22 July 2016

One of the myths that has persisted during the UK’s 40-year membership of the European Union is that it has consistently complied with EU legislation while other countries have been far more likely to ignore those laws of which they did not approve.

Unfortunately this idea of the UK as the teacher’s pet of Europe does not stand up to scrutiny as the latest report from the European Commission on compliance with EU law makes clear.

Available here, the 33rd Annual Report on Monitoring the Application of EU Law reviews Member States’ performance in key areas of the application of Union legislation and highlights the main trends in enforcement policy in 2015.

It explains that the Commission launches infringement procedures when a Member State fails to resolve an alleged breach of EU law.

Two scenarios can trigger such a procedure. First, when a Member State fails within the agreed deadline to notify its national measures transposing a European directive into domestic law. Second, when a country’s legislation is not in line with EU legislation or when that legislation is not applied correctly by the national authorities.

The report shows that 1368 infringement cases were opened in 2015, well down from the peak of 1775 in 2011 and with environment and transport remaining the policy areas most prone to non-compliance.

Italy, Germany and Spain (with 89, 88 and 83 cases respectively) are the countries who have spent most time on the Commission's naughty step while Croatia, Denmark and Malta can polish their halos as they all recorded in the low 20s.

And the UK?

Solidly mid-table with 48 infringements, alongside Austria (49) and Slovenia and Cyprus (both 47) and only slightly better than Romania (50).