January 29, 2019

EuroMyths

The term Euromyth is used to refer to exaggerated or invented stories about the European Union and its institutions. Inventing Euro myths has been something of a sport for many media sources (Especially the British press) for nearly 30 years.

Many of these Euromyths contain a kernel of truth, perhaps a line in a draft proposal or a footnote in a directive that has been taken out of context and blown out of proportion. Some are completely fabricated. Most support the narrative that Brussels is nothing but a bunch of meddling, red-tape-loving, humourless pedants who are out to ban, or at least rename, our fun.

The EU Commission now collects these yarns for re-publication and so far has listed over 650.

See here the complete list of Euromyths:  A-Z Index of Euromyths 1992 to 2017

Here are a few examples:

  • Newspaper Headline 1. ‘Bombay Mix’

In 2006, the Sun (UK Newspaper) reported that “nutty” EU officials wanted to rename a snack food ‘Bombay mix’ to  ‘Mumbai mix’, “to make the snack politically correct”.This story is completely fictional. The Telegraph’s then Brussels correspondent, David Rennie, managed to find the source of the story, which was a small regional news agency in England. The editor there told him the story “came from a mate at the Home Office, who had heard it being talked about” and when challenged said: “Look, this is just meant to be funny for the tabloids.”

  • Newspaper Headline 2. ‘EU Bans Prawn Cocktail Crisps’

Boris Johnson (UK MP) wrote in 2002, some of his “most joyous hours” had been spent composing “foam-flecked hymns of hate to the latest Euro-infamy”, the first on the list was his fictitious story where the EU bans prawn cocktail crisps.

Except that the EU never banned the crisps. The EU informs us that this palaver was the result of an error by the UK government, which failed to include prawn cocktail when asked to send a list of flavourings and sweeteners in current use to the EU, which was drafting a harmonised EU-wide list. When the mistake was spotted, the information was provided by the UK government and the list was amended.

But this hasn’t stopped Johnson from getting angry about it. As recently as March 2018, the former London mayor cited the “great war against the British prawn cocktail flavour crisp” as part of his evidence of Brussels-gone-mad and a reason he was campaigning to leave.

  • Newspaper Headline 3. ‘EU -26,911 words on cabbage legislation’

“The Lord’s Prayer is 66 words long. The Ten Commandments: 79 words. The Gettysburg address: 272 words. EU regulations on the sale of cabbage? 26,911 words.”

This is a Euro myth for a social media age. The kind of catchy summary of everything that’s wrong with the EU in 140 characters (well, just over). It’s a line that the Daily Mail’s Rachel Johnson – Boris’s sister, as chance would have it – wrote in March 2018.

Only, it’s not right. The “cabbage memo”, as it is known, is of questionable origin and can be found in exactly the same form mocking US government regulations on the sale of cabbage.

For those who are interested, EU regulations laying down the common quality standards for cabbages, the section on cabbages runs to about 1,800 words.

  • Newspaper Headline 4. Curved bananas to be banned

In September 1994, the Sun, Daily Mirror, Daily Mail and Daily Express (All UK Newspapers) all reported that “curved bananas have been banned by Brussels bureaucrats”.

The thought of curved bananas being plucked from the hands of hungry British toddlers by EU officials clearly struck home, because it is one that has refused to die. The story ran again in the Sun in 1998 under the headline “Bananas must not be excessively curved” and the Telegraph stated in 2008: “Bent banana and curved cucumber rules dropped.”

Like many myths, this one has a grain of truth to it, namely a line in the commission regulation (EC) 2257/94, which dictates that all bananas must be free from “abnormal curvature”. But curved bananas are not and never have been banned: bananas of the lower classes are permitted “defects of shape”.

  • Newspaper Headline 5. The Euro condom

Rumours that the EU would introduce regulations for the sizing of condoms, leading to a one-size-fits-all “euro condom” caused a great dealing of harrumphing in the 90s, as people felt that Brussels’ intervention into their sex lives was a bridge too far.

Except the condom-by-Brussels never materialised. While standards of condom size were introduced across Europe, these were the responsibility of the European Committee on Standardisation, which is not an EU body.