EU development aid saves lives – and strong safeguards protect against financial risk

January 20, 2016

EU development aid projects save lives in some of the world’s poorest and often war-torn countries. They inevitably involve some financial risk. But the vast majority of projects deliver good results. Recent press reports suggesting billions of pounds have been wasted and that “Brussels” is asking EU member states for extra cash to finance ongoing projects do not reflect the facts or the evidence.

How EU development aid works and what it does

EU development aid saves lives and makes a huge positive difference to many more. For example, it helps children get lifesaving healthcare in the poorest parts of the world. It gives tens of millions of people access to safe drinking water. Since 2004, more than 18 million children have been immunised against measles, 13.7 million new pupils joined primary education, and 7.5 million births were attended by skilled health personnel.

The coordination of aid at EU level, whether directly through …

Suggesting that the EU is to blame for floods is completely without foundation

January 8, 2016


The recent severe flooding in parts of the UK has caused serious distress to many people.

These floods occurred as a result of a period of record rainfall in the regions most severely affected.

EU environmental protection policies help prevent and deal with flooding. The EU also leads the world in tackling climate change, which most experts see as a factor in extreme weather events.

The Common Agricultural Policy encourages farmers to take “greening” measures that can contribute to mitigating flooding.

EU regional and research programmes invest substantially in flood prevention, protection and management.

Yet some media have seemed unwilling to recognise that exceptionally heavy rain – rather than “Brussels bureaucrats” – causes more water to flow into rivers than can be contained there.

In addition, it is always worth reiterating that EU legislation is decided by the Member States, including the UK, and by the directly-elected European Parliament, who can reject or amend …

Museum gun collections do not face “near destruction” under revised EU gun control laws

December 22, 2015

Claims that some of the UK’s most famous museums would have to destroy their historic gun collections as part of EU plans to tighten gun controls – “EU takes aim at museum gun collections” (Daily Telegraph, 18 December) – are way off target.

As part of efforts to prevent gun massacres by terrorists such as the tragic events in Paris and those by disturbed loners seen all too often in the US , the European Commission published proposals to further toughen up EU rules on the acquisition and possession of weapons (Firearms Directive).

Museums such as The Royal Armouries Museum and the National Army Museum were concerned that the new rules on permanently deactivating weapons might require  them to damage the antique workings of thousands of historic guns in case they fell into the wrong hands.

But the museums’ fears were misplaced. Museums run by public authorities continue to be …

The EU is not banning under 16-year olds from social media

December 22, 2015

A long negotiated EU data protection reform found itself in the midst of a maelstrom when media suddenly reported that several big online services companies were staging a last-minute lobbying effort to prevent the EU from banning teens from using social media. Attention grabbing headlines included: “Europe’s tech mad teens face tighter parental controls” FT, 14 December; “Is Europe really going to ban teenagers from Facebook and the Internet”, Guardian, 15 December; “Is Europe going to restrict teens from Facebook?” BBC, 15 December; “New EU laws could ban under16s from using Twitter and Facebook without their parents’ permission” Daily Mail, 15 December. The claims were that contrary to international, mainly US, practice the EU would introduce a requirement for social media users under the age of 16 to have formal parental consent.

The current situation across the EU member states is varied – some (like the UK) apply 13 years, some …

Snuffing out dangerous candles is common sense, not “barmy” Brussels bureaucracy

December 1, 2015

Candles are safe if they are manufactured to a high standard and used sensibly.

But otherwise they can be dangerous. That is obvious. They involve naked flames and burn wax which includes chemicals.

And there have been a lot of accidents. For example, UK government statistics show 1,059 accidental fires caused by candles in 2012-2013, with 401 injuries.

And – while this happened in the US – it seems rock legend Ozzy Osbourne (OK, not a man known for taking excessive safety precautions) once set fire to his own hair in a domestic candle incident.

So it’s not paranoid to think that there need to be quality and safety standards.

