The Common Agricultural Policy – a costly protectionist racket

‘The Common Agricultural Policy forces consumers to pay ‘two or three times more for food than we would pay without the policy’
Dalia Grybauskaite, EU budget commissioner 
The way to build lasting economic growth [in Africa] is for Europe to end the CAP
-Sir Digby Jones, former Chairman, CBI.

The Common Agricultural Policy is an EU-wide system of agricultural subsidies. It is a form of protectionism that represents the worst of European Union parochialism. It is designed to “defend” the European agricultural industry from cheaper products from outside producers. The EU spends between £45-50 billion per year (£49 billion in 2013) on this system which is approximately 43% of the total EU budget. The subsidies are combined with protectionist measures such as import tariffs and strict quotas on certain agricultural products from outside the EU. This has made European food prices some of the highest in the world and is seriously detrimental to foreign farmers.

The CAP subsidies have often caused overproduction, which has led to food being destroyed, or sold at below market prices through export subsidies or being stored thereby creating the, now infamous, “food mountains”. The subsidies exports are flooded into third world countries, especially Africa. By undercutting local farmers, who cannot compete with the low priced subsidised imports, the policy is distorting the market and impoverishing people. With growth and development being absolutely essential to the long term prospects of third world countries,the CAP is seriously harmful their underdeveloped economies. The subsidies prevent them from exporting agricultural produce to the EU on a level playing field, creating inflated food prices for us, and economic stagnation for them.

History

During negotiations on the creation of the “Common Market”, France used its influence as the second major power of the EU to lobby heavily for subsidies for its farmers which have stood ever since. This privilege was her price for agreeing to free trade in industrial goods and one of the many benefits France enjoys for its status as the secondary power behind the project. The CAP was created in 1957 under the Treaty of Rome and was implemented from 1962.

It aimed to increase productivity and to protect agriculture throughout the EU by controlling prices and levels of production, and to protect the countryside by subsiding the rural lifestyle. It has in-fact had the effect of protecting big agricultural businesses and enriching hereditary landowners while also damaging the rural environment. The subsidies led to big agri-businesses growing ever larger and stifling smaller producers. The CAP, by guaranteeing prices, encourages producers to use every bit of available land. Inevitably, they have altered the rural landscape with intensive farming. Every furrow is valuable thus efforts are made to use every bit of available space.

A landscape which had been unchanged for centuries and was famously pleasant and aesthetically pleasing is now less diverse. Ancient hedgerows have been torn up, swathes of land are blighted by industrialised prairies and polluted with high levels of chemicals and pesticides (leading to water pollution and soil degradation). The natural habitat of wildlife have been disrupted or destroyed, leading to widespread declines in the populations of many farmland bird species and other wildlife.

By the 1990’s the process of reform began in attempt to curb the amount of waste and address environmental concerns. By 2013, after the first full review since the policies inception, a number of reforms were been approved to be implemented in the period 2015-2020. They represent an attempt to move towards sustainable agriculture and prevent overproduction and include policies intended to preserve the environment and encourage new entrants into the industry. The reforms, while welcome, were a long time coming but have done nothing to address the fundamental problems with the policy. Further, far reaching reforms, of the kind sought by Britain for decades, are unlikely to happen because France and her allies benefit disproportionately from the subsidies and will not allow changes to that threaten the status quo.

Costly protectionism

Britain should strive to be an open, free-trading nation with a global outlook. The CAP is the very antithesis of free trade; it is protectionist central planning and economic isolationism. The cost of food has been steadily declining for decades but the great recession has created a cost of living crisis in Britain and across Europe, food prices have risen and the CAP exacerbates this, costing hard pushed consumers. The price inflation can be seen by comparing wholesale food prices in Europe to world market prices, this shows that we are paying 17% more for food than we would under market conditions.

Central planning and market intervention always creates distortions and unintended consequences. The worst of all the damage caused by the CAP is the way it punishes consumers, especially the poor. The Common Agricultural Policy should be abolished; this would represent a drastic measure to address the cost of living crisis, cutting food bills for all European citizens and bringing relief to impoverished households across the continent.

