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Never mind the common fisheries policy, the single currency, the MEPs' expenses gravy train and all the other myriad tales of Brussels that have been used to excoriate the European Union over the years. What has really damaged the reputation of the EU in Britain is the bent cucumber. Or to be more precise, the directive that forbade misshapen fruit and vegetables being sold as "class one" produce throughout the single market.

This was always a ridiculous rule. There is nothing about a vegetable's shape that determines either its taste or quality. Indeed, many would argue that such aesthetic discrimination has been positively harmful to the taste of the produce on sale in many of Europe's supermarkets, as suppliers have been encouraged to pay more attention to appearance than flavour.

This directive has encouraged the food industry to waste tonnes of perfectly edible food every year. It has also reinforced the awful stereotype of meddling Brussels bureaucrats, humourlessly measuring bananas with their protractors. Rising food prices look likely to put paid to the EU's fussy vegetables directive. Rules which encourage waste cannot be defended in an era of food scarcity. It hardly compensates for Ireland's rejection of the Lisbon Treaty last week, but the fact that curved cucumbers could once again sit without fear of prejudice on our supermarket shelves ought to be a small source of comfort for Europe's downcast supporters.

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