Kemi Badenoch’s comments on UK manufacturing success use data from 2021

7 December 2023
What was claimed

This year Britain overtook France to become the 8th largest manufacturing nation.

Our verdict

The figures, while published in September this year, actually refer to 2021. More recent alternative data suggests that manufacturing in the UK has since fallen to slightly below that of France.

This year, we overtook France to become the 8th largest manufacturing nation.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter) published on 26 November, business secretary  Kemi Badenoch wrote: “This year, we overtook France to become the 8th largest manufacturing nation.”

She added that this was proof that British manufacturing was an “unambiguous success story”. 

In a government press release published on the same day Ms Badenoch said: “The UK recently overtook France to become the world’s eighth largest manufacturing economy.”

A similar claim was made by Damian Green MP while speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Programme, Westminster Hour, also on the same day. Talking about the strength of the British economy he said: “One of the most significant straws in the wind, which I only picked up on today, is that we have now overtaken France as a manufacturing economy.”

These claims are missing important context, as the data referred to relates to 2021, not the current year, as Ms Badenoch could be seen to imply.

More recent data, from another source, shows that UK manufacturing declined during 2022, putting France marginally ahead once more. 

Data should be presented in a clear way by politicians in order to minimise the risk of it being misinterpreted or people being misled by a claim. The use of official information without appropriate context and caveats can damage public trust in both official information and politicians.

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Data sources

Ms Badenoch’s statement is based on figures released in September by Make UK, an organisation that represents manufacturers in the United Kingdom. 

A spokesperson for Make UK confirmed to Full Fact that its data referred to manufacturing during 2021. This was widely reported at the time. They said their data is sourced from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and is always two years behind. New statistics are released by Make UK each September. 

The same information was posted on X by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in October, but his tweet made clear that the data was from 2021. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Trade and Business told us: “‘This year’ refers to the fact that the Make UK analysis was released in September 2023 and the report is called ‘The Manufacturing Report Card 2023.’ 

“The data shows that in 2021, (the latest year for which global comparisons are available) UK manufacturing output was worth some $272bn, compared to $262bn for France, but behind Italy ($314bn).”

While Make UK will not release comparisons for the current year until September 2025, other, more recent sources of data suggest that the UK may no longer be ahead of France in manufacturing. 

Figures compiled by the World Bank tally with the 2021 figures issued by Make UK, with UK manufacturing during that year valued at $271.5 billion compared to $262.6 billion for France. 

However, the World Bank has also published data for 2022. This shows a drop in manufacturing in the UK down to a value of $259.3 billion while France is very slightly higher at $259.4 billion. This means that during 2022, UK manufacturing output fell just behind that of France, putting the country back into 9th place worldwide. 

Ms Badenoch and Mr Green have both been approached for comment. 

Image courtesy of the Houses of Parliament

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After we published this fact check, we contacted Kemi Badenoch to request a correction regarding her claims. We also contacted Damian Green.

We are waiting to hear back from them.

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