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.


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 …