May 29, 2015
Rapeseed, the home grown alternative to olive oil imports first introduced by the Romans, is again in the headlines as its bright yellow blooms transform parts of Britain.
Opinion concerning the impact the flowering crops have on hay fever sufferers is as seasonal as the crops themselves: “Runny eyes and wheezy chest? Blame Britain’s crops of rapeseed“, Daily Mail 2007 and more recently “Yellow crop has been blamed for Shropshire hay fever rise“.
Now the EU stands accused by Dr Madsen Pirie in the Times of being responsible for this perceived allergy misery: “What’s lurid, yellow and makes you sneeze? Ask the EU“, (21 May 2015).
But the amount of rapeseed currently growing in the UK is not the result of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
The CAP subsidy system has been reformed considerably over the last quarter of a century. It is now extremely market-oriented and decoupled from production, …
May 29, 2015
The Daily Express claims that “Brussels is trying to restrict the drinking habits of Britain’s coffee lovers”.
This is utter rubbish. It is inconceivable that the EU ever could – or would want to – restrict people from drinking as much coffee as they like.
What has happened is that some producers of energy drinks and other products containing caffeine sought EU authorisation for some claims they wanted to make in advertisements about caffeine’s alleged beneficial effects.
The EU is a single market where products can be marketed EU wide under one set of rules, which keeps business costs and prices down.
That means that, to protect consumers, there is a need to assess at European level the veracity of claims about the health-giving properties of food and drink. This is done based on advice from experts from the European Commission and all Member States.
As part of the ongoing assessment of whether …
May 27, 2015
Contrary to gung-ho reports in UK press (Daily Express, 27 May, Fury at EU plot to tax Britain; Daily Telegraph, France and Germany behind plans for ‘common EU corporation tax’), claims that the European Commission is planning to propose a minimum rate of taxation for businesses in the EU are plain wrong.
What we do however want to ensure is effective and fair taxation of profits where they are generated, especially when it comes to companies that do business across borders. Discussions at EU level are about tax bases and making sure companies cannot unfairly escape payment or derive unfair advantages from moving profits around, not about tax rates.
A tax base is not the rate of tax or the sum levied in tax but the value of the income or assets on which tax is calculated.
Here are some details about what the EU is really doing and intends …
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 …
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 …
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’ …
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 …
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 …
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 …
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 …