Agriculture myths: cropping the facts on the “three crop rule”


November 19, 2014

James Forsyth’s claims in the Daily Mail on 9 November that Environment Secretary Liz Truss wants to stop the European Commission from “telling British farmers what they can grow ” through “a Commission edict – the three crop rule”.

This is puzzling on at least two counts.

First, the European Commission cannot issue “edicts” but only propose new EU legislation. It is elected MEPs and elected EU government ministers who scrutinise these proposals and ultimately decide whether to amend, adopt or reject them.
Second, the UK voted last December for the very measure Mr Forsyth is writing about.

The “three crop rule” – or in other words crop diversification – was adopted unanimously by EU agricultural ministers in December 2013 as part of the latest package of CAP reforms.

The reforms address environmental concerns related to pressures that modern farming has put on water, soil, farmland habitats and related biodiversity, as well as contributing …

EU funds do not favour bullfighting


November 19, 2014

It appears the press are just as keen on recycling as the Commission. The claim that British taxpayers are subsidising bullfighting in Spain was published in The Daily Mail and Daily Mirror recently, some 18 months after a strangely similar story appeared in The Daily Telegraph in May 2013.

Since the 2003 reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy, payments to farmers have been “decoupled” from production, which means payments are no longer linked to what and how much farmers produce, but granted per eligible hectare of land.

If there is no link to production, then by definition there is no subsidy for using the land to produce a specific type of animal for any specific purpose.

It is true that as long as national law permits it – and the EU has no legal powers to intervene in this – there is nothing to stop Spanish farmers raising and selling …

Mail on Sunday fails to serve readers full facts on EU food allergen rules that could save lives


November 11, 2014

New rules being introduced across the EU from 13 December 2014 (by the Food Information for Consumers Regulation 1169/2011) will give allergy sufferers eating out the same information and protection as when they shop in the supermarket. The aim is to prevent avoidable distress and in extreme cases save lives.

Millions of British allergy-sufferers – and their relatives and friends – will be able to be even more confident that it is safe for them to eat out. That is also in the commercial interest of establishments serving food.

Yet according to the Mail on Sunday, these rules on food allergens will cost British restaurants millions of pounds which in turn will be passed on to – “UK diners” who will “face £200m for EU allergy rules”. The claim follows a September article in The Sun which put the cost even higher at £375m for introducing the same EU Regulation.

All of …

The EU budget and UK contributions – the facts, 2013


November 3, 2014

Once again we are seeing big bold headlines claiming massive increase in the UK’s contribution to the EU budget in 2013. We provide figures and explanations below, but first a reminder of some general points that put these figures in context:
Traditionally, the UK net contributions to the EU budget are less than 1% of UK’s public spending.
While all bigger and richer member states are net contributors, as a contribution per capita the UK is behind countries like Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands or Austria, Finland and Belgium.
Finally, the estimated benefits of EU membership for the UK economy vastly exceed the UK’s gross budget contribution, let alone its net one. You don’t have to take our word for it – the CBI estimates the direct net economic benefits alone at between £62bn and £78bn every year http://www.cbi.org.uk/campaigns/our-global-future/factsheets/factsheet-2-benefits-of-eu-membership-outweigh-costs/

 

Back to 2013 – the most up-to-date figures available. The best estimate (there are several …

Udder nonsense that EU is forcing cows to wear nappies


October 10, 2014

The Daily Mail’s headline found the perfect punning phrase: it is indeed “udder nonsense” that EU rules ban cows from defecating on Alpine slopes.

A German farmer has fitted his cows with bovine diapers because, he says, cowpats constitute a fertiliser high in nitrates and are therefore outlawed by barmy Brussels bureaucrats.

He has shown an admirable flair for poo-blicity – but suggesting there are EU rules that ban cows from hillsides or from leaving their usual deposits is a load of bull.

This is pretty obvious when you think about it: hikers enjoying an autumn walk in the Alpine foothills will come across more cud-chewing cows than they can count, with their rear ends as naked as nature intended, except on one farm where cattle with bedsheets tied round their bottoms seem to have been fighting for grazing room with photographers.

