European Commission gets tough with Britain - over garlic
Posted, June 21, 2012 @ 15:00
The European Commission today announced it is to take Britain to court in a marathon dispute over an unpaid garlic bill for £15 million.
The EU first threatened the UK Government with legal action in November last year because, it claimed, HM Revenue and Customs had failed to collect the correct tariffs on tons of garlic imported from China - money which should have gone into EU coffers.
The row has been simmering since 2006 when EU investigators suggested that imported Chinese garlic had been recorded and taxed as frozen when in fact it was fresh, and therefore should have attracted a higher rate of duty. The Commission says Britain should stand the cost of the uncollected revenue.
After the EU issued its ultimatum last year to pay up or face prosecution, Britain remained unmoved. The Government has refused to pay on the grounds that customs officers took all reasonable precautions to collect the correct rate of tax when the garlic came into Britain - more than six years ago.
The Government stance received strong backing today (Thursday) from the leader of Britain's Conservative MEPs Richard Ashworth.
The South East MEP said: "I'm sorry to say, the aggressive approach of the Commission - over garlic of all things - leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
"In such hard times, when all countries including ours are looking to save every bit of money they can just to combat the debt crisis, it defies all sense of proportion to be taking Britain to court over what amounts to a demand for garlic tax.
"Whether or not you care for the aroma of garlic, nobody likes the whiff of vindictiveness."