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The EU isn’t plotting to tax cars and dustbins

by Sam Ashworth-Hayes | 15.02.2016

Over the weekend British newspapers became oddly fixated with the idea that “Brussels bureaucrats” are plotting to introduce taxes on driving through town and emptying your dustbin.

Whatever you might think of the policies in question, if you wind up paying a bin levy it won’t be the EU’s fault.

To start with, the EU has no ability whatsoever to introduce these taxes. It can submit proposals for national level taxes when they’re needed to make the single market function, but it’s difficult to see how a congestion charge or dustbin tax would fit under that heading.

More pertinently, all tax decisions are made unanimously, so the UK would have a veto. Britain probably wouldn’t be alone: Germany and a number of other EU countries are keen to state that the congestion charge in central London is a tax rather than a fee. That’s why their embassies in the capital have been refusing to pay it.

As for the idea of charging to recycle household waste, the EU has absolutely no right to tell councils what they should charge for such services.

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The one way this could become a reality is if elected local officials were to say they quite liked the idea of a new revenue stream because money was tight. Some people might not mind: congestion charges have been shown to make commuting faster and safer.

Finally, this is hardly unelected Brussels pen pushers imposing “diktats” from on high. In fact, it’s almost exactly the opposite.

The ideas started with a “handbook” produced in 2012 by the Committee of the Regions, which consists of elected representatives and mayors of regions and cities. The assembly exists to express local concerns in Brussels. It has no power to make laws.

And for the record, the handbook mentioned these charges as “specific examples of local charging schemes” that help meet EU goals. It didn’t recommend introducing them everywhere.

Edited by Alan Wheatley

Tags: , , Categories: Articles, Red Tape