Sliding flaws: EU publishes misleading Brexit chart

An EU chart appears to misrepresent the U.K.'s scale when it comes to trade | Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

Sliding flaws: EU publishes misleading Brexit chart

Chart appears to exaggerate the size of UK trade with the EU compared to Japan’s.


2/19/20, 7:21 PM CET

Updated 2/19/20, 7:24 PM CET

Brussels’ latest salvo in a war of slides with the U.K. could backfire.

The European Commission on Wednesday published new slides to hit back at the U.K. government’s insistence that it should be offered the same deal as Canada, an included chart that appears to be misleading.

In the presentation, titled “U.K. is different from other trade partners,” the Commission made the point that Britain’s trade with the EU is larger than that of Canada, Japan, Switzerland or Korea.

The new chart featured bubbles that it said represented each country’s “trade volume with the EU.” But the U.K. bubble appeared much bigger than the trade volumes would allow for.

POLITICO asked the Commission for the underlying figures, which underscored the problem.

Take Japan: Its trade volume with the EU stood at some €117.1 billion in 2018, compared with the U.K.’s €516.6 billion. That means the bubble representing the U.K. should be about 4.4 times larger than the bubble representing Japan. On the EU’s chart, the U.K. bubble is more than 16 times larger than Japan’s.

David Spiegelhalter, a professor of the public understanding of risk at Cambridge University, said the Commission’s approach was “indefensible”

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