Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Going Bananas

As I mentioned in my post last week, the argument about the EU is very polarised. Sometimes it only requires a few words to bring to mind a desired image in the context of the EU debate.

As is, it seems, with the words "straight bananas". The below quotes are just samples, this phrase is appearing just about everywhere that the current EU debate crops up.

"Much of what you have said here is about as true as a straight banana. Be ashamed of yourself." - LizStockeraswas (pro-EU commenter on CiF)1

"...And how could debate here be informed, when it is held in newspapers that take the wilful-idiocy line on Europe, running stories on the threat from Brussels to straight bananas and smoky-bacon-flavoured crisps?" - Celia Brayfield (New Statesman)2

"Strangely enough, opinion surveys that elicit europhobic responses tend to include questions along the lines of "What do you think of Brussels' forcing of straight bananas on the Great British Public?"" - Francis Sedgemore (Guardian)3

What is implied by the use of those words in all of these examples is fairly clear. The insistence of the EU regulations ('Brussels') on the sale of a particular type of banana in Britain is a Euromyth', something created by the influential anti-EU agitators (often named as 'the tabloid press' or even specifically 'Murdoch') in order to make Europe sound like a source of useless, petty, fussy regulation of business.

Is "straight bananas" a Euromyth? Not quite.
Is it true that 'Eurocrats' demanded that bananas be straight? Not quite.

All of this arises from one regulation, European Commission 2257/944, the 'official publication of the European Commission laying down quality standards for bananas'. As the code number suggests it was issued in 1994. Under the heading of 'Quality', the regulation states that bananas in all classes must be among other things "free from malformation of abnormal curvature of the fingers". 'Abnormal curvature' is not defined. The regulation also specifies a minimum length and 'grade' (width) for a banana to be sold in the EC.

So, it is correct to say that the EC at the time did not regulate in such a way that ordinary curved bananas were banned - this is indeed an exaggeration. But neither was the story fabricated from whole cloth as EU-eulogisers would like you to think.


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