Category Archives: Europe


It looks like the UK European Commission Rep is getting a little tired of the Express

Letter sent to the Editor of The Daily Express on 18th January 2012

The idea that giving teachers pencil cases and brochures, at their own request, is “brainwashing” by the EU (Express, 18 January) is nonsense. The notion that a video published on our website for two years is part of some secret conspiracy is absurd. Sadly, there is a great deal of misinformation about the EU in the UK, though we tend to avoid hyperbolic terms like “brainwashing”. But it does not come from the European Commission. Our Euromyths website, where the Express features frequently, provides hundreds of examples.

Mark English
Head of Media, European Commission Representation in the UK

This is in response to an Express article (complete with obligatory quote from the Taxpayers Alliance and UKIP) and an editorial.

Express confuses ‘fact finding’ with ‘new regulation’


BRITAIN faces a £100million bill because a bizarre new EU regulation will order supermarkets to turn down the temperature on their refrigerators.

Eurocrats are demanding that stores’ cold storage areas are chilled by a further three degrees to “improve” food safety.

But the order to reset thermostats in stock rooms, warehouses, and delivery vans to 2C (36F) has angered retailers and MPs.

They say it will cost up to £100million to implement and increase energy consumption without making food any safer.

As usual, there are no new regulations, only a fact finding exercise which, according to the EU Commission was prompted by some member states and not bored beaurocrats looking for something to meddle with…

Letter to the Editor of the Daily Express, sent on 12th December 2011

Dear Sirs,

Contrary to claims in your article, “Barmy EU ‘colder fridges’ order will cost us £100m”, 12 December 2011, there are no new EU regulations ordering supermarkets to turn down fridge temperatures. The facts are less chilling.

EU member states have asked the Commission to look into the fact that supermarkets’ own meat cutting plants are not covered by the same hygiene regulations as independent plants, even though they often process more meat.

So the Commission is carrying out a fact finding exercise, to make sure consumers are properly protected.

No changes have been proposed and none could enter into force without full scrutiny by MEPs and national ministers.

Yours faithfully

Mark English
Head of Media
European Commission Representation in the UK

A tabloid-friendly guide to the EU and ECHR

While media watching, one thing you notice is a repeated confusion between the European Union (EU) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) (run by the Council of Europe, CoE).

This may be completely inadvertent, but the Sun, Daily Mail and Express do make this mistake on a regular basis, amongst other “errors”.

I thought I would help them out.

Wikipedia has the following diagram showing how the jurisdiction of various European bodies overlaps*, as well as a few extra bits**:

As you can see there is a clear overlap between the EU and CoE/ECtHR – in fact to join the EU you must be a member of the CoE/ECtHR – but it is clear that there is a significant difference between the two, even when simply looking at the members of each.

The main difference is that one is more trade-related; one more co-operation related.

The EU was set up in 1958 by various western European countries, but not the UK (which created the European Free Trade Association in response), to help them trade with each other.  In fact, the basic idea of the EU is to create an economic bloc between various countries via a single internal market.

The CoE was set up in 1949 – by the UK among others – is more of an inter-governmental co-operation organisation, kind of like a Europe-only UN, with a specific focus on civil rights by the European Convention on Human Rights, which the UK drafted, and a less obvious focus on pharmacology standards.

So while it can be seen that there are similarities between the two, there are obvious differences.

Hopefully, the tabloids will read this and take note, especially as the EU has already attempted to point this out, albeit without success.

* There are a few bodies which aren’t shown on the diagram, including the Central European Free Trade Agreement (which will probably be swallowed up by the EU in the future given the EU’s Candidates and Potential Candidates), and the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia which is rarely mentioned in the UK.

** The other items are the European Free Trade Association; the European Economic Area; the EU Customs Zone; and the Schengen Area; as well as showing non-EU countries countries which have agreements to mint €s, but not those which decided to use it, without reaching a formal agreement, due to historic reasons.

Tabloid bullshit of the month award – November 2010

This post originally appeared over at Five Chinese Crackers.  I’m reproducing it here because the Express is this month’s proud winner!

Yes!  It’s here!  BE excited, B E excited!  It’s…

November’s 5cc tabloid bullshit of the month award.

Start the marching band and tickertape parade!

It’s been quite a tough competition this month.  I actually thought I might have found a winner on October 31st, so there was a lot of catching up to do from all the papers in the following weeks.  The British tabloid press were well up for it though.

Contenders were:

Plus, it’s not exactly tabloid bullshit, but one of my favourite tabloid moments this month was Nadia Saint pointing out this Daily Mail online poll:

Lovely.  Anyway – onto the actual award winner.  Fanfare please…

And the winner is Macer Hall at the Express for ‘99% of you say: get us out of Europe (and the surrounding ‘crusade’) for the reasons in the email below:

Dear Mr Hall,

I am proud to announce that your story ‘99% of you say: get us out of Europe‘ is the latest recipient of journalism’s (probably) newest prize.

