May 13, 2014
The percentage of UK or other Member States’ law which is based on or influenced by EU law is a complex and technical question, with no definitive answer.
The vast majority of EU legislation is jointly decided by MEPs – directly elected by citizens to the European Parliament – and by national Ministers sitting in the Council of the European Union, on proposals from the European Commission.
Once EU law is agreed by MEPs and national Ministers, all Member States apply it in accordance with their own national tradition – provided the law is properly applied, how that is done is a matter for each Member State to decide.
Each Member State has a different constitutional, governmental and legal system with a different balance between the different levels of authority – for example, France is a relatively centralised state, Germany a federal one and the UK operates devolved government for Scotland, Wales and …
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 – …
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 …
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” …
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 …
February 13, 2014
A number of media have reported that “EU rules are denying children cancer drugs”, based on a press release by the UK’s world-renowned and hugely respected Institute of Cancer Research.
The European Commission and the European Medicines Agency are continuously seeking to do the maximum possible to encourage and stimulate research and development of appropriate medicines for children, in particular for cancer treatment.
This is a complex issue and there is without doubt a real issue for media interest here.
But some reports are a very long way from a fair representation of that issue. Most media– Metro being an honourable exception – did not even ask the Commission to give its point of view.
The EU rules are emphatically not denying children cancer drugs. Indeed they go further than any other jurisdiction in the world to force pharmaceutical companies to ensure that potential drugs are developed and tested for children.
The position of the …
January 21, 2014
Several newspapers today claim that the UK has heroically resisted European Commission efforts to force it to fly the EU flag in Whitehall (Pickles downs the EU flag, Daily Telegraph; Pickles lowers the EU flag in Whitehall, Daily Mail; Fly the flag for the UK, Daily Express).
The real story is rather less dramatic.
Member States had indeed agreed – the Daily Mail’s reference to “a diktat” is silly – in 2007 that the EU flag would be flown for a week around 9 May, Europe Day, in front of the managing authorities for EU structural funds.
Until recently in the UK- and as in most other Member States – these authorities were based in the regions themselves, until the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) centralised operations in 2011 and appointed itself the managing authority for England.
So in the last couple of years, it has flown the flag …
January 9, 2014
“EU migrants can avoid tax in UK“, according to a Sunday Telegraph headline on 5 January.
The piece goes on “Romanians and Bulgarians coming to work can avoid paying taxes in Britain because of a loophole.”
Large parts of the article are slanted, selective or simply incorrect, leading to a misleading impression overall.
The reality is as follows.
First, the vast majority of EU citizens working in the UK – well over 90% – are employed or self-employed in the UK, treated as resident and pay tax and social security in the UK.
Those referred to in the article are “posted workers”. In other words people not resident in the UK long-term – so arguably not even migrants - but sent to the UK for limited periods by employers based elsewhere in the EU.
Given that posted workers in the UK come from many different EU Member States, it is difficult to see any good reason …
November 6, 2013
UK media – for example the Daily Mail, Daily Express and the Times – yet again reported that the European Court of Auditors (ECA) has not signed off the EU accounts. Some media -this time including the Daily Telegraph – claim that UK taxpayers will be liable to pay back GBP 800 million. Both statements are simply false.
The Court did in fact sign off as accurate the EU’s accounts for 2012 – as it has done each year since 2007. It stated this clearly in its press release http://www.eca.europa.eu/en/Pages/AR_2012.aspx.
The ECA (not the European Commission) was so concerned by the flagrant inaccuracy of so many reports that it tweeted Mail online and other media in UK and beyond to request changes @EUAuditorsECA
The ECA annual report tracks the amount of errors that affect financial transactions under the EU budget against a stringent set of rules and procedures.
Many media neglect to …
November 1, 2013
If you believed some press this week, Brussels bureaucrats have been busy destroying the great British breakfast by cutting the minimum sugar content in jam from 60% to 50%….. “EU threatens future of British jam”, “British jam is toast – EU sugar rule row”, “EU rules will ruin jam with our cream tea”.
Yet according to some newspapers at the end of March…. EU red tape had allegedly been strangling plucky British jam producers by… NOT allowing them to cut the sugar content in jam from 60% to 50%.
So were they right seven months ago, or are they right now?
In fact EU law – not handed down from Brussels but agreed by the UK government with other Member States – always gave the UK flexibility to cut the minimum sugar content in jam to 50%.
Seven months ago, the government had not yet chosen to use that flexibility. Now, after small …