Advocates of the CAP will protest but for the way forward we need only look to New Zealand. Farmers there had enjoyed generous taxpayer funding and were disconcerted at the thought of losing out but in 1984 when the government was faced with a budget crisis it decided to repeal all subsidies. Did the predictions of disaster and an end to small family farms come true? No, since then the agricultural sector has thrived!

Much like in Europe subsidised farmers in New Zealand had become dependent on government aid and were, in-effect, farming in such a way as to meet targets to make them eligible for subsidies.  This was detrimental to productivity and innovation. When all subsidies were removed farmers in New Zealand proved to be entrepreneurial, innovative and adaptable.  Now, instead of trying to maximise the amount of government aid received, agricultural practices are now motivated by the demands of consumers and farmers are focussed on good business practice. it is as simple as growing things that consumers want to eat. Productivity is up, efficiency and innovation has increased and the industry is thriving without taxpayer hand outs.

Abolish the Common Agricultural Policy and Europe could have a dynamic, diverse, prosperous and growing rural economy too, and we would all be saving money on our food bills.

The European Arrest Warrant: a useful tool (for a tyrant)

The erosion of liberty continues apace. Watching it happen over time is like observing the crumbling white cliffs growing ever weaker as the waves crash into them. It is generally a gradual, continuous process but eventually comes the moment when a great chunk crumbles into the sea and is washed utterly away. Today is such a day; a sad day for Britain and a shaming one for Parliament. Most distressing of all is how few people are aware of it, and how even fewer seem to care. Make no mistake; this is a significant time in British history, one that will be studied far into the future. We are in the late stages of a long process in which we are willingly surrendering the independence of our legal system. It is the Conservative Party that is leading us down the dark, illiberal path to subjugation. For shame.

David Cameron has tried to portray himself as some kind of British bulldog fighting our corner in Brussels, he even disingenuously claimed to have secured the “greatest ever return of powers to the UK”.  In May the Government opted our of 100 trivial criminal justice measures that have already been duplicated by national legislation or had never actually applied in the UK in the first place. The 35 measures that the Government have opted back into are the most dangerous and illiberal and consist of a large-scale transfer of sovereignty to the European Union. It is nothing less than a step towards the usurpation of the English legal system, which is necessary if we are to be fully integrated into the political state and be part of a common EU criminal justice system. Of all these measures there are none more potentially tyrannical than the European Arrest Warrant.

Not only does is it a total violation of our sovereignty, meaning we have to surrender our own citizens to other EU states on request. It is also another dangerous power for the British state to use and abuse at will. Only a fool trusts in the fear mongering line of defence that the EAW is an absolute necessity to defend us against the great bogeymen of our time, terrorists and paedophiles. It was possible to extradite terror suspects and sex offenders before the European Arrest Warrant was created and would be if were to remove ourselves from its jurisdiction. Furthermore, only a tiny amount of the people arrested under the EAW are accused of terrorism. Opting out of the EAW simply means that we would revert to having extradition agreements that we had before, the kind we have with many non-EU states

How often is the line carted out that the EAW is a “useful” or “essential tool” that the police and security services need in their arsenal? It gives the impression that the British authorities are deft craftsmen who will only use the “useful” tool when absolutely necessary and appropriate. One of the primary considerations when restraining the state is to think of how a certain power, or law, can go beyond whatever its original purpose was and lead to abuse or misuse in the future. An example might be when the social services and police hysterically overreact when a mother and father decide to remove their son from NHS care and seek treatment elsewhere. Oh well, he was only traumatised a little, and they were only held without cause, evidence or trial for a few day. All’s well that ends well.

This argument must be treated with the contempt is deserves. If we gave the police and security services every “useful tool” they asked for we would not have a shred of liberty left.   The same propaganda is used to justify identity cards (which would’ve sealed our identity as serfs), 90 day detention, secret courts and mass surveillance. This is to be placed in the file which reads “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear”– the mantra of the slave.

