Thursday, July 18, 2013

But it was a famous victory

A quick diversion from serious matters and a reminder about the ridiculous olive oil controversy that, as every school child will know in weeks and months to come, ended with victory for Common Sense, an army led by the British negotiators (or something). Apparently not.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked the following Written Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how United Kingdom representatives voted in the European Union Commission and COREPER on the Commission's proposal to ban the selling of olive oil in restaurants except in sealed non-refillable containers.
Ought to be an easy one: we voted against it and with our gallant allies defeated the dark monster. Errm, no. Lord De Mauley on behalf of HMG read out the reply his officials wrote for him:
During negotiations on an amendment to EU marketing standards for olive oil (Commission Regulation no. 29/2012) the Government consistently opposed a new EU requirement for bottles containing olive oil in the catering sector to be non-refillable and non-resealable from 1 January 2014. However, this only formed one element of the proposals which also included improved labelling provisions for consumers and the UK, therefore, abstained in the final vote. Given the support for the proposal from olive oil producing Member States, a vote against the proposal would have had no impact on the outcome.

Subsequent to the vote, common sense prevailed; the EU Agriculture Commissioner announced on 23 May that the proposal would be withdrawn and that he would consult further on the issue before deciding next steps. We await the outcome of those consultations.
It seems that the massed forces of Common Sense were led by someone else as the British negotiators abstained in the vote as it would have had no impact, given the support from olive oil producing countries. Yet, something must have had an impact and it was not British negotiating technique.

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