November 6, 2013
UK media – for example the Daily Mail, Daily Express and the Times – yet again reported that the European Court of Auditors (ECA) has not signed off the EU accounts. Some media -this time including the Daily Telegraph – claim that UK taxpayers will be liable to pay back GBP 800 million. Both statements are simply false.
The Court did in fact sign off as accurate the EU’s accounts for 2012 – as it has done each year since 2007. It stated this clearly in its press release http://www.eca.europa.eu/en/Pages/AR_2012.aspx.
The ECA (not the European Commission) was so concerned by the flagrant inaccuracy of so many reports that it tweeted Mail online and other media in UK and beyond to request changes @EUAuditorsECA
The ECA annual report tracks the amount of errors that affect financial transactions under the EU budget against a stringent set of rules and procedures.
Many media neglect …
November 1, 2013
If you believed some press this week, Brussels bureaucrats have been busy destroying the great British breakfast by cutting the minimum sugar content in jam from 60% to 50%….. “EU threatens future of British jam”, “British jam is toast – EU sugar rule row”, “EU rules will ruin jam with our cream tea”.
Yet according to some newspapers at the end of March…. EU red tape had allegedly been strangling plucky British jam producers by… NOT allowing them to cut the sugar content in jam from 60% to 50%.
So were they right seven months ago, or are they right now?
In fact EU law – not handed down from Brussels but agreed by the UK government with other Member States – always gave the UK flexibility to cut the minimum sugar content in jam to 50%.
Seven months ago, the government had not yet chosen to use that flexibility. Now, after …
October 30, 2013
The European Commission is preparing to propose an eco-label for toilets and urinals, based on the amount of water that they use to flush. This will be a voluntary thing. It is not “regulating toilets”, as some claimed.
Predictably, any news story involving the juxtaposition of the EU and toilets was an opportunity for certain newspapers to trot out some puns. As ever, the Sun came up with some decent ones – “loo couldn’t make it up”, “bog standard” and more. The Express joined in with “loo rules are panned”. The Telegraph characteristically had a more sober piece talking about the “economical flushing of lavatories”.
No problem having a bit of fun with that – this story was always going to pull the media’s chain, flush out some eurosceptic rhetoric and so on ad infinitum.
But the serious accusation that this is somehow “flushing away taxpayers’ cash” on a trivial …
October 20, 2013
The Sunday Telegraph on 20 October runs a follow up to its coverage on 13 October of a detailed European Commission report, which concluded that there is no evidence of systematic or widespread benefit tourism by EU nationals migrating within the EU, including to the UK.
This coverage is highly critical of the Commission report and calls into doubt its conclusions. But in all its thousands of words, the Sunday Telegraph at no stage provides any concrete quantitative evidence to contradict those conclusions and those of other reports – including for example by the OECD and the the Centre for European Reform – which have concluded broadly the same.
Unfortunately, the newspaper bases much of its coverage on factually incorrect assertions and on the omission of salient facts. This merits further detailed analysis.
The newspaper’s earlier coverage falsely claimed there are over 600 000 unemployed EU migrants in the UK. …
October 14, 2013
Based on a contentious Business for Britain (BfB) report, a wide range of media reported on 14 October that there have been 3,600 new laws in three years as the EU “strangles” UK firms and that it would take 92 days to read all the regulations.
All this needs to be seen in perspective. Of course, even if it is true that it would take three months to read these regulations – which is a striking if debatable statistic – it is of limited relevance as no-one could possibly need to undertake such a task. Rules on type approval for lorries are of doubtful interest to a financial services company. Soft toy manufacturers do not need to read rules on sheep farming.
Second, the BfB report contains a series of factual errors, wrongly claiming for example that the EU is seeking to impose laws banning high heels for hairdressers, UK flags on …
October 14, 2013
The Sunday Telegraph reported on 13 October that a European Commission report published today would say that “600,000 unemployed European Union migrants are living in Britain at a cost of £1.5 billion to the NHS alone”.
This – as a Commission spokesperson has said to a press conference in Brussels – is “a gross and totally irresponsible misrepresentation of the facts”.
What the report really says, among other things, is the following.
The 600 000 figure refers to non-active migrants, a category which includes as well as job seekers, older schoolchildren, students, retired people, people taking time out of the labour market to bring up children and other direct family members.
As a comparison, 43 % of the UK population aged between 15 and 64 – so at a conservative estimate 12 million people – is classified as non-active. Clearly no –one would seriously claim that there were 12 million unemployed …
September 30, 2013
According to the Daily Express on 28 September, the EU is “demanding £6billion from Britain for a new bailout”. The Express is referring to the EU’s Balance of Payments Facility – which exists to provide emergency support to non-eurozone EU Member States whose economies are threatened by major financial imbalances.
The facts are rather different. Not one penny of UK taxpayers money has been sent – even as a loan – to the countries supported so far under the facility: Latvia, Hungary and Romania.
There are no plans to support more countries.
The money for any such loans is raised by the EU in the financial markets at very favourable interest rates and the cost of that is covered by repayments from beneficiary countries. Member States merely guarantee the borrowing in the financial markets.
No such loans can be made, guarantees issued, or changes made to the facility, without the unanimous agreement of …
September 30, 2013
The Daily Express reports today under the headline ‘Now EU “Crackpots” demand gypsy MPs’ that, if a resolution from the European Parliament becomes law “all the political parties in the UK will have to impose female gypsy candidates on the electorate and get them into Parliament.”
This story is ludicrous. First and foremost – and leaving aside the questionable terminology used by the Express – the EU only has the powers delegated to it by the Member States in unanimously agreed Treaties. Those powers do not include the power to intervene in how candidates for national elections are nominated. So it is quite simply impossible that the EU could pass such a law.
The story has been described by an MEP in a letter sent to the Express as “fabricated from beginning to end.”
The agreed European Framework for Roma inclusion looks into ways of helping integrate traveller communities into education, employment, …
September 27, 2013
The cost of EU regulation comes up almost weekly in the media, with various very large figures being quoted.
To read some reports one might think that the issue was simple: simply get rid of the regulations – or even of the EU altogether – and whatever astronomical sum has been quoted as the cost of EU law would be recovered for businesses and the taxpayer.
But that is far from the case and many reports on this issue are at best one-sided and at worst deliberately misleading.
Here are twelve points reports often do not have room to mention, or choose to ignore.
1/ The cost figures mentioned – which in many cases are highly contentious anyway – nearly always refer to estimates of the gross economic cost. In other words what it costs companies and individuals to comply with EU rules, without taking account of the benefits of those rules …
September 17, 2013
Despite a series of incorrect media reports – among them pieces in the Mail on Sunday and the Express – not one British blooming plant, let alone thousands, will be “banned” from garden centres as a result of Commission proposals to improve EU rules and to cut – not increase – red tape.
First, the EC proposal stipulates that “ornamental plants” (garden flowers) will no longer be covered by most of the rules on “plant reproductive material” laid down in existing EU rules. Plant reproductive material includes, for example, seeds, shoots, vegetables, etc.
So the newspapers have got it completely the wrong way round. The Commission is proposing to remove regulations from garden plants, not impose new ones.
Garden plants will in future –if the Commission’s proposal is agreed by national Ministers and the European Parliament – only need to comply with some general rules, rather than the …