EU Referendum

EU Referendum: BBC – the enemy without


Tony E at Brexitdoor is one of our new generation of Brexit bloggers, and he's already had a look at the loathsome Jonty Bloom, and his attempt to talk down the Norway Option.

This is the second time in a month that the BBC have tried this, the trail blazed by Carolyn Quinn, who went to Greenland in order to do her business. But now it's Jonty's turn, a man who so transparently wanted to show us how bad it all was that it almost hurt.

But it is also a reflection of how arrogantly confident the BBC is that it will never be seriously challenged that it can afford to make such blatantly biased programmes. This is an organisation that is totally out of control, laughing at us as it peddles its propaganda.

Like so often though, the bias is as much by omission as anything. An honest man going to Norway to assess the implications of EEA membership would have looked at the whole picture. He would have talked to people like Bjorn Knudtsen, Chairman of the Fish and Fisheries Product Committee of Codex Alimentarius.

He might also have talked to politicians like Anne Tvinnereim, or Helle Hagenau, international officer of the Norwegian No2EU campaign.

The thing is that we don't have to rely on the BBC anymore. We too can go to Norway and find out things, (although we actually met Bjorn Knudtsen in Bristol), so we are not reliant on the feline Mr Bloom who was so determined to tell us that the Norway Option is not a good idea for Britain.

But, as Tony E recorded, Mr Bloom's pièce de resistance was the Norwegian domestic heating manufacturer called OSO Hotwater, a firm which enabled the brave BBC warrior to tell us that "independence does come at a price".

OSO Hotwater, we are told, is a maker of central heating boilers just outside Oslo, and a few years ago it woke up to a nightmare. Overnight OSO's boss Sigurd Braathen discovered that the EU was introducing new environmental and energy efficiency standards that favoured gas powered boilers over electric ones.

Obligingly, he told Mr Bloom that he did the calculations and realised that half of Oso's products would soon be useless: unsaleable.

Then, in comes the propaganda kick. Says Mr Bloom, "Norway is not a member of the EU, it has no say over these or any other EU rules. It can lobby against them, but it does not sit round the table when they are proposed, discussed, amended, debated, or voted into law. The consequences can be huge".

The story, however, doesn't hang together – not in the least bit. Legislation like this does not just pop out of nowhere. The instruments in question appeared in June 2010 as the draft Commission regulation with regard to ecodesign requirements for and delegated regulations for energy labelling of local space heaters, and also Commission Delegated Regulations of 18 February 2013 supplementing Directive 2010/30/EU with regard to the energy labelling of water heaters, hot water storage tanks and packages of water heater and solar devices.

As delegated legislation, this had been well signalled, stemming from a 2010 directive, the nature of which had been the subject of endless discussion. But, the particular feature of the legislation that was causing such concern was the inclusion of electric heaters.

Here, Jonty Bloom wants to make out that poor lil ol' Norway was all on its own, beating up against Big Bad Brussels. 

Laying on the anguish, he tells us how Sigurd would have had to buy new machinery and robots to install better insulation onto the boilers, at the cost of an extra £5 million. Because they were Single Market rules, the OSO and many other companies in Norway had to follow them even though they never exported so much as a single widget to the European Union, the nation having to "accept all the rules and regulations without a say in how they are made".

But., in the end, says Mr Bloom, OSO got lucky. The EU rules were watered down not because of anything that Norway did but because of French and Finnish objections. Originally the company thought it would have to spend £10m refitting its factory, in the end it cost just half that. But as Sigurd told Jonty, that was just "blind luck".

In fact, though, right from the very start, the heating world exploded in outrage. Not only did Norway object, but the issue was taken up by the Nordic Council of Ministers, which included Sweden, Finland and Denmark, plus it flew into heavy flak from Germany which in October 2012 asked for electric heaters to be taken out of the regulations altogether.

It took until August 2013, more than three years after the draft regulations had been published, for the highly revised regulations, during which period the Norwgians were fully consulted.

To allow a claim that it was simply "blind luck" that prevented the original, more draconian proposals coming into force is a travesty. It simply isn't true. 

Now it maybe that Sigurd Braathen was unaware of the turmoil going on, on his behalf. In trade politics, I have often found that businesses are completely unaware of stuff in the pipeline, largely because they are uninterested. Only when they come into force did they bitch at us for not "doing something", when we'd had been warning them for years.

But, with the huge resources of the BBC and the expenditure of an evening's work (which is what it has taken me – alright, a bit longer), the story could have been checked out. Had Mr Bloom really tried, he could have found that the story was flawed. If anything, it is an example of where the system actually worked. 

As to Norway not having a say, this is plainly untrue. It represented itself, it worked through the Nordic Council. And through the standards bodies, it had access to CEN and CENELEC, and through them to the Commission. Then, all the time it was feeding in to the technical system that was telling Brussels their regulations were a bad idea. 

If after all that, perversely, the Commission had gone ahead, no one EU Member State could have blocked the measures – not even Germany. But Norway could have exercised its "right of reservation" and blocked the application of the law for Norwegian products - or it could have negotiated and exemption to the law by way of a protocol appended to the EEA Agreement. Norway had more power than any other Member State. Listen to Anne Tvinnereim on this.

One should perhaps hesitate to say that the BBC was lying. But it is well evident that Jonty Bloom went to Norway to find reasons why the Norway Option was bad for Britain. Having found a plausible tale, he was not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. He'd found what he had come for.

However, if the BBC is so keen to bad-mouth the Norway option, and ITV is now joining in, one has to ask what frightens them so much. Since they are going to such great lengths to warn us off, it must be evident to the meanest intellect that we're on to something.

On this, you can refer to White Wednesday's invaluable analysis on the entire Norway Option issue.