Our key fact checks of Plaid Cymru, the Green Party and the Brexit Party in the 2019 general election campaign

11 December 2019

With the 2019 General Election just a day away, we’re rounding up the work we’ve done over the campaign in a series of easy-to-read guides to help you get the facts you need. 

This article summarises our fact checks of claims made by Plaid Cymru, the Green Party and the Brexit Party. You can find equivalent articles rounding up our fact checks of claims from the Conservative Party here, of the Labour Party here, and of the Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats here. (We’d recommend our colleagues at FactCheckNI for fact checks of Northern Irish politics.)

In our work this election, we’ve checked a range of the most important claims from all parties, but we have focused particularly on claims were we suspected there may be inaccuracy or the potential to mislead. All parties have also made accurate claims during this election, which we may not have written about, so we wouldn’t suggest using these roundups to judge how honest any party is overall. At the same time, just because we haven’t written about a particular claim doesn’t mean we’ve verified it as true.

Please follow the links to read our full length fact checks for each of these claims: these include links to all the sources we’ve used (so you can check our work for yourself).

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Plaid Cymru

One million species on the planet—one in seven species—are facing extinction

This is close to correct, according to some estimates, which say that out of an estimated eight million species, one million plant and animal species are currently threatened with extinction. Another study by conservation experts estimates that, within Great Britain, 15% of animal, plant and fungi species (very close to one in seven) are threatened with extinction. 

A&E waiting times in Wales are at their worst recorded level

75.3% of attendenances saw patients wait less than four hours in A&Es across Wales in October, the lowest proportion on record. In the same month 93.9% of attendances saw patients wait less than 12 hours, that’s a slight improvement from the September figure (which was a record low).

Support for Welsh independence is “up to 30% in many opinion polls”.

We’ve found only one poll where around 30% of people appeared to support independence. The problem is that the question asked was whether Wales should become independent, if it meant Wales alone could remain a member of the EU. When respondents were asked “Should Wales be an independent country?” if a referendum were held tomorrow, 24% of people said yes. 52% said no, and the remaining 23% selected either “don’t know”, “would not vote” or refused to answer.

Wales has 11% of the railway track of the UK but only 1% of government investment

The research behind this looks at England and Wales directly, and while it's correct that roughly 11% of the network lies in Wales, the 1% figure only refers to a subset of investment spending. When you consider other spending, Wales's share is higher.

The Green Party 

“Our buses have been cut back by nearly half”

This is referring to a report which found that local council spending in England and Wales on bus services had fallen by 45% from 2010/11 to 2017/18 (without adjusting for inflation). But this ignores a larger chunk of government spending which goes directly to commercial bus companies. That fell by 19% across England (excluding London) between 2009/10 and 2018/19.

We have “4.5 million economically inactive people”

People over 16 are either economically active meaning that they work or they’ve been looking for work in the past for weeks and can start within the next two, or they are economically inactive meaning that they haven’t been looking for work or can’t start within the next fortnight. There were 19.3 million economically inactive people in July to September 2019. 

It is likely that the claim was repeating figures from a recent OECD and Centre for Cities report which estimated that there are 4.5 million people who are either officially unemployed or whose unemployment is hidden and are being classed as economically inactive but who may be willing to work. It is contentious to include these people in the number of people available to start work.

“Our century is only 19 years old, but already we have had 18 of the hottest years on record. This summer saw the hottest day ever recorded in the UK, and the hottest month ever recorded across the world.”

According to data from NASA, 18 of the 19 hottest years on record have happened since 2001 (the only other ‘hottest year’ that didn’t happen this century was in 1998). The highest temperature ever recorded in the UK was recorded in Cambridge on 25 July 2019 (a high of 38.7 degrees celsius). According to the EU’s Copernicus Climate Institute, July 2019 was also “marginally” the warmest month ever recorded globally.

“15% of people… take 70% of flights.”

This claim  is one that we’ve fact checked before but was repeated in the Green Manifesto. This is a reasonable estimate based on the data we have (which is from an analysis of 2014 government survey data by campaigners for a frequent flyer levy). The data doesn’t seem to have been updated since then.

Boris Johnson’s deal would not get Brexit done and would be “the start of years more wrangling”.

Getting Brexit done is a process, not an event. It’s correct that the UK will stop being a member of the EU if Boris Johnson’s deal passes Parliament and the country leaves on January 31 2020, which is just over eight weeks away. It is not unreasonable to describe that as getting Brexit “done”. But it will not be the end of the Brexit process.

The Brexit Party

The European Court of Justice would be the ultimate arbiter of disputes, making binding rulings

The UK and EU haven’t started negotiating the free trade agreement yet so we can’t know for sure. Both sides have stated that under a future trade agreement the court would only arbitrate disputes on EU law that couldn’t be resolved by a joint committee.

That means that the European Court of Justice’s role in settling disputes under a future trade deal is likely to depend on how much EU law is incorporated into that trade deal.

The Political Declaration is legally binding

The claim that the political declaration (which sets out the intentions of the UK and EU regarding the future relationship) is legally binding is not correct. Article 184 of the Withdrawal Agreement does not make the political declaration legally binding; it says the UK and the EU “shall use their best endeavours, in good faith and in full respect of their respective legal orders” to negotiate “expeditiously” the agreements referred to in the Political Declaration. This does not translate to a legal and enforceable commitment.

“As part of the European Union we've put these barriers up against African countries and many others from selling their produce to us”

Nigel Farage claimed that the EU has put up trade barriers with African countries. However, the majority of African countries have no tariffs on exports to the EU, although a handful do face some tariffs. Of the 55 African countries, we’ve counted 44 which don’t seem to face any tariffs on goods under EU scheme designed to support the least developed countries.

“We know that two-thirds of British businesses do not make a profit over £10,000 every year but are nonetheless subjected to corporation tax.”

This is incorrect. It seems to have confused corporation tax liability with profits. Two-thirds of limited companies have corporation tax liabilities of up to £10,000, but fewer than half of British businesses make a profit of less than £10,000. 

The Brexit Party correctly stated this statistic in their manifesto: “one million companies—some 66% of the total number—pay less than £10,000.”

“Unlimited immigration in the last 15 years has depressed wages”

Earnings have stagnated, if not fallen in real terms since 2010, and remain below their 2008 peak before the recession. There are lots of things that affect wages. The evidence suggests that immigration hasn’t had a big effect.

The impact of immigration on wages depends on who you are, where you are, and what you do. It’s not one story.

Studies broadly agree that the overall impact of immigration on wages is small, changing wages by less than 1%, and probably short term. The people who lose out are most likely to be people on low wages, while people on medium or high wages might gain.

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