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Oi, EU , No!

Green how I want you green.
Green wind. Green branches.

Normally, I’d say I’m quite pro-Europe. It has a lot going for it.

Barcelona, Paris, the museums of Florence, warmer weather than we get, Chablis and Champagne, the gothic splendour of Milan Cathedral, the view of Vesuvius from the ferry across the Bay of Naples, paella, and Barolo for starters.

I even quite like Brussels – it’s easy to get to, everyone speaks at least one of the only two languages that I can make myself understood in and it has some fine architecture and even finer beers.

It also has some of the stupidest people in the world.

I can think of no other reason than pure, blind stupidity that would make a bunch of people decide to sue another country’s government because they disagree with a taxation rate.

VAT at a rate of 5% is levied in the UK on some energy-saving materials instead of the standard 20%, as a way of reducing the upfront costs of installing energy-efficient product. And, by extension, encouraging their installation and therefore making buildings more energy efficient, lowering energy bills and reducing both carbon emissions and maybe, our reliance on fossil fuels.

Exempted products include insulation, controls for central heating and hot water systems, solar panels and heat pumps.

However, the EU in its “infinite wisdom” (NOT) has decide that this is against its rules which state that goods such as water and food may be eligible for reduced rates of VAT, but not energy-saving materials.

The Eurocraps (sic) threatened the UK Treasury with court proceedings in the European Court of Justice if the full VAT rate was not brought in on these products. The UK Treasury, quite rightly (and it’s not often I say that) has refused to do so.

And so it seems the Eurocraps will, rather than lose face, waste thousands and thousands of European taxpayers money – including ours – taking the government of one of its own members to court.

Cover your ears/eyes children, but really, FFS, what do they think this will achieve?

A lot of money earned for solicitors and the possible scuppering of the Green Deal is what it will achieve.

The Green Deal, the Government’s flagship energy efficiency programme, works on the principle that the cost of installing energy-saving materials such as heating controls and insulation will be less than the energy savings which their installation will ensure. This is the Golden Rule – that the savings will ensure that the work costs no more than the amount saved on the energy bill. I’m a bit hazy on the mathematics but then I’m not a Green Deal Approved Assessor.

The 5% VAT charged on the insulation is taken into account when calculating the Golden Rule, as is the 20% VAT charged on the work installing it. At the very least, if that 5% has to be raised to 20% there will be a whole heap of changes to be made to the calculations and there will be numerous households who fall outside of the Golden Rule, when they wouldn’t have done otherwise.

I know the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme which runs alongside the Green Deal is designed to step in to these cases, but why should we have to put pressure on a different scheme just because the Brussels bureaucrats have decided to stick their noses into our business?

Saving energy and carbon emissions are good and laudable aims. And they are aims that the EU itself aspires to achieve.

So, again, if Europe wants to entice me with its wine and its cheeses and its beaches, I’ll say bring them on. But if it decides to bugger about with our efforts to save the planet I say ‘Oi, EU. No!”

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Fiona Russell-Horne
Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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