British prime minister David Cameron earned plaudits from his own political party for the way that he ducked out of plans for a new European treaty to strengthen the Euro last week.
But, in the eyes of commentators right across Europe, it was a message of resignation from the whole European project. French newspaper Le Monde said: “Europe of 27: it’s finished”. And Germany’s Der Spiegel headlined its story: “The man who said no to Europe”.
The relevance of this becomes apparent when you learn that retailers in the UK are up in arms about EU changes to food storage rules – and they want the British government to do something about it.
The British Retail Consortium reckons that the proposals will cost retailers at least 117m euros (£100m) – and damage the environment.
The proposal that the Commission is currently consulting on would introduce a required temperature of two degrees Celsius for all chilled food while it’s being stored and transported as part of revised Food Hygiene Regulations.
The BRC says existing UK rules are more than adequate, allowing retailers to establish their own practices providing they can prove the temperatures they operate at are safe.
Upgrading equipment would cost large retailers alone at least £100 million. Energy consumption would have to rise by an estimated twenty per cent to produce the lower temperatures, increasing carbon dioxide emissions and adding further to retailers’ bills.
“These proposals would cost retailers and the environment dear while benefiting no-one. It’s time for ministers to prove their commitment to better regulation by supporting the fight against them,” said BRC food director Andrew Opie.
When Sir Geoffrey Howe resigned from the Thatcher government in 1990, he memorably spoke of British negotiations on European economic and monetary union in the following terms: “It is rather like sending your opening batsmen to the crease, only for them to find, as the first balls are being bowled, that their bats have been broken before the game by the team captain”.
Will the minister sent to oppose these proposals on food storage come away thinking something similar?