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Express’s “EU £2600 tax bombshell” story completely wrong

June 20th, 2016
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Rating: 4.7/5 (15 votes cast)

Changes to EU VAT rules require a unanimous agreement by all Member States. That is written in black and white in the EU Treaties, which set out and limit the powers the EU has – and also make very clear that the final say on all big political decisions rests with elected ministers and MEPs, not “Brussels” or “faceless bureaucrats”.

The Treaties themselves are drawn up by – and can only be changed by – unanimous agreement of the Member States.

In other words the UK has a veto both on any changes to VAT rules AND on any changes to the way the EU takes decisions in that area.

So despite the various fulminations quoted in the article, the suggestion in the Daily Express on 20 June that “Brussels” could force the UK to raise VAT rates and cause “a £2600 tax bombshell” is completely factually wrong.

Where there IS agreement that the rules will change is that the possibility to zero rate sanitary products will be introduced- EU leaders made that clear at their summit on 17-18 March.

The rationale for having such VAT rules – agreed by all Member States – is that rates that differed too widely within the single market would increase red tape and costs for business and mean consumers paying more for goods and services.

The EU is investing billions in tackling cancer – not denying treatment

June 9th, 2016
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Rating: 5.0/5 (5 votes cast)

Summary

A number of media articles have claimed that “EU red tape” is denying cancer patients access to new treatments.

This is not the case.

Various EU initiatives, backed by billions of euros from the EU budget, encourage Europe’s top scientists, businesses large and small and leading medical professionals to get new drugs to patients as rapidly and safely as possible.

And Europe-wide authorisation by the European Medicines Agency means more people get access to more medicines more quickly than they could if each country authorised them separately.

Details

Delivering new drugs to patients is a multi-stage process.

First, they need to be developed from scratch.

The European Commission has invested about €2.1 billion in cancer research projects since 2007. Some outstanding examples are described in simple terms here. The pace is likely to increase under the 2014-2020 Horizon 2020 programme, which is about 35% larger than its 2007-13 predecessor known as FP7.

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“Bailouts”,EU budget ceilings and “backlogs” clarified

June 7th, 2016
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Rating: 4.5/5 (8 votes cast)

The UK will not, whatever the circumstances, be called upon by the EU to supply emergency (“bail out”) funding to Eurozone countries. This is clear in the agreement reached between David Cameron and all the other EU leaders in February, which has the status of international law.*

Neither can the EU budget be increased without the UK’s consent beyond the ceilings Member States, including the UK, agreed unanimously for the 2014-2020 period. Any increase in those ceilings requires according to the EU Treaties a unanimous vote – in other words the UK has a veto which could only be altered by a change in the Treaties, something the UK could also veto.

Finally, reports of a £19.4 billion “black hole” in the EU budget are mistaken. There was a backlog in payments – partly the result of technical issues arising in the transition from one seven-year budget period (2007-13) to the next (2014-20) – but much of it was already eliminated in 2015 and it is expected to be down to EUR 2bn by the end of this year, at zero additional cost to Member States beyond their scheduled budget contributions.

This amounts to a return to normal, given that in practice the backlog represents the claims for payment that come in towards the end of one financial year but are paid in the next financial year. As all claims need to be properly checked and this takes time, it is inevitable that some claims will fall into this category.

Background

The EU budget is just under €150 bn per year for the period 2014-2020. This represents about 1 % of the annual wealth produced in the EU and 2% of total public expenditure across Europe, the other 98% of which is spent by national, regional and local governments.

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EU state aid rules do not slow down urban broadband

May 20th, 2016
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Rating: 4.4/5 (7 votes cast)

In an article “EU red tape leaves urban homes in internet slow lane” published on 18 May, the Daily Telegraph slams EU “red tape” for hampering UK Government efforts to rollout high-speed broadband in urban areas that don’t have it yet. The article implies that EU state aid rules prevent public subsidies for such rollout.

This is untrue.

In fact, the European Commission’s 2013 Broadband Guidelines for state aid explain how state aid rules apply to the rollout of fast broadband and how investment can be made more quickly.