Your story, and the campaign built around it, has beaten off competition from all the low-rent tabloids to win the second ever 5cc tabloid bullshit of the month award, presented by me (5cc) over at Five Chinese Crackers.

Put on the pointy party hat and get blowing on the curly noisemakers!

Here’s why your story made you the proud owner of a crap drawing of a trophy:

  • You sound surprised that 99% of a group made up chiefly of readers of a rabidly anti-EU tabloid that provides a constant drip of stories about things like:
    • The EU banning the sale of a dozen eggs (which was rubbish)
    • The EU banning the sale of milk jugs (which was rubbish)
    • The EU wanting to liquify corpses and pour them down the drain (which was – hey, I’ve spotted a pattern here!)

    would want to get out of the EU.

    • I mean, they would only have had stories like these and front-page headlines like ‘EU is on another planet’ (which was – you guessed it!), ‘EU hammers our pensions’ and ‘Get Britain Out Of Europe’  to lead them to the desired conclusion.
    • The only other clues as to the result would have been:
      • 90% and above of Express readers regularly agree with the paper’s editorial line in phone polls
      • An identical phone poll back in 2008 showed that 95% wanted to leave the EU

    You must have been biting your fingernails, waiting for the results to come in.

    • Although the headline is a little ambigious with its use of the word ‘you’, the story itself says:

      …99 per cent of people agree we should quit the European Union.

      Really?  99% of people? Or 99% of people prepared to call a premium rate phone number in a self-selecting poll carried out by an anti-EU tabloid?  A less biased ipsos mori poll earlier in the year showed that only 47% of people wanted to withdraw.  But of course, you already know that, since you reported on it yourself.

    • You actually said:

      As the shockwaves reverberated around Westminster, Brussels and Strasbourg, voters all over the UK backed our crusade to regain Britain’s national independence

      That’s classy, that.  Shockwaves reverberated!  I’m sure they’d only just died down after the results came in from the poll about where bears do their poos.

    The stunt – sorry, crusade – is sure to be a game changer.  It sets you apart from the other tabloids, which are uniformly pro…oh, hang on!  Still, at least now when readers see Express stories you’ve churned from the Telegraph about the EU ruling that all our firstborns should be fed to the reanimated corpse of Hitler, there’ll be a little logo next to them.

    My fellow bloggers Enemies of ReasonMinority Thought and Atomic Spin also all covered your poll and campaign. It didn’t go completely unnoticed!

    Finally, I would like to set all sarcasm aside and thank you for choosing a crusade that aligns you with the least objectionable of our fringe far-right parties.  The BNP have already said:

    Today the Daily Express has published an article vindicating all that the BNP has ever said about the strain being put upon the infrastructure of Britain by continuing to permit unfettered mass immigration. Thank you, Daily Express – it’s good to see that you have finally caught up with us.

    Plus, they’re currently not your friends because they say you’ve stolen their idea about halting foreign aid.  Given your paper’s approach to the issues the BNP hold dear, I dread to think what other crusades you could have chosen.  [I’d written a funny here about Muslims and work camps, but I deleted it for fear of giving you ideas].

    In fact, Hope Not Hate has sent a letter to colleagues at your sister paper, asking them to ‘tone down the shrill’ when reporting about Muslims.  It’d be great if you could read it too and bear it in mind when your own paper pretends three people with bits of A4 count as an angry mob or something.

    So, congratulations!  You’ve won November’s 5cc tabloid bullshit of the month award and the chance to win the 2011 5cc tabloid bullshitter of the year award, which I will present to the winner of most monthly awards between October 2010 and December 2011.

    I’ll be posting the text of this email over at Five Chinese Crackers.  If you’d like to make an acceptance comment or anything, please reply to this email and I’ll publish it there.

    Cheers then!


So, there it is then.  That’s November’s winner.  Check back on the last Saturday of December for next month’s winner.  Will it involve Winterval?

If you come across any contenders, feel free to email me at fivechinesecrackers [at] gmail [dot] com, or DM me on twitter at @5ChinCrack and they’ll be mashed into the mix!

How to Respond to Media Myths

This is a cross-post on The Sun – Tabloid Lies, Express Watch and Mail Watch.

When you read the Sun, Daily Mail and the Express over a long-enough period of time, you start to notice a few things.

One thing that crops up regularly are hysterical ranting posts over a few small topics, including the following:

We’ve noticed that a lot of these scare stories could be stopped by a little research, which we accept that pressed-for-time tabloid journalists, for whatever reason, are unable to do.

Therefore, in the spirit of co-operation, we’ve decided to help them out by listing great sources of information, thereby saving them valuable time:

There are also a variety of websites which can be used for any “Bloody Foreigners! Coming over ‘ere! Takin’ our jobs! Takin’ our wimmin!” stories*:

There are also more general fact-checking sites**:

Of course, any and all of these lists could also be used by anyone else who wants to know more about the articles which the Sun, Daily Mail and/or the Express publish.

If anyone has any other suggestions as what other sources our tabloid journalists could use, just leave them in the comments.

* Thanks to Tabloid Watch for these particular links
** Thanks to Bloggerheads for these suggestions