Yes, we have no rules about abnormally bent bananas

So much for the dead hand of Euro-standardisation, as Paul Kingsnorth debunks those tabloid myths about demented Brussels directives

"Now they've really gone bananas!" screamed the super soaraway Sun last September. Who have? "Brussels bureaucrats", of course, who "proved yesterday what a barmy bunch they are - by outlawing curved bananas." Blimey! Really? "Shops will be banned from selling fruit which is 'abnormally bent' or too small," continued the paper, getting more excited by the paragraph. "These crazy laws were drawn up by thumb-twiddling EU chiefs who spent thousands on a year-long study." Not indignant yet? You soon will be. "Who's paying for all this nonsense?" demanded the editorial, in a positive lather of disgust. "The answer, dear reader, is YOU!"

If this sounds worrying, it is only the tip of a standardised Euro-iceberg. Few areas of British life are safe from the suits across the water and their ambitions to replace our British traditions with their soulless Euro-conventions. All that stands between them and us are the trusty newshounds of the tabloid press. Last June, for example, we read that the EU was planning to outlaw the game of darts in British pubs. With summer at its height, we were told that "they" were trying to ban donkeys from our beaches, and at Christmas came the truly shocking story about the regulation "Euro-Christmas tree". Well, cry havoc, and let slip the Portillos of war. Nothing could provide more grist to the mill of the Euro-sceptics who want John Major deposed.

There is, however, one tiny problem. Great tales though they are, none of these stories is true. And the "Brussels bureaucrats" are so exasperated by the constant stream of fibs coming from the British press, that the EU offices in London have set up a "Rapid Reply Service", intended to nip such "Euro-myths" in the bud. They will fax you a list of every myth they have refuted since 1992. It makes diverting reading.

One of the best was the one in 1992 about British fishermen being ordered to wear hairnets on their boats. "Without foundation," says the Commission, the slightly disappointing truth being that staff employed to pack fish have to wear hats for hygiene purposes. Never mind, there's always the 1993 story about "standardised Euro-coffins". Surely that's true? No, just a proposition to lay down safety standards at funerals. Oh. They're going to ban saucy postcards, though? Nope. Bendy cucumbers? Square gin bottles? Prawn cocktail crisps? Sorry.

"We get some very silly stories coming in," says a Commission spokesperson. "We've issued 131 press releases already this year denying new myths." Europe, it seems, is less exciting than we thought. Perhaps someone should ring up the Sun's "banana hotline" and let them know.

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