EU Stops UK from Protecting English Oaks from Imported Plant Disease

CBCK-Christine / iStock / Getty Images Plus
CBCK-Christine / iStock / Getty Images Plus

The European Union is using its “transition” powers over Brexit Britain to stop it from introducing import controls to protect oak trees and other flora from a deadly plant disease.

While the United Kingdom technically left the European Union at the beginning of 2020 — after a years-long guerrilla campaign to thwart the British people’s vote to Leave the European Union in 2016 was, seemingly, defeated by Boris Johnson’s landslide election victory in December 2019 — it remains subject to the bloc’s rules, judges, trade policy, and so-on during the ongoing “transition period” in which a new deal between the EU and UK is settled (or not).

The EU is now using that power to block the implementation of British import controls intended to prevent the spread of the Xylella fastidiosa plant disease ripping through Continental Europe.

The disease, which has decimated olive groves in Italy, poses a threat to “520 species of popular British plants”, according to The Telegraph — including the oak trees which are such a potent symbol not just of England, but of the British constitution and the British royal family, with one of the country’s great trees having famously saved a king from capture and likely execution by Oliver Cromwell’s forces during the Civil War.

The British government announced a ban on the importation of coffee plants and myrtle leaf milkwort in April, along with stringent regulation of almond, lavender, oleander, olive, and rosemary — but the EU has now stepped in to block these protective measures, deeming them “disproportionate and without scientific justification”, according to the Telegraph.

“It is quite outrageous for the EU Commission to bully us in this way. How dare they do this when we are about to leave them anyway? We are an island nation and we need to take control of our imports,” commented Lord Framlingham, an arboriculturist and former MP for the Tories.

“We wanted to take steps to protect our trees and plants but the government has been stopped by the EU. It is ridiculous. I can’t believe the government is as impotent as this. We must try and overturn it. The threat to our trees is too great,” he warned.

Boris Johnson’s government seems unwilling to take a decisive stand against the EU, however, with the Horticulture Minister, Lord Gardiner, merely saying that it disagrees with the EU diktat and it keeping it under review — for all the good that will do.

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