EU Referendum

Reality Check: Does the EU limit coffin sizes?

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, gave evidence to the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee on Wednesday morning about the effects of Britain leaving the European Union.

He was challenged on a number of claims Reality Check's taken issue with in the past. Just to be clear: Children under the age of eight are not banned from blowing up balloons in the EU; nor is there a ban on recycling teabags.

Today another claim came to the fore. Andrew Tyrie, the chairman of the Committee, questioned a claim from Mr Johnson's book Lend Me Your Ears that there is EU legislation on the weight, size and composition of coffins. Mr Johnson maintained it was true and that it had led to a standardised 'euro-coffin'.

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Media captionBoris Johnson v Andrew Tyrie over EU rules for coffins and lorries

Mr Tyrie said there wasn't any EU regulation at all. There is a Council of Europe convention on the transfer of corpses across borders but there is no EU legislation, and the UK isn't a signatory to the convention anyway.

He said the story was a figment of Mr Johnson's imagination but Mr Johnson insisted that his memory was that there was EU legislation. He was asked to provide evidence after the session.

The convention referred to by Mr Tyrie is the Agreement on the Transfer of Corpses signed in 1973. As he said it's a multilateral treaty of the Council of Europe, not the EU, about the international transfer of corpses; and the UK is not a signatory.

In any case, while it does specify that coffins used to transport corpses should be watertight and meet minimum quality standards (including options on the thickness of wood used) it doesn't specify size limits.

The European Commission did propose a draft directive covering the same issue in 1992 but it wouldn't have had an impact on coffins used for funerals in member states and it never went ahead with the plan, in part because it contravened the principle of subsidiarity.

REALITY CHECK VERDICT: As Mayor Johnson might say - piffle. There isn't, and never has been, any such regulation.


READ MORE: The facts behind claims in the EU debate


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