Under the European Arrest Warrant no evidence is required to justify extradition and in any case British courts have absolutely no power to consider whatever evidence there may be. It is a trivial bureaucratic matter, in other words, a simple form has to be filled in and then a British citizen can be carted off to a court in a foreign judicial system. That’s it, plain and simple; our centuries old protections of liberty can be dismissed arbitrarily because of a vague accusation made in another EU state without any evidence being provided. Not a peep of protest from EU fanatics, neither from the so-called “liberal” left who caused an uproar when the USA issued an extradition order for Gary McKinnon but raise no objections about the EAW when its tyrannical sights were set on Andrew Symeou or the King family or Keith Hainsworth (and there are many lower profile injustices). Incidentally, if Gary McKinnon was wanted in an EU country he would have been cuffed and extradited hastily back in 2002.

Extradition between countries is often necessary, however, it is surely only right and correct that before the suspect is extradited a court should consider if there is a case to answer? There would be an uproar if somebody was held on remand in Britain without any evidence of wrongdoing, how can anybody (let alone a self-styled conservative or liberal) support a situation in which someone can be dragged off to another country without a court in Britain being able to look at the evidence?

This is the crux of the matter. This European Arrest Warrant is a disgraceful interference in our internal affairs, a further blow to liberty and a violation of our national independence. It is one step further towards a pan-European criminal justice system. Theresa May’s amendments and guarantees are flimsy and it is the EU parliament that decides when they apply, not our own. Britain has, or rather had, some great pioneering traditions of liberty; Habeas Corpus, the presumption of innocence and the guarantee of a fair trial by jury to name but a few. Today in parliament they have been disgraced and we have been betrayed.

The government wins phoney European Arrest Warrant vote

On the 9th July David Cameron boasted that the Government had “just achieved the greatest ever return of powers to the UK” from the European Union. Unfortunately, our Prime Minister often resembles an oily salesman as he routinely misrepresents the truth for short term political gain. The pledge to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty (the slyly renamed EU constitution) was dropped after ratification and now he has been exposed as being opportunistically disingenuous on the subject of the EU once again.

The Prime Minster had explicitly promised to hold a vote on the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) but this has turned out to be at worst a lie and at best a serious bending of the truth. Not long after his latest hollow pledge it transpired that the Members of the House were not to get a separate vote on whether or not to rejoin the EAW at all. Last night in the House of Commons the anger of Tory backbenchers was palpable after Speaker John Bercow confirmed that there would be no such individual vote. Instead they were to vote on a mere 11 of the 35 European justice measures, and that did not include the arrest warrant.

As frustration spread, the Tory whips were in a frenzy shoring up support and David Cameron had to rush back from the Lord Mayor’s banquet to try and avoid humiliation. Theresa May, who has badly mishandled this whole situation, insisted that this vote was, in effect, to be an endorsement or rejection of the EAW. After a night of murky politics and dishonesty the bafflingly overrated Home Secretary bungled to victory. The motion that the Speaker insists was not on the EAW and Theresa May says sort of was passed 464 to 38.

And so it goes, that the Conservative Party, aided and abetted by the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats, is again to shun the opportunity to conserve our national sovereignty and liberty. Instead, a large scale transfer of sovereignty back to the EU is to be implemented after the government avoided a potentially embarrassing defeat with methods of pure chicanery. It was a shambolic episode in which the Tory leadership treated their party members, their MP’s and parliament with contempt.

Why did David Cameron make this promise if it was impossible to keep? And if it was possible to hold a separate vote, who decided against holding it? If the government could have held a separate vote (if it was procedurally possible) then it has acted disgracefully in not doing so and forcing its will on parliament and the country. Could it be that they wanted to force through the EAW and believed any revolt would be small and manageable? The confusion that followed has proven this to be a mistake. These political tricks have left a bitter taste in my mouth and the story is now one of Tory Party leadership deception on matters of the European Union, again.

The Ukip campaign literature for the Rochester by-election writes itself…