Regulator says Boris Johnson wrong to claim no-deal Brexit was ‘UK’s preferred option’

PUBLISHED: 13:17 12 April 2019 | UPDATED: 13:54 12 April 2019

Boris Johnson speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative Party annual conference at the International Convention Centre, Birmingham. Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA.

Boris Johnson speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative Party annual conference at the International Convention Centre, Birmingham. Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

The Telegraph has argued that Boris Johnson’s newspaper columns are not “serious” pieces of writing, after the regulator upheld a complaint about the inaccuracies.

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The Tory MP claimed in an opinion piece in the Telegraph at the start of this year, titled “The British people won’t be scared into backing a woeful Brexit deal nobody voted for”, that no-deal Brexit was the UK’s preferred option.

But IPSO said the article, published on January 7, failed to provide accurate information with “a basis in fact” and ordered a correction to be printed.

The Daily Telegraph defended the piece as “clearly comically polemical” which could not be “reasonably read as a serious, empirical, in-depth analysis of hard factual matters”.

The newspaper claimed various combinations of results in four polls reflected support for a no-deal scenario over Theresa May’s deal or remaining in the EU, and it was “inevitable” that subjectivity would affect interpretation of results.

But the complainant said that no poll available at the time of publication, or provided by the publication in defence of this statement, supported these claims.

And the IPSO panel said the results of opinion polls referenced by the newspaper did not show support for no deal and this was “a significant inaccuracy”.

They said: “(The newspaper) had construed the polls as signalling support for a no-deal, when in fact this was the result of the publication either amalgamating several findings together, or interpreting an option beyond what was set out by the poll as being a finding in support of a no-deal Brexit.

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“This represented a failure to take care over the accuracy of the article ... it was a significant inaccuracy, because it misrepresented polling information.”

A correction will appear in the newspaper’s established Corrections and Clarifications column and also as a footnote to the online article.

It follows the Sunday Telegraph’s front page claims that the public were “swinging behind” no-deal in a poll, which actually indicated a majority backed Remain.

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