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Archive for ‘Letters to Editors’

Brussels” not “grabbing UK welfare” or “creating new benefit rights for migrants

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Dear Sir,

Contrary to the article headlined “Brussels grabs UK welfare” (6 May), the proposed EU agreement with Turkey would create no new benefit rights for non-EU nationals.

The European Commission has no power and no desire to “seize control of the welfare system” or “force Britain to grant benefits to non-Europeans”.

The proposal would simplify the administration of existing rights – and could cut costs.

It would help the growing number of EU citizens who work in Turkey to receive the Turkish benefits – especially pensions – to which they contribute.

Nor is “Brussels planning to sign a deal without Britain’s consent”. The UK is fully involved in discussions in the Council of Ministers, which must approve the proposal.

László Andor
European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion

This letter was published in the Sunday Times on 20 May. The European Commission had made clear before publication of the article concerned that these suggestions were entirely unfounded.

EU law does NOT mean UK hospitals have to employ people who do not speak English

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Contrary to Paul Naish’s article in the Mail on 31 March, there is nothing in EU law that prevents the UK from checking the language skills of doctors and nurses from elsewhere in the EU. There is no “new Brussels Directive against language checks”. Instead, proposed revisions to EU rules will make even clearer that all EU-qualified health professionals can be subject to checks before they take up a post. Far from EU law “taking precedence” over the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s plans to reinforce such checks, the European Commission has welcomed those plans.

Mark English, Head of Media
European Commission Representation in the UK

This letter was published, slightly edited, in the Daily Mail on 5 April (p.83). The newspaper did not contact the European Commission before publication. Commissioner Michel Barnier had already exploded this Euromyth in January.

No ban on EU officials flying Ryanair despite incorrect Sunday Times report

Monday, March 19th, 2012

Letter published in the Sunday Times – slightly edited by the newspaper – on 18 March 2012

Dear Sir
Bojan Pancevski’s report “I can’t fly Ryanair – the EU’s paying” (11 March) is simply incorrect. The European Commission does not ban officials from using budget carriers. On the contrary, low-cost airlines are explicitly highlighted as an option in travel guidance for staff. They have to book Ryanair flights themselves because Ryanair – unlike some other low-cost airlines – does not allow travel agents to book tickets through industry booking systems. Also contrary to the report, EU officials are in most circumstances required to fly in economy class. In 2011, more than 80% of flights were in economy.

Antony Gravili
Spokesman for Administration, European Commission

Some big truths about the EU – EC London response to Leo McKinstry in the Daily Express, 15 March

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Response posted on The Daily Express website on 15th March 2012

Some big truths about the EU – A few figures – not from the EC but the UK government

The UK economy benefits from the single market alone to the tune of between £30 bn and £90 bn annually or between £1 100 and £3 300 per household (27m households in UK) per annum, according to the UK government – thus in 2011 outweighing the UK’s net contribution to the EU budget by a rough multiple of between 5 and 15.

Exports to other EU countries account for 51 per cent of the UK’s exports of goods and services, worth £200 billion.

The UK exports nearly twice as much to Belgium (£13 billion in 2011) nearly three times as much to the Netherlands (£19 billion) and four times as much to Germany (£27.5 billion) as to China (£7 billion). Key to increasing exports to China is opening up Chinese markets – the EU single market of 500 million people has much more negotiating clout to do that than any Member State acting alone.

In terms of foreign investment in the economy, the UK is rated third in the world behind the US and France and ahead of Germany with $1.125 trillion of FDI stock in the UK in 2009. Many of those investors make very clear that EU membership is a key driver of their investment here and the jobs it creates

Finally, it is a complete myth that “Brussels” imposes reams of regulation on the UK. This is a real “big lie”. The support of an overwhelming majority of Member State Ministers is required for all EU laws. The UK has never once been outvoted on a financial services measure and extremely rarely on anything else – instead thanks to its voting power and political clout it is often able to ensure that rules suit the UK.

But were the UK to leave the EU but remain a member of the European Economic Area (like Norway) then the EU WOULD be imposing rules on the UK without UK input.

The UK would continue to contribute to the EU budget and would continue to be bound by single market rules – the framework that governs trade within the EU and which allows UK business to deal with one set of rules rather than 26 different sets when exporting to EU Member States. But UK Ministers and MEPs would no longer have any say in making those rules.

Mark English
Head of Media, European Commission Representation in the UK

EU does not favour criminals over victims (letter published in the Sun)

Monday, March 12th, 2012

It is not true that the EU does nothing for crime victims (8 March). Victim protection is a key strand of the EU’s £500m anti-crime programme. Another programme supports domestic violence victims.

The EU funds NGOs like Victim Support UK. EU help to get ex-offenders into jobs means less crime. EU police cooperation catches criminals – like the 7/7 terrorist arrested in Italy.

The European Commission has tabled EU-wide rules to get victims proper support and the right to take part in trials. British victims want that. Take campaigner Maggie Hughes from Surrey. Her son Robbie was brutally attacked on holiday and she is backing the proposal.

