Monday, March 21, 2005

Blame it on Brussels

An article in The Sunday Times yesterday was a prime example of the easy cop-out of buck-passing to the EU whenever a government department makes a cock-up.

Basic story? A moronic official at DEFRA vetoed a food advertising campaign because he thought the images were "too British" (fields, cows, farmers - the sort of thing you'll find all over Europe):

"One photograph, headlined One Day with Daisy, was deemed to be too obviously of a British landscape and thus risked breaching articles 20 and 28 of the Treaty of Rome, designed to curb illegal state subsidies."
Erm... Here's the Treaty of Rome. Let's see:
"Article 20. The duties applicable to the products in List G shall be determined by negotiation between the Member States. Each Member State may add further products to this List to a value not exceeding 2 per cent of the total value of its imports from third countries in the course of the year 1956.
"The Commission shall take all appropriate steps to ensure that such negotiations shall be undertaken before the end of the second year after the entry into force of this Treaty and be concluded before the end of the first stage.
"If, for certain products, no agreement can be reached within these periods, the Council shall, on a proposal from the Commission, acting unanimously until the end of the second stage and by a qualified majority thereafter, determine the duties in the common customs tariff."
The official at DEFRA even explicitly referred to article 28: "many of the proposed articles [in the advertising leaflet] would breach article 28 of the treaty because of their focus on the British origin of the product".
"Article 28. Any autonomous alteration or suspension of duties in the common customs tariff shall be decided by the Council, acting by a qualified majority on a proposal from the Commission."
Yep - LOADS there about places of origin for foodstuffs, isn't there? Christ...

As the Commission has noted, this whole thing is simply a load of old bollocks:
"The European commission said it 'never' regarded pictures of national landscapes as posing a breach of state aid rules. A spokesman said: 'That is wrong.'"
For a change, this is not a press distortion, but a deliberate propagation of a Euromyth by a civil servant desperate to pass the blame elsewhere. Mention a few random articles or subclauses from some European treaty, the assumption is that no one can be bothered to check because these things are all so dull. Most of the time, this seems to be a safe assumption to make.

But it sounds good, doesn't it? Meddling Brussels bureaucrats interfering with or way of life, wasting our money, etc. Who cares if it's a load of old nonsense?

When it turns out to be one of our own bureaucrats, generally speaking everyone stays rather more quiet. As I've tried explaining numerous times, both here and over at Commissioner Wallstrom's blog, there's really not much difference between our own civil service and the Commission's various workers (note: not the Commissioners themselves). The only real difference is that the Commission doesn't have the luxury of being able to pass the buck...

6 Comments:

Blogger Jarndyce said...

I'm wondering whether every Murdoch paper is given a quota of 'blame the EU' stories to fill every week. And if there's no story, they just invent one. A bit like the system with traffic wardens round here.

3/21/2005 03:44:00 pm  
Anonymous jamie said...

It's a bit of a metaphor for the actual function of the EU, as a kind of responsibility dump - anything difficult or unpopular, blame it on the evil Eurocrats. The DEFRA guy was just taking it to a logical conclusion.

3/21/2005 03:52:00 pm  
Anonymous robin said...

Well,if we were out of the EU no one could blame EUrocrats.
Another good reason to leave.

3/21/2005 08:30:00 pm  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

Robin - very true. Then you eurosceptic lot would start to realise that all the stuff you blame on the EU would be happening anyway, and come to realise that your anti-Brussels anger was always somewhat misplaced.

It's actually a rather drastic line of attack some pro-EU people have suggested before (jokingly, I hasten to add) - temporarily leave the EU so that everyone can realise how much worse off we would be and see the error of their ways. I mean - after all - considering the records of the last few governments this country's had, do you REALLY trust Westminster to run Britain any better than Brussels?

3/22/2005 12:27:00 pm  
Anonymous robin said...

Nosemonkey,


Yes

3/24/2005 05:42:00 pm  
Anonymous Hew BG said...

Nosemonkey,

I'm afraid Robin is right.

The premise for this post is:
A moronic official at DEFRA vetoed a food advertising campaign because he thought the images were "too British"

The fanciful pro-EU argument wouldn't hold in this case: It just simply would not have happened at all.

3/25/2005 01:43:00 pm  

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