. 

It claims that a report from the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) says that if the UK joined the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), tariffs would be slashed on 99.9% of goods.

The CPTPP is a trade bloc of 11 countries which counts Japan, Mexico, Canada and Australia among its members. 

However, the CPS noted that 85.4% of UK exports are already eligible for tariff-free access to the bloc. So joining the CPTPP would result in tariffs being lowered on 14.5% not 99.9% of goods.   

The Express also reported that joining the CPTPP has the “potential to boost GDP by up to £20billion a year.”

What it doesn’t explain is that this figure is based on government analysis which assumes South Korea, Thailand and the United States also joined the CPTPP. The US joining would provide by far the most substantial boost to UK GDP.

While Thailand and South Korea have indicated they wish to join the CPTPP, in November, US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said the CPTPP “is not something that America would be part of at this time”

If just South Korea and Thailand joined the CPTPP, the government estimates the UK’s annual GDP could increase by £5.5 billion in the long run from also joining the bloc. 

By comparison, the UK’s GDP in 2020 was around £2 trillion

Image courtesy of Guillaume Bolduc, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons.

We took a stand for good information.

After we published this fact check, we contacted the Express to request a correction regarding these claims.

The Express made some of the changes we suggested.

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