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 …
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 …
November 3, 2014
Once again we are seeing big bold headlines claiming massive increase in the UK’s contribution to the EU budget in 2013. We provide figures and explanations below, but first a reminder of some general points that put these figures in context:
Traditionally, the UK net contributions to the EU budget are less than 1% of UK’s public spending.
While all bigger and richer member states are net contributors, as a contribution per capita the UK is behind countries like Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands or Austria, Finland and Belgium.
Finally, the estimated benefits of EU membership for the UK economy vastly exceed the UK’s gross budget contribution, let alone its net one. You don’t have to take our word for it – the CBI estimates the direct net economic benefits alone at between £62bn and £78bn every year http://www.cbi.org.uk/campaigns/our-global-future/factsheets/factsheet-2-benefits-of-eu-membership-outweigh-costs/
Back to 2013 – the most up-to-date figures available. The best estimate (there are several …
September 30, 2014
After last month’s media misrepresentation of EU rules designed to improve – not diminish – the suction performance of vacuum cleaners (see earlier blog), the latest (Now Brussels targets your lawnmower, Daily Mail) suggests “Brussels” is targeting lawnmowers.
It is true that the European Commission has put forward new emission reduction measures for combustion (petrol and diesel) engines used in non-road mobile machinery, which will only take affect if national Ministers and MEPS approve them.
But any idea that this is some kind of assault on British freedom to cut the lawn on a Sunday afternoon needs kicking into the long grass.
Lawn mowers are a small part of the overall picture. New engines for huge machinery like railway locomotives, excavators, cranes and combine harvesters, as well as smaller equipment, will also be covered by the proposed updates to existing EU rules (Directive 97/68/EC).
The result will be major cuts …
August 22, 2014
Without reiterating all the points we made on our blog a year ago (we sometimes like a punning headline ourselves), here are ten key facts on the new EU rules coming into force on 1 September to make vacuum cleaners work better and waste less energy.
1) There is NO ban on vacuum cleaners that suck powerfully. The ban is on cleaners that use too much energy and/or are not energy efficient. The new rules include requirements for performance in picking up dust, on noise, on the amount of dust escaping from the cleaner (important for asthma sufferers) and on the durability of components.
2) It is perfectly possible to have high-performance vacuum cleaners which are energy efficient. As “Which?” magazine (see below) itself makes clear, some of the models on its best buy list already conform to the new rules.
3) Obviously more energy efficient appliances are good for consumers, who will …
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 – …