Myth: Chinese imports of Dr Spock are to be banned by the EU, although Captain Kirk will be allowed entry, due to new trade quotas dreamed up by Brussels bureaucrats restricting toy imports from outside the European Community. Only toys that are human-like can be allowed in, creating even more of a problem for Customs officials who have to consider the status of the likes of Noddy and Big Ears.
Source: Press Association (14 July 1994), The Times, The Guardian, The Sun, Daily Mirror, Daily Express (15 July 1994)
Response: This is not quite the case. Brussels is not in fact banning anything. The story originates from a decision to reform the quota system taken by the member states in February 1994, and is but a small part of a much larger package of trade liberalisation for Chinese products. For its part the European Commission has seen the problem that the quotas have caused for importers, and has therefore proposed an increase of some £120m for this year. It remains to be seen whether the Member States will agree to this initiative.
The EU quota does indeed draw a distinction between “dolls representing human beings” and “animals and non-human creatures”, and the quota does apply to the latter and not to the former. However this is an international customs distinction, drawn up by the 150 countries of the Customs Co-operation Council in 1950, well before the EU was established.