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Licensed to mislead

April 10, 2014

Stories suggesting that “British car number plates could be axed by a vote in the European Parliament next week” (Daily Express) are utterly untrue.

There is no proposal or amendment on the table that would create a standard design for all car number plates in the EU. Nobody has any intention of making such a proposal.

It is legally impossible that “officials in Brussels” could be given powers to “set a standard design for vehicle registration plates in all EU member states” (Express). The EU does not “want just one version” of number plates (Daily Mail print edition). It is nothing short of ludicrous to suggest “cherished personalised number plates could be banned” (Express).

The BBC has already looked into this and come to rather different conclusions: http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-eu-26975209

The full facts are these.

The European Commission put forward in April 2012 a proposal for an EU law to simplify the transfer of …

Wrong media verdict on EC proposals to ensure fair trials

March 18, 2014

The Sun on Sunday 16 March and the Evening Standard on 18 March have run articles highlighting concerns expressed by Justice Minister Chris Grayling over the European Commission’s proposal to strengthen certain aspects of the presumption of innocence and of the right to be present at trial in criminal proceedings.

The Sun failed to mention at all that the UK has an opt-out on all EU justice measures and the Standard mentioned this only in passing at the end.

Given that the UK has indeed already expressed a clear intention to opt out of all such measures – existing and new – before the end of this year and only then to seek to opt back in to those it wishes to be part of, there is no chance that the proposal concerned will affect the UK justice system unless the UK so chooses.

What it will do is strengthen safeguards …

Brussels inspectors not digging up the great British garden

March 10, 2014

The Sunday Express on 9 March published a front page article guaranteed to raise the blood pressure of the patriotic British gardener.

The headline said: “New EU rules would let inspectors dig up your garden…..in a bid to destroy some of Britain’s best-loved plants“. It went on “EU bureaucrats want new powers that would allow their inspectors to remove any plants on the Brussels hit list.”

This was then followed up by the Daily Telegraph on 10 March, with the headline “Gardeners with rhododendrons could be ‘criminalised’ by new EU law.”

There is, of course, no such thing as an ‘EU inspector’, so Sunday Express readers can relax: no euro-jobsworths in blue overalls with yellow twelve star logos will be arriving at dawn to dig up herbaceous borders or bundle rhodendron aficionados into vans.

The European Commission has proposed an EU Regulation on preventing and managing invasive alien species.

Far from …

EU staff “going back to school” – often at their own expense – is no “gravy train”

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 – …

EC investigates ski instructor cases – while some media go off piste

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 …

Generating a bankrupt media tale

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” …

No, Mail on Sunday, the EU is (obviously) not banning yogurt and cheese from school dinners

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 …

Is the EU “denying children cancer drugs”…. or is the EU the world leader in forcing pharmaceutical companies to deliver new drugs?

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 …

The truth about EU flag flap

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 …

EU migrants avoiding tax ? Or Sunday Telegraph avoiding full story?

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 …