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 …

Licensed to mislead

April 10, 2014

Stories suggesting that “British car number plates could be axed by a vote in the European Parliament next week” (Daily Express) are utterly untrue.

There is no proposal or amendment on the table that would create a standard design for all car number plates in the EU. Nobody has any intention of making such a proposal.

It is legally impossible that “officials in Brussels” could be given powers to “set a standard design for vehicle registration plates in all EU member states” (Express). The EU does not “want just one version” of number plates (Daily Mail print edition). It is nothing short of ludicrous to suggest “cherished personalised number plates could be banned” (Express).

The BBC has already looked into this and come to rather different conclusions:

The full facts are these.

The European Commission put forward in April 2012 a proposal for an EU law to simplify the transfer of …

Wrong media verdict on EC proposals to ensure fair trials

March 18, 2014

The Sun on Sunday 16 March and the Evening Standard on 18 March have run articles highlighting concerns expressed by Justice Minister Chris Grayling over the European Commission’s proposal to strengthen certain aspects of the presumption of innocence and of the right to be present at trial in criminal proceedings.

The Sun failed to mention at all that the UK has an opt-out on all EU justice measures and the Standard mentioned this only in passing at the end.

Given that the UK has indeed already expressed a clear intention to opt out of all such measures – existing and new – before the end of this year and only then to seek to opt back in to those it wishes to be part of, there is no chance that the proposal concerned will affect the UK justice system unless the UK so chooses.

What it will do is strengthen safeguards …

Brussels inspectors not digging up the great British garden

March 10, 2014

The Sunday Express on 9 March published a front page article guaranteed to raise the blood pressure of the patriotic British gardener.

The headline said: “New EU rules would let inspectors dig up your garden… a bid to destroy some of Britain’s best-loved plants“. It went on “EU bureaucrats want new powers that would allow their inspectors to remove any plants on the Brussels hit list.”

This was then followed up by the Daily Telegraph on 10 March, with the headline “Gardeners with rhododendrons could be ‘criminalised’ by new EU law.”

There is, of course, no such thing as an ‘EU inspector’, so Sunday Express readers can relax: no euro-jobsworths in blue overalls with yellow twelve star logos will be arriving at dawn to dig up herbaceous borders or bundle rhodendron aficionados into vans.

The European Commission has proposed an EU Regulation on preventing and managing invasive alien species.

Far from …

EU staff “going back to school” – often at their own expense – is no “gravy train”

March 6, 2014

On 23 February, the Sunday Times saw fit to publish a “news” article headlined: “Eurocrats take the gravy train back to their old schools“.

It began “Brussels bureaucrats are being offered two-day all-expenses-paid trips home to extol the virtues of the EU to schoolchildren in the run-up to this May’s European elections.”

Difficult to know where to start.

First, they do not go for two days, but generally for a few hours, unless they take annual leave.

Second, in many cases, they pay for themselves, because they think this is something worth doing.

Third, they are not at their alma maters to “extol the virtues of the EU” but to talk about their jobs and answer questions honestly – partly in the hope that they might inspire some of the audience to explore following in their career footsteps. Members of many professions from accountancy to zoology – and certainly including national civil servants – …

EC investigates ski instructor cases – while some media go off piste

February 27, 2014

A number of UK media, including the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph, have reported over the last few days on the arrest of British ski instructors in France, for allegedly operating without proper authorisation.

Most of these stories – and a follow up piece in the Telegraph by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson – extrapolated from the specific case at hand, currently being investigated by the European Commission in order to establish whether EU law was breached – to say or suggest that single market rules were in practice no use to British ski instructors. None of the media who ran these reports sought input from the Commission.

The Daily Telegraph did, however, in its own specialist ski section – and without reporting or quoting from this piece in the news section – run an informative interview with a British …

Generating a bankrupt media tale

February 18, 2014

One story last weekend provided an object lesson for aspiring tabloid reporters in how to take a smidgeon – if that – of truth and whip it up into a highly misleading anti-EU story.

Three papers ran stories apparently aimed at leading readers to believe that “Brussels” is intending to issue some kind of decree banning the use of the word “bankrupt”.

The Mail on Sunday wailed about “EU language police” the Sun on Sunday screamed “Owe, no”- which at least is funny – and denounced “Meddling EU chiefs” while the Daily Express went with the old classic “Barmy Brussels bureaucrats”.

Even if it wanted to, the EU could not make any government, business or individual stop using the word “bankrupt”. The EU has only the powers delegated to it by Member States in the EU Treaties and those – obviously -do not include “erasing ‘bankruptcy’ from the English language” …

No, Mail on Sunday, the EU is (obviously) not banning yogurt and cheese from school dinners

February 14, 2014

The Mail on Sunday on 9 February served its readers a headline skilfully cooked up to suggest the EU was going to ban cheese and yogurt from their kids’ school meals.

“Enjoy a yogurt at school? Hard cheese, says EU. Eurocrats want to ban snacks in healthy eating campaign”.

It went on: “Brussels bureaucrats want to stop British children being given cheese and yogurt at school.”

The paper drafted in experts to point out the blindingly obvious – that there is no danger in moderate portions of cheese.

It declined to point to another blindingly obvious fact: that “Brussels” cannot and does not want to ban British schools from serving dairy products.

By the time a few elements of reality crept into the story, it seems some readers were choking on their cornflakes with disgust at mental images of “Brussels bureaucrats” blockading school gates against yogurt lorries and depriving the nation’s youth of good old …