Jonathan Scheele
Head of the European Commission Representation in the UK

Daily Mail asks “why on earth the EU gives millions in aid ?”. Here’s why: to save lives, keep peace, cut illegal immigration and create new markets

Friday, March 9th, 2012


The article by Ian Birrell on EU aid (8 March) does not paint a fair picture.

Many of the accusations are from a year-old Open Europe report which the European Commission has comprehensively refuted (see

It is not the case that 85p in every £1 spent goes to “middle income countries”. 64% of EU development funds  – which total around £21.5 billion annually – go to countries classified by the UN as least developed. This is set to increase.

But almost half of the 1.6 billion people living in absolute poverty live in countries – like India – classified as “middle income” Aid there still saves lives, often children’s. The Commission has proposed that from 2014 help for India be more targeted on partnerships in areas like fighting disease and hopes that Member States will support this.

Administration costs average 5.4% which compares favourably with national aid.

27 countries acting together to provide aid at EU level can save over £4 billion in economies of scale annually.
Over the last 10 years, auditors have found no evidence of major or systematic diversion of EU funds into corruption or fraud.
The European Commission is ranked – including by the UK government – among the world’s top development and humanitarian aid donors.
The support given to European neighbour countries has a different purpose than aid for developing countries.
Funds for Iceland are limited to about £25 million over three years and help Iceland reach EU standards – for example, financial reform to prevent any future Icelandic economic crisis damaging the UK.

The EU also has an interest in promoting stability and fighting poverty. For example, the prospect of joining the EU and financial support for that has helped bring lasting peace to the Western Balkans and cut the flow of asylum seekers and illegal immigrants. Such investment also increases markets for EU businesses.

Mark English
Head of Media, European Commission Representation in the UK

EU brainwashing children?

Friday, January 20th, 2012

Letter sent to the Editor of The Daily Express on 18th January 2012

The idea that giving teachers pencil cases and brochures, at their own request, is  “brainwashing” by the EU (Express, 18 January) is nonsense. The notion that a video published on our website for two years is part of some secret conspiracy is absurd. Sadly, there is a great deal of misinformation about the EU in the UK, though we tend to avoid hyperbolic terms like “brainwashing”. But it does not come from the European Commission. Our Euromyths website, where the Express features frequently, provides hundreds of examples.

Mark English
Head of Media, European Commission Representation in the UK

No “crippling new tax on Britain”

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Letter sent to the Editor of The Daily Express on 5th January, 2012

Your front page claim that the EU will “hammer Britain with a crippling new tax” (5 Jan) is fantasy. First, as your own article says on page four, the UK has a veto on the proposed financial transaction tax. Second, far from “destroying jobs”, the proposal aims to save jobs by helping prevent crises caused by reckless speculation. The aim is for banks across the EU to contribute fairly to the trillions of pounds and euros it has cost taxpayers to rescue them. Proceeds in the UK would go to national coffers and to reduce the UK’s EU budget contribution. Finally, all EU leaders have repeatedly made clear that they want a responsible City of London to thrive, as thanks to the EU single market it provides vital financial services right across the EU and contributes to jobs and growth in all Member States.

Many thanks

Mark English
Head of Media
European Commission Office in London

Is “Brussels” preventing the UK from introducing tougher capital requirements for banks?

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Letter to the Editor of The Daily Telegraph, sent on 22nd Decmber 2011


You reported on 20 December 2011 that “Brussels has demanded that key banking regulations are set centrally” but that Brussels itself “is proving an obstacle to reducing systemic risk”.

Let me put the record straight. “Brussels” has not demanded anything. All EU national leaders called in 2009 for “a European single rule book applicable to all financial institutions in the single market.” They realised that many banks had been poorly managed, regulated and supervised.

One important chapter of the single rule book concerns implementing international agreements known as Basel III, setting capital requirements for banks. How and when individual countries can raise those requirements is now being debated in the European Parliament and Council of Ministers. But contrary to many reports, the Commission’s proposal allows considerable flexibility for national supervisors on this.

We understand that London has the largest financial sector in the EU and we want UK supervisors to be able to do their job properly. This is a time for rational debate about the discretions needed at national level in a single market with a single rule book, not for simplistic stories setting “Brussels” against “London and “the City”.

Yours faithfully

Olivier Guersent

Head of Cabinet of Michel Barnier
European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services

Barmy EU colder fridges’ order will cost us £100m

Monday, December 12th, 2011

Letter to the Editor of the Daily Express, sent on 12th December 2011

Dear Sirs,

Contrary to claims in your article, “Barmy EU ‘colder fridges’ order will cost us £100m”, 12 December 2011, there are no new EU regulations ordering supermarkets to turn down fridge temperatures. The facts are less chilling.

EU member states have asked the Commission to look into the fact that supermarkets’ own meat cutting plants are not covered by the same hygiene regulations as independent plants, even though they often process more meat.

So the Commission is carrying out a fact finding exercise, to make sure consumers are properly protected.

No changes have been proposed and none could enter into force without full scrutiny by MEPs and national ministers.

Yours faithfully 

Mark English
Head of Media
European Commission Representation in the UK

EC in the UK

Check the EC Representation in the UK website

Please note that all statements in all entries were correct on the date of publication given. However, older archived posts are not systematically updated in the light of later developments, for example changes to EU law.

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