Of course, the British media herd has stampeded all over …

Brussels targets air pollution – NOT British lawns


September 30, 2014

After last month’s media misrepresentation of EU rules designed to improve – not diminish – the suction performance of vacuum cleaners (see earlier blog), the latest (Now Brussels targets your lawnmower, Daily Mail) suggests “Brussels” is targeting lawnmowers.

It is true that the European Commission has put forward new emission reduction measures for combustion (petrol and diesel) engines used in non-road mobile machinery, which will only take affect if national Ministers and MEPS approve them.

But any idea that this is some kind of assault on British freedom to cut the lawn on a Sunday afternoon needs kicking into the long grass.

Lawn mowers are a small part of the overall picture. New engines for huge machinery like railway locomotives, excavators, cranes and combine harvesters, as well as smaller equipment, will also be covered by the proposed updates to existing EU rules (Directive 97/68/EC).

The result will be major cuts …

Tidying up the facts on EU vacuum cleaner rules


August 22, 2014

Without reiterating all the points we made on our blog a year ago (we sometimes like a punning headline ourselves), here are ten key facts on the new EU rules coming into force on 1 September to make vacuum cleaners work better and waste less energy.
1) There is NO ban on vacuum cleaners that suck powerfully. The ban is on cleaners that use too much energy and/or are not energy efficient. The new rules include requirements for performance in picking up dust, on noise, on the amount of dust escaping from the cleaner (important for asthma sufferers) and on the durability of components.

2) It is perfectly possible to have high-performance vacuum cleaners which are energy efficient. As “Which?” magazine (see below) itself makes clear, some of the models on its best buy list already conform to the new rules.

3) Obviously more energy efficient appliances are good for consumers, who will …

EU aid for Peru – fighting illegal drugs and child malnutrition


July 29, 2014

Newspapers(1) who recently ridiculed the EU’s support for anti-drug programmes in Peru grossly misrepresented the facts by neglecting to mention that most of the money concerned is not for “rehabilitating drug addicts” but actually aims to prevent the production of illegal drugs.

The ultimate objective is therefore to cut the amount of drugs being sold in the streets of Europe’s cities, not least in the UK, which has one of the highest rates of illegal drug use in Europe.

At the same time, this EU support, which as the reports said amounted to about £25m over the period 2007-13, helps those previously involved in producing and trafficking illegal drugs to transfer into alternative (and legal) economic activities. There is evidence of this policy working: for example, in 2013, coca cultivation areas were significantly reduced.

Other EU support for Peru focuses on fighting poverty and child malnutrition – which has been cut by one-fifth …

Weekend press watch, 5-6 July 2014


July 7, 2014

This is a new occasional feature on our blog, given that weekends tend to be a peak time for – to say the least – contentious coverage of EU-related matters

Non-existent EC proposal alarms motorists

The Sun on Sunday on 6 July ran a prominent story headlined “No tanks: EU in 3p a litre hike”.

It is true that the UK Petroleum Industry Association (PIA) had some time ago expressed opposition to an earlier proposal to label oil products according to the environmental impact of extracting them.

The PIAs view that this would raise pump prices was contentious at the time.

More importantly, as both the Commission (EC) and the UK Department for Transport (DFT) made clear to the Sun on Sunday, the proposal the PIA was referring to has been withdrawn after Member States did not agree on it.

Both the EC and DoT also told the paper that the completely new proposal expected in …

EU recommendations on economic policies: not “interference” but a process in which UK plays a full part


June 12, 2014

Recently, articles in among others the Daily Mail, the Times and the Telegraph screamed about EU “interference” in the UK economy, “dramatic interventions in UK policy” and “Brussels” telling the Prime Minister to “tear up his economic policy” (that was definitely not what “Brussels” had said).

This was all because the European Commission had the temerity to propose some “country specific recommendations” on the UK’s economic policy.

But far from the recommendations constituting unwarranted and unwelcome “interference” in national economies, the UK, along with the rest of the member states, decided they should be made and the decisions on their final form will be taken by EU leaders and Finance Ministers, not by the Commission.

Background

This is all part of a well-established process whereby the Commission’s proposed recommendations are discussed and decided upon by all EU heads of government – this year that will happen at the EU summit on …