Fake Britannia? – Clear Labeling Please

It is me or is the Union Jack now being banded about on products more than ever? In many ways the increased presence of this symbol of national pride is heart-warming but also to us, at the moment, it is causing great confusion in our ability to buy British.

As there is no consistent labeling for the origin of goods, one of the signs that we automatically look for is the presence of the Union Jack. However, this is regularly a red herring. All too often we pick up something in store on the basis of the flag being clearly part of the branding only to find that is has very little, if anything, to do with being of British origin. A clear example of this was a suit that we found recently with a Union Jack on the swing tag and the hanger. We were very excited about this as a possible British made off the peg suit but when we dug around for certain proof we found the words ‘Made in Romania’ (on a very small tag contained inside the breast pocket). There was nothing about this suit that was British, as far as we could see, but they were quite happy to use the Union Jack as an integral part of the branding. We are still confused as to why.

The use of the the national flag aside – then there is the confusing small print, denoting origin, to contend with. This is also often illogically positioned or misleading, if present at all.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a nationally/internationally recognised kite mark denoting British manufacture? It could be used by manufacturers as a symbol of their pride to have made their goods in this country and would highlight to consumers what this country is capable of producing.

I wonder how we make this happen?


  1. Michelle says

    I agree this is a confusing area. You have to really check carefully. And it depends upon your definition of buying British. For example, I like to buy British products but we also export British products. I have a couple of Boden blazers. They are made from British Wool BUT when I received them, on closer inspection made in Turkey. HOWEVER, I’m just pleased that someone is buying the British Wool – so feel I’ve still helped the British farmers in some way at least. It’s a minefield isn’t it, especially if you don’t have the luxury of time to check all the small print. We need an emblem that says ‘100% made in Britain’!

    • Oh dear ! Why did they do away with the Union Jack ? Looks more French than British 🙁 I’d have thought that British manufacturers would be proud to fly our flag, especially as it is so iconic and distinctive. It has to be one of the most recognised flags in the world, if not the most recognised.

      How very strange expecting us to replace it with something that could be used by any of the other 20+ nations around the world that also have red, white and blue flags…..all they have to do is alter the writing underneath.

      • Make it British says

        I totally agree with Lizzie, the Stoves logo does look more French than British.
        Aside from poor design, the other problem that i have with the Stoves logo is that no one is officially policing it. Stoves are attempting to make the logo official – they have even created a Wikipedia page for it http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Made_in_Britain_(campaign)- and on that page it states:

        “Companies must self-certify their eligibility and Stoves is in no way responsible for policing usage. Companies must also ensure that they comply to labelling criteria as laid out by their own industry body. In line with the consumer protection act, companies must be transparent in their claims and whenever possible display supporting information about their manufacturing process and policies – e.g. via a company website”.

        But it is the final line that really gives the game away:

        “Each application is currently checked by staff at Umpf, which is Stoves’ PR and social media agency.”

        What do PR staff know about manufacturing in order to approve all these applications? I rest my case

        • I thought the Stoves idea reminded me of something, other than the Tricolore, it’s incredibly similar to the University of London scarf, which is indeed very British but not as British as our flag.

  2. Oh how true, Stoves the cooker manufacturers tried this a while ago they had a colourful logo made kind of Union Jack colours in a tick with Made in Britain underneath, we proudly sport it on our website but it never really took of. The problem is it needs policing, and who can do that, really needs government (or an independent body) to support and police it. If not then ones needs to be set up and paid for by subscription but it gets expensive and the small firms who particularly benefit can’t afford it..! Sorry to sound negative as I actually think it’s a brilliant idea.
    Keep up the good work

  3. Yvonne says

    Good idea. Ask Mary Portas, I bet she would help.

  4. Marek Ujma says

    Mount a campaign on 38 degrees? http://38degrees.org.uk

  5. Andrew says

    … and of course one has to ask how much needs to be ‘Made in Britain’ for Britain to be classed as the country of origin? Example from personal experience about 10 years ago: all parts (including nuts and bolts) & assemblies shipped to UK, operators flown in from the same non-EU country to build and test the equipment concerned. On completion UK/Great Britain is the official country of origin.

  6. I totally agree with you regarding confusion with the flags on goods. One other thing though, (not to be too nit picky), the Union Flag is only known as the Union Jack when it is on the jackstaff on the bow of a Royal Navy Ship! Should be called Union Flag at all other times. Good luck with all that you are doing.

