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the UK Department for Transport (DFT) made clear to the Sun on Sunday, the proposal the PIA was referring to has been withdrawn after Member States did not agree on it.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 …

The EU budget, UK contributions to it and suggestions “Brussels” is demanding £500m more from UK taxpayers


May 30, 2014

We have in recent days seen lurid headlines – certainly not discouraged by the UK Treasury – about “Brussels” demanding an extra £500m from UK taxpayers.

The truth behind that is below.

But first, some general points. The media portrayal of the contribution the UK makes to the EU budget as excessive compared to other richer Member States and money down the drain is utterly misleading.

The best estimate (there are several variations depending on the exact basis for calculation) of the UK net contribution for 2012 (no figures are yet available for 2013) is EUR 7.366bn or very roughly £6bn. This – £16m a day, or about £2 per citizen per week, rather than the £55m a day that some have claimed – is the gross sum the UK puts into the EU budget minus the money that flows back to the UK, whether via government bodies or directly to beneficiaries. This figure is …

A whiff of an anti-EU story – but updating perfume rules makes sense


May 30, 2014

Between 1% and 3% of people in Europe – so between 600,000 and nearly 2 million people in the UK – suffer from allergic reactions to certain fragrances, which might be included not only in perfumes but products such as soap and shampoo. Some of those reactions can trigger long-term problems, like eczema

Overall use of fragrances is increasing and so are the numbers of people with allergies to them.

So the European Commission put draft proposals on the table some months ago to revise the EU Cosmetics regulation to ensure products on the shelves are safe and to try to prevent more people developing allergies – taking into account scientific advice from a committee of member states’ experts, who published their opinion in June 2012.

No fragrances and certainly not Chanel No 5 will be banned – some may need to adjust their formula and indeed are already doing so.

These proposals would …

Ten things Europe has done for the UK – and others – since the last European Parliament elections in 2009


May 20, 2014

With the European Parliament elections coming up this week, here are some highlights of the work the EU has done over the last five years. The results of the elections on 22 May will be crucial in deciding how all this will be pursued over the next five years.

Since 2009, Europe has, among other things:

1/ Taken tough measures to regulate the financial sector properly
2/ Given consumers a better deal
3/ Massively boosted research, innovation and science
4/ Cut red tape
5/ Taken big steps to tackle climate change and make the EU more energy efficient and independent
6/ Acted to protect the environment
7/ Given young people more chances to benefit directly from EU funds
8/ Protected animal welfare
9/ Modernised the EU budget and focused it on growth and jobs
10/ Reformed agriculture and fisheries policies

This is not an exhaustive list. Foreign affairs issues and trade and …

British roads and drivers safer thanks to EU exchange of information on serious traffic offences


May 18, 2014

[updated 22 May 2014]

The Sunday Times has an article today correctly saying that European legislation in the pipeline will mean British drivers abroad will no longer be able to get away with serious traffic offences like shooting red lights or speeding. This is because a new EU law will mean police forces on the continent will – with the help of the UK authorities – be able to pursue them to pay fines even once they are back in the UK.

The article gets the facts right, though it waits until the end to point out that the measure works both ways and will also mean UK police forces can collect fines due from drivers from other parts of Europe. As the piece says, “this will be a boon for the Treasury”.

Currently, across Europe, a foreign driver is three times more likely to break the law of the road than …

How much UK national law is based on EU law?


May 13, 2014

The percentage of UK or other Member States’ law which is based on or influenced by EU law is a complex and technical question, with no definitive answer.

The vast majority of EU legislation is jointly decided by MEPs – directly elected by citizens to the European Parliament – and by national Ministers sitting in the Council of the European Union, on proposals from the European Commission.

Once EU law is agreed by MEPs and national Ministers, all Member States apply it in accordance with their own national tradition – provided the law is properly applied, how that is done is a matter for each Member State to decide.

Each Member State has a different constitutional, governmental and legal system with a different balance between the different levels of authority – for example, France is a relatively centralised state, Germany a federal one and the UK operates devolved government for Scotland, Wales and …

Hot coffee


April 17, 2014

There have been some rumblings that the EU is set to ban coffee machines or force cold coffee on the general public. We wish to cut this myth off at the pass and explain why new rules coming into force as of January 2015 will not affect your beloved old coffee machine and why any new machine you buy will save on your electricity bills

This decision to introduce energy efficient coffee machines was supported by consumer and industry organisations and voted for by the EU member states, including the UK. It is not going to affect older coffee machines that people already have in their homes. Equally it will not impact coffee makers used in the commercial or industrial sector.

The new rule simply means that coffee machines on the market after January 2015 must have an energy efficient option by having an eco mode that puts the hotplate or element …

EU does not “ban” beaches


April 16, 2014

EU laws do not prevent anyone from swimming anywhere, but who wants to swim in poo?
As this year’s EU’s annual bathing water report is being prepared we face the perennial media stories of the EU possibly “banning” or “blacklisting” of beaches. Let’s be clear, the EU does not “ban” beaches. What the EU does do is highlight the quality and possible health dangers of waters where individuals or their families may choose to bathe.

A recent Daily Mail article  widely copied and circulated in social media, claimed “EU to ban our beaches” adding that “dozens of British beaches will be off-limits for swimmers”.

There are numerous inaccuracies in this article:

1. the EU does not “ban” beaches
2. EU laws do not prevent anyone from swimming anywhere
3. there are no new bathing water laws, but, above all, this is a classic case of shooting the messenger. The main recent change in EU bathing water law …

Sun corrects false story on MOT tests


April 14, 2014

The Sun on Saturday 12 April published the following correction: “In an article MoT fix axe fears (March 30) we quoted a letter from UKIP containing claims that thousands of MoT test centres could close under EU proposals forcing motorists whose cars fail to go to a different garage for repairs. We have been informed that no such EU proposals exist and are happy to set the record straight”.

For the avoidance of doubt, here is the relevant passage of the legal text now agreed between the EU institutions, which changes nothing in the UK:

“Member States may prescribe requirements regarding the separation of activities or authorise a private body to perform both roadworthiness tests and vehicle repairs, even on the same vehicle in cases where the supervising body has established to its satisfaction that a high level of objectivity is maintained.” The full text is here:

The idea that forced separation …