British media attacks on EU product policies did much to put a golden energy efficiency policy area on ice. Now the Brits are sailing away, is the coast clear for Europe to ramp up ambition? The answer depends on how the European institutions respond to the unfolding ‘Brexistential’ crisis and the rise of populism. Embracing a deregulation agenda may be instinctive, to do less of what can hurt, but this is a kind of mini-Brexit in its own right, walking away from the argument. A better solution would be to better justify to voters how and why these sensible policies exist.
Like it or not, product policies have been dragged into the Brexit debate as an unwilling figure of fun. Like a nerd being pushed around in a school playground, these hard-working policies are easy to ridicule and harder to defend in the middle of a shouting match. With populism on the rise in the EU, it is time some of the older kids intervened to stand up for these policies to ensure they have a bright future. The European Commission and member governments must make the case more forcefully than in the past. We think the argument is easy to win, here’s why:
Some Brits love to hate the EU, especially when the bureaucrats are going after things like kettles or toasters. Last week was no exception, when old news resurfaced that one day the EU may gently show the door to the worst-performing kitchen equipment.
The Brits again feel the EU is making their lives worse, following a volley of hostile headlines this week. Newspaper headlines like ‘Now Europe wants to ban your halogen bulbs’ rely on two ugly elements — anger that Europe is doing anything at all, and a ‘better the devil you know’ loyalty to halogen light bulbs that are making us all poorer.