A graphic about what actions have been made by the European Union and the UK, respectively, since negotiations for the UK to leave the EU began on 29 March 2017 has been shared at least 74,000 times on Facebook. The infographic makes twelve separate claims; FactCheckNI has fact checked each of them. We interpret “has” with reference to the date of action delivered, not announced.
- “Ended roaming charges”: ACCURATE
Since 15 June 2017, roaming charges in the European Union have not applied. Every existing or new contract that includes roaming services changed to what it termed a “roam like at home” contract. New EU rules now cover data services, voice calls and SMS.
- “Banned hidden charges for paying online”: ACCURATE
As of 13 January 2018, the Directive — known as the Payment Services Directive (PSD2) — makes it illegal for any business to charge extra for using a debit or credit card in the EU, among other features.
3.“Given free rail travel to teenagers”: ACCURATE
Since June 2018, almost 50,000 18-year-olds have been awarded a travel. Discover EU is described as “an initiative of the European Union giving you the opportunity to travel around Europe”. Another round will take place around November 2019.
- “Funded thousands in medical research”: UNSUBSTANTIATED. Unclear whether “thousands” refers to persons, projects, or money.
It’s not clear whether the claim is about thousands of Pounds or Euros being invested, thousands of projects funded, or thousands of project participants (researchers). A BMA briefing document (p. 5) on the potential consequences of the UK’s exit from the EU on medical research cites a report by Technopolis Group, and states that between January 2007 and March 2017, the UK received £1.2 billion for health-related projects from EU funding programmes; the UK was involved in 1,000 EU health-related projects, involving over 2,300 participations.
- “Protected workers’ mobility rights”: INACCURATE. The Directive does not need to be applied until 30 July 2020.
On 28 June 2018, the EU adopted the revision of the posting of workers directive. The updated Directive seeks to boost the rights of workers who are temporarily sent from their regular place of work in a host EU member state to another place of work. Member states shall apply the Directive by 30 July 2020.
- “Adopted the Anti-Tax Avoidance Directive”: ACCURATE
From 1 January 2019, the Anti-Tax Avoidance Directive, which contains five legally-binding anti-abuse measures to create a minimum level of protection against corporate tax avoidance throughout the EU, takes effect in member states.
- “Improved food standards”: ACCURATE
As of 1 January 2018, the new Regulation (EU) 2015/2283 on novel foods was applicable. The Regulation improves conditions so that food businesses can bring new and innovative foods to the EU market, while maintaining a high level of food safety for European consumers.
- “Reached trade deals with Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand”: ACCURATE WITH CONSIDERATION. Trade deals have been reached with Japan, Singapore and Vietnam. An “agreement in principle” exists with Mexico. The EU is currently in trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand.
- Japan: The EU and Japan’s Economic Partnership Agreement came into force on 1 February 2019. EU firms already exported over €58bn in goods and €28bn in services to Japan every year.
- Singapore: The EU has negotiated trade and investment agreements with Singapore, signed on 19 October 2018. Over 10,000 European companies have set up their offices/regional hubs in Singapore.
- Vietnam: The European Union and Vietnam signed a Trade Agreement and an Investment Protection Agreement on 30 June 2019.
- Mexico: The EU and Mexico reached an “agreement in principle” on the trade part of a modernised EU-Mexico Global Agreement in April 2018. The new agreement will replace a previous agreement between the EU and Mexico from 2000.
The EU is currently in trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand:
- Australia: On 22 May 2018, the Council of the European Union adopted the decision authorising the opening of negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement between the EU and Australia.
- New Zealand: On 21 June 2018, the European Union launched negotiations for a comprehensive and ambitious trade agreement with New Zealand.
- “Got through three Brexit ministers”: ACCURATE
There have been three Secretaries of States for Exiting the European Union:
- Stephen Barclay MP (2019-current)
- Dominic Raab (2018-2018)
- David Davis (2016-2018)
- “Changed UK passports to blue”: INACCURATE. The UK announced the policy change on 22 December 2017. However, UK passports will remain burgundy until a new blue design is phased in from “late 2019”.
On 22 December 2017, UK Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis announced that the British passport will return to its former blue and gold design, “after we have left the European Union in 2019”. The new blue passport design will start being issued from late 2019. In the meantime, Burgundy passports that no longer include the words “European Union” on the front cover will be introduced from 30 March 2019.
- Spent £66 billion on a failed Brexit: INACCURATE. The research identifies a cumulative reduction of economic activity of £66 billion, but this is an economic opportunity cost, not actual expenditure. FactCheckNI are unable to assess what constitutes a “failed Brexit”.
The S&P Global ratings, authored by Boris Glass in April 2019, stated:
“Our analysis suggests that the economy actually moved onto a lower growth trajectory almost immediately after the referendum. Moreover, we estimate that, by the end of 2018, the size of the U.K. economy was already between 2.4% and 3.4% smaller than it could have been otherwise. Our central estimate is that GDP was 2.9% lower at the end of 2018. That translates into average forgone economic activity of £6.6 billion (in 2016 prices) in each of the 10 quarters since the referendum.”
This translates to £66 billion.
- “Given MPs two payrises”: ACCURATE WITH CONSIDERATION. There have been three pay increases for MPs since 2017.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) is responsible for determining and paying Members’ salaries. Annual increases are in line with changes in public sector average earnings (not whole economy average earnings). From 1 April 2017, there have been three pay increases:
- April 2017: MP pay was increased to £76,011
- April 2018: MP pay was increased to £77,379
- April 2019: MP pay was increased to £79,468
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