    • dazdread says

      I believe there was an act of parliament in 1928 to allow the Union flag to be correctly referred to as the Union Jack even when not flying from the Jack mast of a ship!

  7. LoLo – sorry to be picky about you being picky but…
    I think it would be worth contacting stoves http://www.stoves.co.uk/Made-in-Britain/
    to see whether they have made any recent progress. We need a concerted campaign rather than disparate efforts.

  8. At tinyeco.com we make everything here in England from materials made (as far as possible) in the UK. That is not as easy as it sounds. I am sick to the teeth of people passing off their goods as UK made when they aren’t.

    • Good for you, Tinyeco. I know just how hard, even impossible, it is to source everything in the UK.

      Andrew asked earlier, “and of course one has to ask how much needs to be ‘Made in Britain’ for Britain to be classed as the country of origin?” . Like Tinyeco, I make (sew) all my products in England, but have to admit that not all the fabrics and none of the threads I use are made in Britain, mostly because what I need isn’t actually made here.

      Therefore, is it ok, in your opinion, to still say that my finished products are Made in Britain ? I really do hope so, otherwise an awful lot of businesses will have to relabel as, “Assembled in Britain using Imported Components/Ingredients” or “Assembled in Britain using 42% British Components/Ingredients” (including some of the companies in this blog’s directory, I’m sure).

  9. I try to stock as much British made things as I can, but am really cheesed off by the Union Flag being stuck to things where even the label is printed abroad. Or a “British” company prints a catalogue, or wallpapers its web site with the flag when none of its products are produced in this country, including the Chinese printed catalogue. Clever wording like “We have been producing…….. for ……years” when they no longer produce anything, but subcontract to the Far East. I think it is a rip off, and deception.
    I remember a friend of mine when told by a rep from a British company that his samples were “their” new range of accessories, . After seeing that they were all foreign she threw them on the floor and said “Now show me your products”. but of course their were none, and she did not buy.

  10. You could look to what is happening in Australia. We have a triangle symbol with a kangaroo inside that indicates Australian made. There is sometimes an addition of and owned. There are government ads letting people know what it means and suggesting consumers look for the symbol to buy Australian. Having said that, we are not members of the EU, so are not caught by the rulers that appear to limit preferential treatment for home grown/made. When did wanted to support you own country, beyond the sporting field, become such a taboo topic?

  11. dazdread says

    Australia is not a member of the EU :o(

    I have refused to buy flags for the recent large events as they are all cheap Chinese items.

  12. Nicola Karn says

    I noticed with the Olympics last year, any company that wasn’t an official supporter of the games, would use the Union Flag and usually a comment like ‘A Great British Summer’; or something like that for a slogan to give the idea that they are linked or to support the coming events. A way to better promote their product. With regards to your clothing issue I would have taken it up with the sales staff at the time and asked why there is a Union Flag on the label and where the British link comes in. I’d doubt that they would have the answer, but they need it. With many people seeking (now more importantly then ever) what exactly it is that they are buying, surely this flag is misselling it may not be a potential health risk but it is false advertising if the flag is not supposed to be there.

  13. For the clothing makers among you who struggle to find British components (for want of a better word). Try contacting http://www.makeitbritish.co.uk or Private White VC http://www.privatewhitevc.com/ I only say this in case they know of suppliers you may not have come across.

    On the subject of faking it British, again I think it comes back to people power. The more people make these companies aware that it is unacceptable to try to mislead with the flag etc the more they will not want the bad press. As an added bonus it may actually encourage some of them to bring production back as they will soon realise the desire to buy real British made products is there.

  14. Anyone looking for genuine British Made flags and bunting by the way, here are a couple of excellent companies:-

  15. I think there has been Union Jack overkill of late! And a lot of people (myself included) don’t like seeing it plastered over anything & everything purported to be made in the UK.
    You are so right, there should be a recognised British kite mark for clothing and for the materials that go into making them.
    on a related note, i am a knitter & every year I set myself a new challenge. This year it is to knit only with wool grown, spun or dyed in the UK. There is an amazing resource of UK fibre out there – from sheep to alpaca to angora & cashmere – I cannot believe all the items I have knit in imported wool over the years when I could have been helping out the industry here! If you are forced to start making your own British clothes you will find my top suppliers of UK wool on my blog or via Woolsack! 😉

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