It isn’t a cake, and it doesn’t taste like tea

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I despair of the EU at times. Fair enough, a Jaffa Cake is a cake – no doubt about it. It is made of cake mixture. It might be a little cake, but it is still a cake.

But a tea cake? A tea cake is a chocolate covered marshmallow with a biscuit base. The key word there by the way was biscuit. I can guarantee you that the judges at the ECJ have never had one, preferring their poncey Belgian biscuits. They probably think shortbread is a type of small baguette and all.

The problem with this ruling is, what is now to stop Mars from calling Twixes cakes? Or even, damnit, Mars bars? Where do you draw the line? Where, eh? See? You don’t know!

M&S have opened up a can of worms from which we may never recover. The very foundation of our society is teetering on the brink. It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a cake is something that is soft when fresh and hard when stale while a biscuit is hard when fresh and soft when stale. Strip that away, and what do we have left? I can tell you: sheer anarchy.

And what does the UK Column have to say about all this? I’ll give you a clue: it begins with “fuck” and ends with “all”. Clearly they have been taken over by Common Purpose. Somebody tell David Noakes.

11 thoughts on “It isn’t a cake, and it doesn’t taste like tea

  1. The UK Government admitted in 1994 that teacakes should have been classified as cakes, and civilisation seems to be getting by just fine (well, actually I have doubts about that, but not on account of what people call the things they eat with their cuppa). The ECJ decision wasn’t actually about that, but about its legal consequences, and specifically the principles of equal treatment of taxpayers and interpreting legislation based on what it actually says and not what the Government would like it to say – both of which are things that we ought to care about both as Liberals and as Democrats, I think.

  2. I suggest that civilisation is coming to an end on the basis of how a teacake is classified for tax purposes and that Common Purpose is behind it all and people assume I’m being strictly serious. What can you do?

  3. But – and I’m being quite serious here – there is no way you will ever convince me that a teacake is a proper cake.

  4. I can’t understand why we tax cake and biscuits any differently?
    Also as per the UK Tresuary response, shouldn’t [b]we[/b] be getting the VAT back. Maybe free teabiscuits from M&S this weekend?

  5. I assumed by teacakes they meant the soft, doughy things with fruit in – how wrong I was. Of course the chocolate ones are more like a biscuit…

    But I agree with Ryan – why the difference? Isn’t it just making work for someone somewhere?

  6. The problem (if it is a problem) is that the UK wants to exclude food from taxes such as VAT. As ever, when taxation policy comes up against the messy teacup of the real world (life always spills over the rims of every cup) this leads to entertaining anomalies. What is a food? Is confectionary food? And so on.

    The UK (not any Europeran body) decided that cakes are food (untaxed) but biscuits are confectionary (taxed).

    The legal definitions under UK (not originally European) law for cakes and biscuits are:

    If its is soft when fresh but goes hard when stale, it is a cake.
    If it is hard when fresh but goes soft when stale, it is a biscuit.

    (lets leave aside the wonderful question of bread…)

    As I understand it, what the European Court of Justice has said is that if such regulations are in place they must be applied consistently and fairly. Any objections to this?

    We could avoid the problem (as many European countries do) by taxing food. I dont want that.

  7. I made the same assumption as Will (which would either be a cake or a bread) and rather than realising we’re talking the Tunnocks kind.

    If you remove the fluffy marshmallow from a Tunnocks teacake you would be left with a crunch biscuit base covered in chocolate – much like a Twix, Club, etc. Does the marshmallow addition really transform it magically into a cake? It doesn’t seem right to me.

    That said, this mess of a compromise on what is and is not VAT taxable at least ensures that foods used everyday are affordable. Like Edis, I would not want to see staple food taxed.

  8. Oglethorpe – I’m not sure it is strictly accurate to describe Will as a cake or a bread. He is more of a sugary confection and almost certainly not VAT exempt.

  9. Actually plain biscuits are food, and zero rated for vat. It’s only when you add chocolate and they become luxury items and vatable at normal rate.

    Adding chocolate to cakes doesn’t make them luxury items. For some reason- hence the jaffa cake loophole.

  10. James, I knew that you were not being entirely serious. My points were, firstly, that your joke seemed to be based on a misunderstanding of what the ECJ had decided, and secondly, that this is not in fact a trivial issue that deserves to be mocked as your post appeared to do, but one in which the ECHR has upheld two of the fundamental principles of a liberal democracy – on which both the Conservative and the Labour Governments since 1994 appear to have been hazy.

  11. Sorry I am late to comment on this, but it is not the EU’s fault. I enjoy your articles James, but this is not the best informed of judgments regarding our European legal elite. In addition, I have no doubt that ECJ officials are happily munching away on their shortbread given that these fine biscuits were involved in an EU/US trade dispute.

    I’m also pretty sure the Daily Mash was spot on in its coverage:

    http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/business/everything-we-sell-is-a-cake%2c-claims-m%26s-20080410863/

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