The UK’s Brexit Department is facing online ridicule after Tweeting “embarrassing” graphs on trade and economic growth that suggest the benefits of staying in the EU.
The Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) came under fire after it posted two images on the growing trade since the Second World War and on trade with emerging markets.
Far from promoting the case for life after Brexit, the graphics instead underlined how heavily dependent Britain is on trade links and deals with the 27 EU states, critics said.
And Labour’s elections chief Andrew Gwynne pounced on the row to declare that the new department – which was formed under Brexit Secretary David Davis’s leadership last July – was “out of its depth”.
DExEU’s official Twitter account ran into trouble when it used this trade graph.
Within minutes, it was pointed out that the illustration failed to include the fact that the UK joined the the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973 - and that a longer timeframe from 1900 showed the real impact.
Others highlighted that trade also rose at the point when the EU’s single market, which was strongly supported by former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, started in 1993.
Yet others were more withering.
The Brexit department’s second tweet on ‘emerging markets’ was also subjected to some similarly harsh responses.
Sam Ashworth-Hayes of the InFacts website, which puts the case for remaining in the EU, tweeted a breakdown.
Tweeters were pretty savage about the prospects of a huge boost in trade with Lichtenstein too.
Andrew Gwynne, Shadow minister and Labours’ Elections Chair told HuffPost UK: “This is another embarrassing slip up for Theresa May and shows a government out of their depth.
“Labour is fighting the Tories’ ideologically driven Hard Brexit - a plan that would be disastrous for our economy.
“These posts do little to imbue trust in the competency of a department that is overseeing such important negotiations. I hope their negotiating strategy is better than their social media strategy.”
Theresa May triggered the formal Brexit process last month as she started the two-year ‘Article 50’ talks with Brussels and the other EU states on the UK’s withdrawal.
EU leaders are due to meet later this month to decide their own priorities and timetable for the negotiations, which are set to end with Britain finally quitting the bloc in 2019.
Some Twitter users leaped to the defence of the Department’s embattled Twitter account, declaring – as Thatcher had done – that until the single market, the EU talked about free trade but did little to promote it.
Some also linked to a piece by Brexit economist Tim Congdon, which claimed that the UK was more open to trade in the 1950s than in the 1990s.
A Government source told HuffPost UK: “This material was all published in the government’s White Paper earlier this year. As ministers said then and since, the UK is in a position of strength as it seeks a deep and special partnership with the EU and prepares to be able to sign new trade deals with emerging markets.”
It emerged this week that Davis will try to keep two of the EU’s most prestigious agencies in London even after Brexit.
The European Medicines Agency and the European Banking Authority are based in Canary Wharf and employ more than a thousand staff, but a bidding war has started among other European capitals to host them.