15th February 2011
Conservative MEP for the South West Ashley Fox has come to the defence of a local Cornwall micro-brewery that is facing a backdated tax bill of £10,000 because of EU rules stating that nettle beer is not in fact beer.
The micro brewery is threatened with closure following the application of the EU regulation, by an over-zealous UK customs official, that beer can only be beer if it contains malt.
The brew, Cornish Stingers, is made from nettles and served on tap or in 500ml beer bottles. It has a frothy head with a similar alcoholic content to most beers; instead it is now in the same class as alcopops.
In a statement Mr Fox said:
"The EU is doing itself no favours with stringent legislation that will harm a traditional drink of Cornwall. I am amazed that a British official at Customs and Excise has sought to damage an entrepreneurial local business to the tune of £10,000 over a technical definition of beer. The problem may have started in Brussels but it has been made worse by the British tradition of an extreme interpretation of EU rules. It’s about time we had some common sense was applied at all levels of Government.
"George Eustace MP has already raised this with the Chancellor and I will be raising the case with the European Commission in order to have the decision overturned.
"Cornish Stingers is a beer pure and simple. It has been made for centuries to the same recipe. The fact that some Eurocrat in Brussels decides that beer is only beer if malt is added should not be an issue. We must be try to make it easier for small businesses to operate not tie them up with excessive rules.”