James Grace explores the number and nature of EU rules on the UK statute book

This week we were treated to the unedifying spectacle of Conservative leadership contender Rishi Sunak using all of his theatrical powers to simulate the shredding of EU laws retained on the UK statute book – a cringing representation of what he promises to do, if he wins power.

But, here’s the thing: David Cameron spent £5 million looking for EU laws to ditch between 2012 and 2014 – the ‘Balance of Competences Review’ – and found nothing. Unsurprisingly, given the level of anti-EU hysteria on the Tory benches, the Government quietly buried the report.

For my part, in 2019 I listed on Twitter the EU rules that we voted against – the pieces of legislation that were supposedly imposed on us by our draconian overlords in Brussels. Below is an edited version of what I discovered back then.


In 2015, the House of Commons library looked at how many UK laws had been influenced by the EU over the previous 12 years. Answer: 4,514 out of 34,105.

And, out of the 4,514, the Vote Leave EU Referendum campaign claimed 72 that were forced on us “against our will”. A whole six per year.

So – what inequities were forced upon us? What degradation, what humiliations, were imposed on our proud island nation?

29/03/1996 – EU: Food labels should say if Aspartame is present.

Linked to cancer, headaches and seizures, even Pepsi USA stopped using it by 2015. 

29/04/1996 – EU: Ban on livestock growth-boosters with hormonal, thyrostatic or beta-agonist effects.

03/06/1996 – EU: Safety advisers dealing with transport of dangerous goods on public roads etc. must be properly trained and regulated.

27/06/1996 – EU: We need some conservation measures to preserve North Atlantic fish stocks.

22/07/1996 – EU: Additives to mineral water must be safe and labels must be honest (e.g. “spring water” has to come from an actual spring).

24/09/1996 – EU: Posted workers must be given the same pay and conditions as local workers.

09/12/1996 – EU: Let’s have a consistent approach to data collection on goods traded between member states.

17/03/1997 – EU: Let’s tighten up on livestock health checks, paperwork and traceability.

Soon after 10 million animals were slaughtered during foot and mouth.

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22/04/1997 and 26/06/1997 – EU: We still need to protect those fish stocks.

22/07/1997 – EU: Let’s have a single set of rules about drying, powdering and labelling hops – instead of everyone just making it up as they go along.

20/10/1997 – EU: Don’t add tartaric acid to wine. And here’s how tariffs on grape juice from third countries should be calculated.

11/12/1997 – EU: firms from outside the EU may carry passengers between destinations in the EU (cabotage) without needing a registered office in the EU.

UK (1997): Not happy.
UK (2021): Splendid idea.

16/12/1997 – EU: Lamb and sheep meat should be classified in a consistent way as soon as possible after slaughter.

16/02/1998 – EU: Trucks for livestock journeys over eight hours must have bedding, feed, water, ventilation, partitions and access for inspectors.

18/05/1998 – EU: We should implement a temporary, partial suspension from customs duties for certain gas turbines.

19/06/2000 – EU: We are going to intervene in the sugar market to create price stability and protect farm incomes.

04/12/2000 – EU: These are our proposed subsidies for fruit and veg growers.

29/01/2001 – EU: Let”s increase the tonnage of bananas we take from Pacific ACP countries at the lower tariff rates?

19/12/2001 – EU: After the mad cow thing and the dioxin thing, maybe we should tighten up on compound feed and how it is labelled?

27/06/2002 – EU: South Korean state aid for shipyards is undercutting our yards on LNG tankers; time for countermeasures.

27/02/2003 – EU: We must ban the advertising of tobacco products in printed media, radio, TV, events sponsorship etc.

03/06/2003 – EU: We must set up an EU-wide computer system to combat the evasion of excise duty on booze etc.

22/07/2003 – EU: We need proper labelling of food that uses genetically modified ingredients – so consumers can decide not to buy them if they are worried.

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26/01/2004 – EU: Airlines should compensate passengers for delayed or cancelled flights.

