17/05/2016 07:12 BST | Updated 16/05/2017 06:12 BST

We Need the EU's Regulated Duvets


As crowd-funded right-wing films go, Brexit the Movie isn't bad. It's slick, well-presented and looks pretty professional.

The area in which it's lacking is (as is so often the way with Brexit campaign material) factual accuracy and honesty.

One segment, called Regulated People with Regulated Lives, tells viewers how many "stupid EU laws" there are regulating various everyday objects.

Starting at the beginning of Regulated Man's day, the common-sense voice of the narrator says: "You wouldn't think you'd need a law for pillowcases."

Well... actually I kind of would. And similarly, when the narrator sarcastically announced, "You can't be too careful with duvets and sheets," my first thought was, Of course you can't.

I looked up some of the EU legislation covering these areas to see what the film-makers can have found so objectionable. Perhaps what they oppose is Decision 2010/376/EU, which specifies that duvets mustn't be flammable (you can't be too careful with duvets), poisonous or made of unhygenic animal products liable to infect the user.

It also says: "Duvets for children shall not comprise cords or loops that could entangle the child's neck."

Seems reasonable to me. While I suppose we could leave the EU to reassert our national sovereignty and our right to sell children flammable duvets ('They were good enough for my grandfather so they're good enough for me'), it somehow doesn't seem that compelling an argument.

The film's next complaint is: "How they've managed to think up 31 laws for toothbrushes is beyond me."

It's beyond me, as well, because it's completely untrue.

It's not too hard to work out that Brexit the Movie has done is: gone onto the European law database EUR-lex, searched various terms, and quoted the number of results each one got. But this calculates the number of laws mentioning each item, not regulating each item.

Of the "31 laws for toothbrushes", several are actually about batteries (and refer to electric toothbrushes as an example of a type of portable battery), a couple are about economic measurements (where toothbrushes form part of a basket of consumer goods used for cross-European comparisons) and so on. Some, such as Case 2001/C 43/06, don't even contain the word "toothbrush" at all and were apparently thrown up by computer error.

Did the film-makers bother to check any of this out? Nope. They'd already moved on to complaining about "the fog of canine legislation": an alleged 556 EU laws regulating dogs.

One of them, Regulation 576/2013, allows the armies of Europe to share search and rescue dogs: so if a building collapses in, say, Portugal, and the nearest or best sniffer dogs are located just over the border in Spain, they can be brought across in a hurry and lives saved. Bloody nanny state Europe!

Admittedly Directive 2010/63/EU is pretty long, and terribly idealistic: "There should be an upper limit of pain, suffering and distress above which animals should not be subjected in scientific procedures. Procedures that result in severe pain, suffering or distress, which is likely to be long-lasting and cannot be ameliorated, should be prohibited."

But really, if the Brexiteers got their way and we left Europe, Britain would just re-enact that sort of legislation itself. As a modern liberal democracy, obviously w're going to ban excessively cruel animal testing. Obviously we're going to ban poisonous coffee ("625 laws!"). And obviously we are going to ban child-strangling duvets.

Brexit the Movie criticises only the procedures and output of the EU. Its complaints are purely existential. In the whole 'Regulated People' scene, stuffed full of facts (in a broad and liberal sense of the word 'fact') and figures (ditto), the film-makers are not able to come up with a single example of an EU regulation, directive or even suggestion that they actually find problematic.

Their attempt to blind the public with misleading statistics is a sham. They should be ashamed.