The Independent on Sunday says Britain could be “in hot water” with the European Commission because Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt is considering allowing MG Rover to defer paying millions of pounds in VAT, in an attempt to rescue takeover deal by a Chinese firm. This might be considered illegal state aid for the motor group.

The Sunday Telegraph says the EU referendum race is running neck and neck. According to their ICM poll, 39 per cent favour signing the constitutional treaty and 41 per cent are opposed. The paper notes that its result “was in stark contrast” to a YouGov poll in Saturday’s Daily Telegraph, which showed 24 percent supporting the constitution and 45 percent opposing it. The Sunday Telegraph’s poll used the exact words of the proposed referendum question, and the paper argues that the discrepency in the poll results “will fuel the debate over the Government’s proposed wording, amid claims that it has been designed to provoke a ‘Yes’ vote”.

The Sunday Telegraph also reports that a BBC film to be aired Monday will show Robert Kilroy-Silk MEP branding his former colleagues in UKIP “bloody Right-wing fascist nutters.” The film, Kilroy: The Man Behind The Tan, will also confirm the formation of his party Veritas, according to the Sunday Telegraph.

Sometimes it’s not the big bad EU causing all the legal nonsense, a third Sunday Telegraph story shows:

A furore has blown up in the Sussex town of Hastings after a judge last week imposed crippling fines on two local fishermen for committing a criminal offence that, until the two men were charged, no one knew existed. Although the judge claimed to be upholding EC law in finding the men guilty, he was supporting fisheries inspectors of the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in creating a law which conflicts with rulings from the European Commission and which exists nowhere else in Europe.

Last Tuesday, in Lewes Crown Court, Judge Simon Coltart imposed a fine and costs of £7,500 on Paul Joy, the leader of the Hastings beach fishermen, more than the value of his small wooden fishing boat. When his colleague Graeme Bossom, ordered to pay £6,500, said he would have difficulty in raising the money, the judge advised him to get a second mortgage on his house. If the two men did not pay in full within a year they would be sentenced to three months in prison.

The offence with which the two men were charged in October 2003 was that in the previous month they had illegally landed £2,570-worth of cod, in excess of their “monthly allocation”. This came as a complete surprise since, as the European Commission confirms, “under 10 metre” boats are not given individual quotas and EC law does not recognise monthly allocations. There may be “yearly allocations” for certain species, and when that limit is reached a fishery may be closed. But until then, under EC law, there is no restriction.