How the EU kills business and jobs

Those stories about excessively bent bananas and cucumbers are actually true. The EU is incapable of reform. Britain’s only hope of competing in this Brave New World is to escape this madness as soon as possible

Buried in red tape
Robin Mitchinson
On 26 August 2014 06:25

Tony Blair: ‘The rationale for Europe today is not peace; it is power’. So now we know. And we thought it was about trade. Over-regulation is the enemy of the economy and the EU is a most deadly enemy. And the power vests with unelected Eurocrats.

Eight EU countries lag behind Kazakhstan for ease of doing business. Only the UK and Denmark feature in the top 10. Admittedly much of this is self-inflicted, but it should be the duty of the EU to discourage over-regulation of business. Instead, it is the worst offender

John Redwood in The Commentator cites how EU ‘green’ policies costs thousands of British jobs, perhaps as many as 1.5 million are at risk in the energy intensive sector. Casualties already are an aluminium smelter, steel plants, furnaces, chemical plants, glass and ceramics and other high-energy users.

British energy costs are twice those of the US due to over-regulation. The cost to date is reckoned at £90 billion. And an EU directive has closed 9 power stations at a time when we are facing a generation capacity deficit. Show a bureaucrat  a problem and his first instinct is to pass a regulation.

It takes very little imagination to visualise suits in Brussels saying to themselves, ‘I’m bored. I must think up a new regulation. I know. Everyone must have a separate refuse bin for paper, cardboard,  plastic, food-waste, garden refuse, cans, milk cartons, clear bottles, coloured bottles, rags, and anything else I can think of when I draft the regulation’.

European bureaucrats have  imposed bans or restrictions on thousands of consumer products, including bananas, clothes dryers, cosmetics, cucumbers, fruit jam, laptop computers, laundry detergents, light bulbs, olive oil, plastic bags, refrigerators, showerheads, television sets, tobacco, toilets, toys, urinals and wine cooling cabinets.

Europhiles will tell you that tales of bent bananas being banned are apocryphal. They are not. European Commission Regulation No. 2257/94 says that all bananas bought and sold in the EU must be "free from malformation or abnormal curvature, the measurement, in millimetres, of the thickness of a transverse section of the fruit between the lateral faces and the middle, perpendicularly to the longitudinal axis."

Here is the regulation on bent cucumbers:  European Commission Regulation No. 1677/88, "Class I" and "Extra class" cucumbers are allowed a bend of 10mm per 10cm of length. "Class II" cucumbers can bend twice as much. Any cucumbers that are curvier may not be bought or sold. Who measures them?

Is there a career opening for a cucumber surveyor? Too late. After an outcry, this was withdrawn. The EU also had to back down on the amount of sugar in jam, the shape of some vegetables such as sprout, and the ban on refillable bottles and dipping bowls of olive oil in restaurants.

Last year, ‘they’ banned chocolate  cigarettes because they "appeal to minors and consequently form a potential gateway to using tobacco products." There has been a directive on water-saving showerheads and toilet cisterns. They reduce water flow to the extent that sewers dry out and crack. Years ago they banned beech-wood butcher’s blocks on the grounds of hygiene, and ordered them to be replaced by plastic.

What they didn’t know, because they had not bothered to find out, is that plastic is unhygienic because it cuts quite easily and is difficult to clean, whereas beech-wood is not only very tough, but contains an anti-septic enzyme.

In August 2013 a vacuum cleaner ban was quietly introduced. This what it says

"As of September 2014, only vacuum cleaners that consume less than 1600 watts may be sold in the EU. From 2017 only a maximum of 900 watts will be allowed. At the same time, the vacuum cleaner must be fitted with a label that grades energy consumption on a scale of seven letters and colours: The letter 'A' on a green background means very low energy consumption and the letter 'G' on a red background means very high energy consumption."

Existing vacuum cleaners average 1800 watts, so the energy saving will be minimal because the new ones will have to be used longer to get the same result. Added to which the weaker machines are liable to pump minute particles back into the air. Not good for asthma and allergy sufferers. The Ecodesign Directive (there’s a title to conjure with) brought in a raft of requirements affecting over 40 product groups.

The Directive was responsible for banning our traditional light-bulbs, forcing us to buy expensive fluorescent lamps that contain mercury. That should do the environment little good when they are thrown into the garbage for landfill. Unsurprisingly, it was the big manufacturers who lobbied for the ban, immediately creating a huge new market for themselves.

And there is something slightly amusing about the EU decreeing how much water can be flushed down the toilet ; "the arithmetic average of one full flush volume and three reduced flush volumes." So take your pocket calculator to the dunny. At the same time, the Commission approved regulations to  standardize the flushing of all toilets and urinals in the EU.

There is a baffling reference to ‘user behaviour’ at which thought the mind boggles.

But the average consumer would probably be baffled by the energy-efficient standard for a tumble drier, which is "the weighted condensation efficiency of condensation tumbler dryers must not be less than 60 percent".

And watch out gardeners. The Plant Reproductive Material Law makes it illegal to, "grow, reproduce or trade" any vegetable seeds that have not been "tested, approved and accepted" by the  EU Plant Variety Agency. This prohibits home gardeners from growing their own plants from non-regulated seeds.

Amusing though the antics of Brussels might be, it comes at a price.

The cost to the UK of all this lunacy is about £40 billion annually. And it is self-evident that Brussels is quite happy with things the way they are. The inescapable conclusion is that Cameron will emerge from his referendum negotiations completely empty handed.

The EU is incapable of reform. Britain’s only hope of competing in this Brave New World is to escape from Brussels.

And if Europe wishes to survive and prosper, it must destroy the whole rotten, corrupt, job-killing incubus, entirely and completely, and with no hope of resurrection.

Robin Mitchinson is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator. A former barrister, living in the Isle of Man, he is an international public management specialist with almost two decades of experience in institutional development, decentralisation and democratisation processes. He has advised governments and major international institutions across the world

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