Hot air from the European Commission on air pollution

The school bully decided to wear green this week, as it was revealed that the European Commission  has had the audacity to start legal proceedings against the UK over what it regards as excessive levels of air pollution.

The UK faces fines of up to £300m a year if it does not slash levels of nitrogen dioxide. The European Commission said these penalties are a result of the fact the UK has failed to reduce its levels of nitrogen dioxide in accordance with the EU’s limits.

Europe insists the UK’s high levels of nitrogen dioxide are likely to be a cause of premature death and affect the growth of children’s lungs. These are of course very serious matters and if there is a strong proven affiliation between high levels of nitrogen dioxide and health issues, then levels must of course be reduced.

However, Get Britain Out believes this is an issue for the UK government itself to address and not be ruled by Brussels. A £300m fine is extraordinarily unreasonable and if anything will only hamper efforts to reduce emissions of nitrogen dioxide.

In a vaguely worded statement, the European Commission states the British government was meant to reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide to “safe levels” by 2010. Immunity from penalties was granted to Member States which had formulated a sensible plan for meeting air-quality standards within 5 years.

But the UK has been unable to come up with such a plan and so will suffer legal action and, potentially, this very large fine, as a result.  At a time when deep welfare cuts are being made, we simply cannot afford to pay a massive fine to the over-regulatory EU. This fine is an insult to the Great British Public.

Now the European Commission has given the UK a mere 2 months to respond to this issue, which gives us very little time to come up with a workable plan to reduce our nitrogen dioxide emissions.

Pointing out the obvious, a spokesman for the European Commission said: “Nitrogen dioxide is the main precursor for ground-level ozone, causing major respiratory problems and leading to premature death…”

As legitimate as these concerns are, the UK will gain nothing by being fined £300m. Yet the EU will be able to pocket all of that money and carry on with its campaign to extract as much money from Member States as possible through its over-bureaucratic and over-regulatory directives.

Britain’s apparent failure to cut its pollution levels are partly the fault of the EU itself. It’s worth remembering that Brussels set us the arbitrary date of 2010, by which time it wanted us to magically reduce our nitrogen dioxide emissions. This wildly unrealistic target was never going to be achieved.  Britain’s major cities are some of the busiest in the word and there is probably more traffic in London than all of Luxembourg put together.

Get Britain Out urges DEFRA to stand up for the Great British Public and treat Europe’s latest threat with the contempt it deserves.

Sam Woolfe and Dominic Kirby

Research Assistants for Get Britain Out, a Eurosceptic think tank.


  1. The whole point of the EU is to provide common standards across the member countries that allow citizens to have the same basic level of protection whatever state they are in. For example if you retire or work in Spain, you won’t be made ill by the water any more because there are EU-wide water quality directives in place. I fail to understand why this article laments actions by the EU to stop us being poisoned when our own government is clearly failing.


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