Now EU fines Britain £250,000 each day
THE EU was accused of acting like a spoilt child yesterday after threatening the UK with fines of £250,000 a day for failing to implement new rules.
The huge penalty was proposed by the European Commission the day after David Cameron called for EU reform and promised Britain a referendum on whether to stay in on new terms or leave.
Outraged MPs said Brussels’ petty attempt at revenge would make a vote to pull out even more likely, while the Whitehall department affected also hit back at the Eurocrats, insisting the UK was on the verge of meeting their demands.
The Commission is asking the European Court of Justice to slap daily fines equivalent to £174 a minute or more than £91million a year on the UK for failing fully to introduce into British law two directives on how gas and electricity markets operate in the EU.
Leading Conservative Eurosceptic MP Peter Bone said: “This shows why we should not be in the EU. Their action is like a spoilt child who has been told off for their behaviour and is retaliating against the person who has reprimanded them.
“They are quite happy to fine the UK for allegedly not implementing these directives but totally fail to implement directives that benefit British businesses.
“It could be interpreted as an effort by the Commission to ensure we leave the EU. I heard it suggested that this is Brussels’ petty revenge for David Cameron standing up for the interests of the British people. Either way it just goes to prove how the Daily Express on its own spoke for the whole British nation while other papers scramble to catch up.”
Fellow Tory Douglas Carswell asked: “Is this Brussels’ idea of an early April Fool joke? Thanks to the EU’s wretched energy rules, bills for my constituents are rising so fast that living standards are falling.
“Far from giving us cheaper energy, EU rules mean the householder has to pay ever more. Now they have the nerve to fine us because we have failed to impose yet more costly diktats. They have given the campaign to get us out of the EU a real boost.”
The Department of Energy and Climate Change issued an unusually strongly worded response to the Brussels threat.
A spokesman said: “The UK is very supportive of the single energy market, which brings benefits to consumers and business across the EU.
“It is regrettable that a fine has been proposed by the Commission at this stage given the significant work completed in the UK in relation to these directives with the remainder due to be completed by April 2013.”
The Commission said yesterday that despite two formal warnings, in autumn 2011 and in April last year, Britain had only partially written the two measures into UK law. EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger said: “Delays in implementation of the rules have negative effects on all players and are not acceptable.”
A Commission official said the UK had been given plenty of time after the original March 2011 deadline and had failed to justify satisfactorily its failure to act.
While the rules have been transposed into law in England it is believed the Commission’s complaint is that they have not yet been applied in Northern Ireland.
The daily fines would be paid from the date of a court judgment until Britain met Brussels’ demands.
The UK can avoid proceedings by complying before the case comes to the Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
No date for a hearing has been set. Bulgaria and Estonia face fines too but of only £14,000 and £7,500 a day.
Alison Little, Express online here
Last Updated (Tuesday, 29 January 2013 11:22)