Debunking EU law myths


If you regularly read the paper or news online, you could be forgiven for thinking the European Union (EU) is intent on regulating every aspect of our lives - from forcing builders to wear t-shirts to demanding that Waterloo station be renamed ‘Europe Station’ to avoid upsetting the French. However, many of the outlandish yet entertaining stories are simply not true; so many, in fact, that the European Commission has dedicated a page on its website to debunking these myths.

Great myth number 1

Among some of the bizarre claims made by the media is one by the Daily Mail that the EU is planning to ban all DIY in kitchens, bathrooms and gardens, as the combination of water and electricity causes a safety hazard. If this was the case, there would rightly be cause for an uproar – an Englishman’s home is his castle after all and if he wants to install electrical items in dangerous proximity to a full bath tub, who is the EU to stop him?

However, the truth of the matter is that the EU never had any intention of banning DIY. A non-EU organisation called the European Committee for Electrical Standardisation adopted a set of voluntary regulations that national governments are free to adopt, if they wish to do so.

Great myth number 2

Another law that the EU has been accused of implementing is one to ban bendy bananas, curved cucumbers and chunky carrots. The Times reported that the EU was imposing strict rules on greengrocers that would see the standardisation of all fruit and vegetables, thereby removing any quirks in shape.

In actual fact the EU was asked to create a set of standards for the quality and size of fruit and vegetables by producers and governments in order to help international trade. The grading rules simply allow buyers, such as supermarkets and greengrocers, to know what they are getting when they buy a box of fruit or veg. Bendy bananas are still available to buy!

Great myth number 3

Another story by the Times claimed that the EU was legislating that all pigs must be given toys, such as footballs or basketballs, to play with or farmers would face up to three months in jail.

The EU did adopt a pig welfare directive that said all pigs must be given rooting material to stimulate them and stop them from being bored. This is important as scientific research has shown that bored pigs can harm themselves and other pigs. Rooting material can be straw, hay, sawdust, wood, compost material etc. The EU directive does not mention toys. The Times got that information from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, a UK government department, not the EU.

Serious myths

There are some serious claims in amongst the sensational headlines. The Daily Express claimed in an article that the EU wanted to stop judges from handing down life sentences to murderers and that it wanted all the member states’ legal systems to be the same.

The EU said that it does not have any plans to do away with life sentences; there is only a discussion paper in order to promote debate on the subject. It also said it does not want one legal system for the whole EU but that it does make sense to harmonise certain laws that tackle serious cross-border crimes, such as terrorism.

So, next time you read a story in the paper about the EU and its micro-managing ways, you may actually be reading another EU law myth that needs to be debunked.

For more information on EU myths, go to the EC website. For more information on European Union laws that do affect you as a British citizen, go to our EU law information page on the topic.


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