In 2012 the Commission approved the previous National Broadband Scheme for the UK for rural areas . In May 2016 the Commission endorsed the new UK broadband scheme for 2016-2020 within a month of its notification by the UK authorities.

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EC has not decided to regulate toasters or kettles – and could not decide alone anyway

May 13th, 2016
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Rating: 3.8/5 (30 votes cast)

EU ecodesign policy is in the news again.

This time the headlines are all about toasters and kettles, rather than vacuum cleaners, on which we tidied up the facts on this site in 2014.

No new regulation without watertight science

No decision has been taken – or is scheduled – to put forward new rules for kettles or toasters.

The European Commission is determined to make sure ecodesign policy is implemented in the least intrusive way possible, while delivering maximum energy savings.

So it will not bring forward proposals that would stop even the most energy-guzzling kettles or toasters from being sold unless backed by watertight scientific analysis that there would be significant benefits and no alternative way of achieving similar or better results.

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EU funding is supporting – not stopping – regeneration of Nottingham’s Sneinton market

May 13th, 2016
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Rating: 4.0/5 (10 votes cast)

Articles in the Daily Mail, The Sun and Nottingham Post this week are inaccurate in suggesting that the refurbished Sneinton Market in Nottingham, which benefitted from EU funds, only has three traders out of 46 because of “EU rules restricting the stalls from having tills”.

The facts

The rules for the current use of the units were not imposed by the EU.

There are no EU rules which prevent the use of tills on market stalls, either in general or in projects receiving EU funding.

The 46 units in question in Nottingham are not retail market stalls and were not even before the refurbishment.

In fact, they are former wholesale units that will now provide workspace and studios for creative SMEs.

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The EU is not blocking checks on doctors’ or dentists’ qualifications

April 8th, 2016
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Rating: 4.5/5 (12 votes cast)

An article in the Daily Mail on 2 April is inaccurate in suggesting that the EU is or ever will be “blocking vital checks on doctors’ qualifications” through the European Professional Card (EPC) system or in any other way.

A further article on 9 April saying the UK authorities “cannot check up on dentists” is also misleading.

Key points

Doctors are not currently covered by the EPC and no decision has been taken on whether or when the system might be extended to them – though doctors and dentists are covered by a rapid alert system whereby Member States share information on individuals subject to disciplinary action.

Any UK employer – in this case often the NHS – can check the aptitude, performance or language ability of any doctor, dentist, nurse or other medical professional who applies for a position or who is already practising, whether British, EU or non-EU.

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Regulatory cooperation under TTIP can help businesses and consumers. It cannot undermine lawmaking powers

March 18th, 2016
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Rating: 2.3/5 (6 votes cast)

The European Commission’s proposals on regulatory cooperation with the US under the TTIP transatlantic trade deal have now been published here, adding to the many other TTIP-related documents already available. This is in line with the Commission’s commitment to enhanced transparency in the ongoing negotiations.

Suggestions in the Independent newspaper on 18 March that regulatory cooperation would somehow subvert the EU’s legislative independence and “leave EU member states and the European Parliament further sidelined” are completely false and unfounded. They ignore the reality of the way regulatory cooperation works,

No regulatory cooperation mechanism already in existence or under TTIP will have the power to take legally binding decisions. Those are for politicians.

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EU will not and could not impose congestion charges on drivers or bin collection fees on householders

February 16th, 2016
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Rating: 4.6/5 (19 votes cast)

Readers could be forgiven for thinking that 1st April – like the Spring daffodils – had arrived early this year with a splash by the Sunday Express – “EU declares war on drivers: UK motorists should pay congestion charge to drive in every town say Brussels climate change meddlers“. The so-called “exclusive” was the catalyst for other similarly misleading headlines and distortions of the facts in The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and The Scotsman.

The European Union has no power to force local authorities to implement congestion charges or bin collection fees.

Both remain a matter for national and regional authorities. The European Union only has the powers delegated to it by Member States in the EU Treaties.

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

January 20th, 2016
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Rating: 4.0/5 (12 votes cast)

Summary
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.

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EC in the UK

Check the EC Representation in the UK website

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