It may seem less obvious that such rules are needed at EU level. But in the end, the single market can only allow trade with minimum red tape if there are common standards across all Member States. If there were 28 different sets …

EC investment policy is about boosting growth and jobs, not “clobbering British firms”

October 12, 2015

The European Commission’s proposals for capital markets union have been welcomed by the City of London (for example City UK here) and by SME organisations (for example the Federation of Small Businesses here). They aim to give UK and other European companies better access to finance and provide new investment opportunities both for banks and other financial market players such as venture capital, private equity, “business angels” and crowdfunding.

Meanwhile, the Commission’s investment plan to mobilise € 315 bn in investment that would not happen without such a scheme is being implemented, again with UK support.

One issue being discussed in the UK and across Europe, as well as in Brussels, in connection with the wider issue of investment for growth and jobs, is that companies receiving equity investment – from investors who take a stake in the company and often bring expertise with them, as in the …

Cornish pasties “made in America” will NOT be coming to Europe

September 21, 2015

There is absolutely no chance that the EU’s proposed trade deal with the US, known as TTIP*, will allow American products to be marketed in the UK or anywhere else in the EU as Cornish pasties, Cumberland sausage, Stilton or any other currently protected name**.

Some 60 UK products are protected under three linked EU schemes that allow producers to use the name on EU markets only if they are making the products within the traditional production regions and/or using full traditional recipes.

The TTIP deal with the US, currently under negotiation, may extend to US markets the protection against non-genuine rivals that traditional producers already enjoy here in Europe.

That is what the negotiations are about. There’s no question at all of weakening the existing protection for recognised EU products on the EU market. The European Commission will simply not agree to that. And trade deals anyway need to be …

From A-levels to zoo adverts: an alphabet of 26 false stories about the EU banning things

September 6, 2015

British newspapers have accused the European Union of banning, among many other things: A-levels, bankrupt (the word), coffee drinking (unless moderate), double decker buses, elections on Thursdays, firefighters’ poles, gin in square bottles, herbal remedies, imperial measures, jam jars being reused, kilts being described as menswear, lollipop ladies’ sticks, milk of magnesia, non-nappy wearing cows, off licences (on weekdays), Peter Pan, the Queen (from UK passports), rhododendrons, steam trains, toilets (traditional British), Union Flags (on meat packaging), violin strings (made from gut), wood-burning ovens, xylophones (toy), yoghurt (in schools) and….. (yes, there is one for ‘z’) zoo advertisements (which fail to include images of elephants).

A quick look around will reveal that all of these things are still with us.

For the more common letters of …

Daily Express’s “11 barmy EU rules” either do not exist or are rather sensible

September 2, 2015

A pop-up on the Express web site, appearing for some time now via various pages featuring EU “news” and prominent in online searches, is headlined “Brussels’ craziest decisions.”

It cites “the top eleven unusual rules proposed by Brussels that seem too barmy to be true”.

That is because about half of these stories are simply not true. And the others are seriously misleading.

Here’s the Express list:

An EU copyright proposal will make it illegal to post photos of the London Eye and the Angel of the North under infringement law

Not true. In fact, one committee in the European Parliament wanted to end national exemptions from copyright law currently granted for photos of architectural and public art works. They were advocating only that commercial use of such images should be subject to copyright. The full parliament rejected even that idea, the European Commission never proposed it and Member States did not discuss it. …

The full picture about EU funding for film and TV

August 31, 2015

A number of media reports fuelled by a press release from the Taxpayers’ Alliance have attacked EU funding – via the Creative Europe programme – for film and television. Some reports ridiculed ‘Get Blake!” an animated television series produced in France, though with British connections, and helped with about £300 000 in EU funding. The series has in fact been sold to leading children’s TV channels worldwide and will bring back money into the EU economy.

No newspapers seem to have sought the opinion of either the UK film and TV industry, the British Film Institute (BFI) or of experts on the audiovisual industry. Neither the Times, the Sun  nor the Mail – the latter seems to have simply rehashed the story without speaking to us – point out that most developed countries, not least the US, provide subsidies and or tax breaks to film and television.

Among the reasons for supporting film and television are to enable innovative and …