EU organic farming rules prioritise animal welfare and natural food and do not insist animals are treated only by homeopathy

April 25, 2015

Misleading stories in the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph in late April suggested organic farmers and fish farmers have “been ordered by the EU to use homeopathic medicine.”

Homeopathy is one of the options available. But the EU rules concerned refer to other types of natural remedy and are crystal clear that antibiotics may be used where necessary.

Organic farming by definition means farming practices which are as natural as possible. That is why consumers choose to buy organic. The less intensive nature of production already helps prevent disease.

It is therefore logical that organic farmers should favour natural remedies, where appropriate, but have recourse to antibiotics where there is no effective alternative.

Given the general issues of animal welfare and immunity to antibiotics as well as the importance that consumers of organic products attach to all aspects of production it would seem surprising if newspapers were arguing that antibiotics should be used in …

Media deserves no credit for latest reporting on EU rules on card payments

April 14, 2015

A new EU law will limit the inter-bank fees on the basis of which banks charge retailers for accepting card payments. The cap will be 0.2 per cent of the transaction value for debit cards and 0.3 per cent for credit cards and will apply to all card purchases in the EU – including online. National Ministers and MEPs agreed last month on a European Commission proposal, and the new rules are due to be introduced by the end of the year provided final formalities are completed.

Of course, the higher the transaction fees, the more likely retailers will need to pass them on to all consumers in the form of higher prices. So the cap aims to keep a lid on prices, for everybody who uses credit cards but also for consumers who use (cheaper) debit cards or cash but still need to pay shop prices which reflect the level …

Media reports fail to point out how new EU VAT rules protect the UK from unfair competition

April 13, 2015

The UK government expects changes to EU VAT rules for digital products to raise for the UK Treasury an additional £300m in tax revenue every year.

The government has added that the changes will protect £5bn in revenue that might have been at risk without the changes, because they remove an incentive for certain companies to relocate outside the UK, in order to benefit from rock-bottom VAT rates: see:

The rule changes reduce the advantage for companies of locating in low VAT countries by establishing that VAT will be paid in the buyer’s country and not where the seller is based.

So someone in the UK buying an e-book from Amazon will now pay VAT to the UK, not Luxembourg.

This will ensure that countries like the UK – which operate average or high rates of VAT – get a fair income from VAT on digital products and cannot be unfairly undercut …

The EU is a supporter of Europe’s independent cinema production, not a threat to it

February 11, 2015

In its article British film producers warn of new EU threat to industry, 10 February 2015, The Independent reports on what it describes as “EU plans to shake up the online distribution of films” and quotes two representatives of the film industry who foretell the imminent death of Europe’s independent film production.
The article goes on to explain that the alleged plan will make it impossible to create in future films like the recent British hit Mr. Turner (Mike Leigh) or the films that were at the BAFTAs .
But the European Commission is not at this stage proposing anything. A proposal is scheduled for later this year, after consultations with all interested parties, but it will not mean changes in how films are made, nor prescribe digital release models. Of course, proposals for new EU laws require approval by a majority of MEPs and a large majority of national Ministers-they cannot …

Tabloids cook up scares about EU energy efficiency measures

January 9, 2015

Summary: new EU energy efficiency rules under the Eco-Design Directive agreed by elected Ministers and MEPs will not reduce the performance of household appliances, as some media have claimed. Indeed, earlier measures have led to appliances performing much better. The changes will save consumers money and give them better information, contribute to tackling climate change and help reduce dependence on imported energy. Industry, consumers and the UK government support the latest changes. From 1 January 2015 they will improve consumer information, particularly online, on how much household appliances cost to run, reduce energy waste by coffee machines and ensure that network devices like routers and smart TVs have an automatic standby mode. Details here. New minimum energy efficiency standards for gas and electric domestic ovens and cookers and for range hoods are to be phased in over four years from February 2015.

“Half-baked – EU cooker diktat is ‘threat’ …

Media blames late Christmas deliveries on EU HGV training rules: a highly selective approach to the facts

December 16, 2014

Fears that a shortage of truck drivers means there will be no Christmas pudding on the supermarket shelves, or that presents bought online will be delivered late?

And an opportunity to blame Brussels?

No wonder several UK newspapers did not hold back.

“Shortage of truck drivers caused by EU rules puts economic recovery at risk…” fulminated the Daily Mail. “Christmas deliveries put at risk by EU” thundered The Times.

“Buy Christmas gifts now, we’re short on lorry drivers, shoppers told” and “Shoppers warned to buy Christmas presents early “ said the Evening Standard and the Mirror rather more calmly.

And more recently the Sunday Times shifted gear from gifts to worries about festive food, with “EU ruling gobbles up Christmas dinner”.

Caught in the headlights are European rules (under Directive 2003/59) setting common minimum standards – the Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) – for all professional HGV drivers in Europe …

Measures to cut lethal emissions from shipping are based on global consensus, not “an EU diktat”

December 8, 2014

New EU rules (The Sulphur Directive) to limit sulphur emissions from shipping are based on a global decision by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) supported and partly instigated by the UK.

A 2011 scientific study concludes that pollution from shipping causes 50 000 premature deaths a year, as well as contributing substantially to climate change and to other environmental hazards such as acid rain.

Cutting maritime sulphur emissions will not only prevent premature deaths. According to the above study and others, as well as the Commission’s impact assessment, the positive effect on the environment and on health spending will benefit the overall economy by between five and 25 times the costs.

We agree that this is a theme of significant public interest worthy of media attention and that newspapers are absolutely entitled to point to cost issues for shipping operators and for users.

But in its report on 2 December alleging that …

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 …