In Defence of Liberty

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Blowing up balloons


No, there is no such regulation or directive against children blowing up balloons. (Edited: Wikimedia Commons)

The Treasury Select Committee is currently holding an inquiry into the economic and financial costs and benefits of the UK’s membership of the European Union (EU). Alexander ‘Boris’ Johnson MP (Conservative, Uxbridge and South Ruislip), the London Mayor and prominent campaigner to leave the EU, gave evidence to that inquiry [1].

Andrew Tyrie MP (Conservative, Chichester), the committee’s Chair, began a quiet evisceration of Mr Johnson. Mr Tyrie highlighted polling data showing that Londoners and financial service professionals were found to be in favour of Britain remaining a member of the EU, with Mr Tyrie expressing his “surprise” that Mr Johnson seemed unaware. The London Mayor responded that he was aware the general “gist” of those surveys, but stood by the “Burkean duty” to make a case that his constituents disagree with.

Warnings and balloons

The following exchange occurred over the idea that the EU had somehow banned children from blowing up balloons:

AT: Could you tell me which EU regulation or directive says that children under eight can’t blow up balloons?
BJ: Yes, the European Commission’s own website — I’ll be happy to give you a number of the press release in a moment — the European Commission’s own website says that “adult supervision is required in the use of un-inflated balloons by children under eight”. I have to say in my household, it is more or less mandatory that only children under eight are allowed to blow up balloons in my household, Mr Tyrie. I do find it is absolutely ludicrous to have this kind of prescription at a European level — at a European level! I think it is absolutely bonkers, and I think you do too.
AT: What it actually says, Boris, is — and I’ve got the Toy Safety Directive requirements in front of me: “Warning: Children under eight can choke or suffocate”. It is asking that this warning be placed on the packaging. It is not requiring or forbidding…
BJ: It is requiring it to be placed on the packaging.
AT: It is requiring a warning to be placed on the packaging. It’s not prohibiting children under eight from blowing up balloons.

“Hot news”

Later, Mr Tyrie urged the London Mayor to put forward qualifications on what he was saying, providing “a full and balanced view, in your own interest”. Questioning began from Jacob Rees-Mogg MP (Conservative, North East Somerset). Mr Johnson proclaimed that he had “hot news” on the House of Commons Library’s calculation for the percentage of UK laws that emanate from the EU, saying it come had “come out today or yesterday” and that it was 59% or 60%.

Andrew Tyrie pointed out the London Mayor was, in fact, quoting a note from 2014. Furthermore, the Treasury Select Committee Chair stated from the note itself [2]:

All measurements have their problems and it is possible to justify any measure between 15% or 55% or thereabouts, depending on what is included in or excluded from the calculation.

This debate on our membership of the European Union will require precision from both sides.


[1] Parliament Live, 2016. Treasury Select Committee Wednesday 23 March 2016. Available from: [Accessed: 24th March 2016]

[2] Miller, V., 2014. How much legislation comes from Europe? Second Reading. Available from: [Accessed: 24th March 2016]


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This entry was posted on April 5, 2016 by in European Politics and tagged , , .
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