Oh, you can just imagine them chortling away in the TaxPayers’ Alliance producing the above video about the Common Agricultural Policy. It contains a heady mix of fact and prejudice and there’s even a report to go with it. The ‘stats’ in the TaxPayers’ Alliance report are correct in as far as they go in terms of the costs of CAP, but of course their tables forget the money that is paid to UK farmers from the CAP. But stating that the UK gets money from the EU budget doesn’t assist with the sensationalist line that it’s Brussels stealing all our money.
Let me be frank about it – I think the CAP is absolute rubbish. But I have 2 problems with all of this. First of all there is no-one putting the other side of the debate about CAP in the UK. Secondly, having a go at the EU as a whole as a result of this is quite cheap.
So then, what about the other side? Well there are a whole bunch of people that do benefit from the Common Agricultural Policy in the UK. How many of them have any sort of communications strategy to state how EU agricultural money helps them? Well, that would be no-one. The National Farmers’ Union has a load of EU news on its website, but nothing clearly in favour of how CAP aids UK farmers. Defra has no clear page about CAP on its website. There’s also nothing on the UK Commission Delegation’s website about how CAP pays money to UK farmers. There are some half-valid concerns about farmers’ incomes such as those expressed by German milk farmers; those concerns have to be weighed up against other tensions in the economy. But there’s essentially a communications imbalance – the scattergun critique of CAP is played out in public, while the farming lobby quietly presses for business as usual.
And what about having a go at the EU as a whole? Well, the single, simplest way to reduce the CAP budget has been opposed by the UK government – reductions in the Single Farm Payment. The UK opposition to this is here (half way down) in response to a Lords PQ. Essentially the UK has a few large farms and they lobby like mad to make sure the maximum payment per farm is not limited. So the UK talks a good story on CAP reform but in practice fails to deliver. Then there are Brits in key positions – Tories even like Neil Parrish, chair of the Agriculture Committee in the European Parliament. Would the TaxPayers alliance think of that? No, of course not. They want to appeal to Tory voters after all!
There is a way to solve all of these issues if any British politician were to be bold enough: it’s to trade the UK budget rebate for complete reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. Fat chance that’s going to happen any time soon.
The answer is to leave the EU – CAP problem solved!
The reason the CAP is hated so much in Britain is due in large measure to the way the UK government has implemented the EU’s agricultural policy, using ‘gold-plated’ regulations (in other words EU rules re-enforced with extra stipulations), grinding many small rural businesses into the dirt. Forget not what the British government did at the time of the great foot and mouth outbreak – pyres of burning animals, almost all of which were healthy.
The CAP was created by and for the French. As such, good for them. Not for us. Personally I am not against farm subsidies, but they should be directed and controlled democratically here in this country.
Well the EU did produce this propaganda video a while back:
The farm lobby in Europe is so very well resourced and powerful that they barely need to bother engaging with the likes of the Taxpayers Alliance.
I agree that there is no counter-measure to the dismantling of the CAP by the British side. However the rebate is, in itself, a great victory for the opposing party (a historical one, it should be added), a rebate that does not find a purpose of being in the fundamental ideology of the EU. When a group of countries is set on embarking on a project such as the EU, it’s clear that no one will benefit on all aspects and that the synergy could be achieved only on a ‘quid pro quo’ basis. Let’s think how the common budget will look if Germany, suddenly decided that it wants a rebate on its financial contribution.
Unfortunately the big picture is something that eludes most people and consequently politicians (and, sadly social activists) follow along.