28/02/2005 – EU: In 2000 we dropped sugar tariffs for some Balkans countries and we want to row that back a bit now.

07/05/2007 – EU: Greece Italy and Spain are bearing disproportionate costs housing asylum seekers – everyone should chip in to help them.

07/05/2007 – EU: Can you chip in to fund a programme to help asylum seekers return home?

23/05/2007 – EU: Another whip-round needed; to help member states in receiving and in bearing the consequences of receiving refugees and displaced persons.

30/05/2007 – EU: We need common standard for emissions testing and what maintenance information vehicle manufacturers should provide.

24/09/2009 – EU: No pesticides that are carcinogenic, mutagenic, toxic to reproduction, sensitising chemicals, very toxic, explosive or corrosive.

14/12/2010 – EU: We need rule changes to allow us to do development-type stuff with middle-income countries.

17/05/2011 – EU: There’s a potential period of legal limbo between the expiry of current fisheries legal framework and start of the next one. We need a temporary extension to cover the gap.

12/09/2011 – EU: Let’s create a new agency to ensure 24/7 resilience in the IT systems that keep our borders safe (asylum database, visa database, security, fingerprints, criminals).

30/11/2011 – EU: We need a 5% budget increase.

14/02/2012 – EU: We’ve funded food banks since 1987. 13 million people rely on them. Then someone blocked our budget increase last year. Can’t we keep the funding going for another 12 months?

09/03/2012 – EU: The European Refugee Fund needs more dosh, to help those countries that are bearing the brunt.

26/07/2012 – EU: Our budget was 1.2% of members’ total GDP 10 years ago – now it’s 1%. Come on, members?

08/10/2012 – EU: The Maritime Safety Agency needs re-organising and more muscle to punish oil spills from ships and oil rigs.

21/11/2012 – EU: We need a bit more money. Please.

10/12/2012 – EU: We need about £400 million for 2012.

12/12/2012 – EU: We have trimmed our demands by about 10%.

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26/02/2013 – EU: Canary Islands, Azores, Madeira etc are struggling due to their remoteness. Let’s help them?

24/06/2013 – EU: We need prudential supervision of credit institutions and investment firms so that the 2008 crash doesn’t happen again.

10/10/2013 – EU: We want to make some changes to the employment contract for EU staff.

More pointless budget grandstanding. 

12/02/2014 – EU: Please help to fund our Hercule III programme to combat irregularities, fraud and corruption affecting the EU budget.

11/03/2014 – EU: Let”s provide funds for the most deprived citizens – these people are really suffering.

12/03/2014 – EU: We need to agree rules for funding stuff like development, democracy, human rights.

12/03/2014 – EU: We want to establish an instrument to fund stability and peace in countries.

12/03/2014 – EU: Let’s establish a financing instrument for the promotion of democracy and human rights around the world.

12/03/2014 – EU: Let’s establish an instrument for cooperation with third countries.

12/03/2014 – EU: Let’s establish an instrument for development cooperation.

12/03/2014 – EU: Measures to reduce poverty, promote development, trade, education and science in countries that border the EU.

12/03/2014 – EU: Help for pre-accession countries to get ready for joining the EU.

16/04/2014 – EU: Measures to give workers protection from exploitation.

16/04/2014 – EU: Boring bit of housekeeping on staff pensions.

30/09/2014 – EU: Now, no political donations from dodgy Russians, or criminals.

13/10/2014 – EU: Enhanced labelling for EU agricultural products; not just nutritional information, but also food safety, traceability, authenticity, health, animal welfare, environment, sustainability.

More budget grandstanding for the Mail readers. 

05/03/2015 – EU: These measures will protect national statistical authorities from interference by their national governments.

05/03/2015 – EU: Some rules about type approval of e-Call systems (which automatically call 999 in a car crash)

23/06/2015 – EU: The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) needs more judges to deal with a big backlog of cases.

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