To cut a long story short, according to international law expert Alberto Alemanno, Iceland recently refused a cider manufacturer entry to their market on the basis that their packaging was too - to coin a phrase - 'glitzy'.
Iceland heavily restricts the marketing (packaging) opportunities for alcohol products. It does so by limiting the permitted text and visual imagery typically depicted on the label. The rules governing the product selection undertaken by ÁTVR (The State Alcohol and Tobacco Company of Iceland) provide that packaging and labeling may only contain certain information relating to the product, its production method or its properties, and that the ATVR cannot accept products if the text or visual imagery on the packaging contains inter alia loaded or unrelated information, or suggests that alcohol enhances physical, mental, social or sexual function, or if it offends people’s general sense of propriety, e.g. by referring to violence, religion, pornography, illegal drugs, political views, discrimination, criminal conduct, etc.
It is on this basis that HOB, an importer of alcoholic beverages to Iceland, saw its products (cider produced and legally marketed in Denmark) denied access to the Icelandic market. HOB’s products are marketed in stylish and attractively decorated 33cl aluminium cans, featuring artful drawings, including colorful illustrations of women’s legs with some apparently naked skin.
Shocking, isn't it? So much so that Iceland banned the packaging, which could have had implications on the way the EU treats the same subject matter elsewhere.
If the cider manufacturer's legal objection had been allowed to stand, the EU would have found it difficult to impose EU-wide packaging restrictions on alcohol, and therefore a precedent would have been set for other products (I think you know to which I might be referring).
In essence, in case E-2/12, HOB-vín ehf. and The State Alcohol and Tobacco Company of Iceland (ÁTVR), the Icelandic court asks the EFTA Court whether the product selection rules used by the alcohol monopoly constitute an obstacle to the free movement of goods within the meaning of Article 11 of the EEA, which – as is typically the case in the EEA Agreement – is identical to Article 34 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, prohibiting measures having an equivalent effect to a quantitative restrictions.
So, off to Reykjavik Sir Arnold's drone toddled to make absolutely sure this silly liberalism was nipped in the bud. The UK was the only EU member state out of all 27 to make any fuss (page 11). Nice, compliant EU arse-lickers that our once proud nation now seems to be.
The upshot is that, not only was the Cabinet Office agent (I like that terminology, seeing as no-one but a select few would have known he was going there) objecting to the slapping down of laws against pretty packaging, he was also making damn sure that the option of no packaging at all was still allowable to a government very near to you.
Interestingly enough, when the President of the EFTA Court, Prof. Carl Baundenbacher, expressly asked the UK agent, whether his reasoning would also apply to a more restrictive standardized measure such as plain packaging, Mr. Ian Rogers, the barrister acting on behalf of the UK Government, did not hesitate to reply that, 'yes', this was the case.That's how open a mind our government has on plain packaging. So open is it that they are prepared to kibosh an appeal which could have caused them problems on tobacco packaging, despite it also opening the door for plain packaging of alcohol too, should it - or the EU - so choose to go that route in the future.
Explains a lot, doesn't it?