I went along to the 2nd annual UACES lecture this evening, with Lord Chris Haskins, Chair of the European Movement. The title of the lecture was “CAP Reform: A Watershed for the European Union?” and details of the lecture can be found here.
To be honest, while there was little that I strongly disagreed with in what Haskins said, I was left feeling distinctly unimpressed by his approach. Haskins is a cross-bench peer in the House of Lords and has had a successful career in industry and farming. His argument was – predicatbly enough – that the CAP was outdated, no longer did what it needed to do, and that we should aim to abolish it progressively, looking towards 2013 when these matters are up for debate. Yet almost everyone in the audience was well versed in the arguments about the weaknesses of the CAP – it was without doubt preaching to the convered.
However, there were plenty of issues that Haskins just did not touch on. He fell into the typical trap of looking at CAP funding as a part of the total EU budget. I think this is the wrong way to look at it – if CAP is a decreasing percentage of the total budget, that does not really tell us anything especially useful. There was also little explanation of how CAP reform could viably be explained to the French, among others.
Further, Haskins continually talked of a growing ‘pragmatic consensus’, which actually seemed to be a proxy for a business friendly Europe that eschews grand political projects, and not once did he mention democracy as an element of the future Europe he sketched out.
Clearly Haskins has some useful ideas, and his knowledge of CAP is considerable. But he is neither an academic nor a politician, and this showed in his somewhat incomplete presentation.