New EU rules adopted by national ministers and the European Parliament mean people can no longer easily avoid paying fines imposed on them for driving dangerously in other EU member states than their own. This EU framework applies to all member states equally. There is no “quirk of EU law” discriminating in some way against British drivers as some UK media claim. If the UK authorities choose not to pursue non-resident offenders, that is up to them. Neither are there any “EU-imposed fines” (The Times) or “hefty EU speeding fines” (Daily Express). Each member state is in full control of its traffic rules and levels of fines or other sanctions.
The EU is introducing new measures reducing the limits for lead in toys, based on new and robust scientific evidence.
Anyone with young children knows that they have tendency to chew toys – not least pencils and crayons. The latest scientific evidence supports the view that there is no safe threshold and even tiny amounts of lead present in such toys can contribute to the risk of children suffering disorders ranging from kidney disease to learning difficulties.
So this is about making toys safer for children, not about “banning” crayons and colouring pencils as The Sun newspaper suggests.
The Sun blames “Brussels pen pushers”. In fact, the new rules derive from detailed scientific work under the auspices of the European Food Safety Authority and European Chemicals Authority (summarised here in an impact assessment) and followed by a European Commission proposal submitted to elected MEPs and the Council of the European Union (national governments) who could have chosen to block it, but did not.
The UK will not, whatever the circumstances, be called upon by the EU to supply emergency (“bail out”) funding to Eurozone countries. This is clear in the agreement reached between David Cameron and all the other EU leaders in February, which has the status of international law.* Neither can the EU budget be increased without the UK’s consent beyond the ceilings Member States, including the UK, agreed unanimously for the 2014-2020 period. Any increase in those ceilings requires according to the EU Treaties a unanimous vote – in other words the UK has a veto which could only be altered by a change in the Treaties, something the UK could also veto.
Readers could be forgiven for thinking that 1st April – like the Spring daffodils – had arrived early this year with a splash by the Sunday Express – “EU declares war on drivers: UK motorists should pay congestion charge to drive in every town say Brussels climate change meddlers“. The so-called “exclusive” was the catalyst for other similarly misleading headlines and distortions of the facts in The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and The Scotsman. The European Union has no power to force local authorities to implement congestion charges or bin collection fees. Both remain a matter for national and regional authorities. The European Union only has the powers delegated to it by Member States in the EU Treaties.
The Daily Mail’s headline found the perfect punning phrase: it is indeed “udder nonsense” that EU rules ban cows from defecating on Alpine slopes. A German farmer has fitted his cows with bovine diapers because, he says, cowpats constitute a fertiliser high in nitrates and are therefore outlawed by barmy Brussels bureaucrats. He has shown an admirable flair for poo-blicity – but suggesting there are EU rules that ban cows from hillsides or from leaving their usual deposits is a load of bull.
The Daily Telegraph published an article – later picked up by other media – on 18 July suggesting that the EU’s European External Action Service (EEAS) was “ordering a £2m dinner service fit for an emperor”. In fact it is launching a tender to supply all the crockery, cutlery and glasses, etc that all of its 140 “delegations” – equivalent to embassies – across the world will need for the next 4 years and doing so in the most economical way, with a flexible contract. €3m is the absolute maximum that can be spent over four years, but only items actually needed and supplied will be paid for and the real amount spent is likely to be much less. The prices will be the normal rates for the kind of good quality but not extravagant materials that all diplomatic services would expect to use – for example around €10.50 (£7.50) for a plate, including all packing and transport charges
No new regulation without watertight science No decision has been taken – or is scheduled – to put forward new rules for kettles or toasters. The European Commission is determined to make sure ecodesign policy is implemented in the least intrusive way possible, while delivering maximum energy savings. So it will not bring forward proposals that would stop even the most energy-guzzling kettles or toasters from being sold unless backed by watertight scientific analysis that there would be significant benefits and no alternative way of achieving similar or better results.
According to the article, “Brussels” and the European Commission approve unsafe high-risk medical devices on the EU market. This is not the case. Under EU legislation, independent third-party organisations (Notified Bodies) check and scrutinise medical devices before their CE certification and possible placing on the market. These Notified Bodies are designated and monitored by national authorities, not by “Brussels”.