The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is a set of subsidies to European Union (EU) farmers. Giving the lion’s share of the budget to Italy, Germany and France, the average British family loses hundreds of pounds every year in higher food prices. Our EU membership gives us no choice but to accept such a wasteful policy.
From the heady heights of post war optimism, the EU has gradually become an economic failure to the rest of the world. Nothing represents this more than the corporatist and counter-productive policies of the CAP. It not only prevents Britain from fully exploring cheaper options on the world market, but keeps food prices artificially high for British consumers. This is because Britain is prevented from exploring cheaper alternatives elsewhere, while simultaneously giving handouts to inefficient farmers abroad.
Funded by the budget contributions of all 28 EU Member States, around 40 per cent of the EU budget (£103 billion per annum) is spent on the CAP. From 2014 to 2020, Britain is set to receive a paltry 9 per cent of the CAP budget of £200 billion. This is despite the fact Britain has the same amount of arable land as Germany, and more than Italy.
This massive amount is even more astonishing when you consider how disproportionate the numbers are. Throughout the EU agriculture only contributes 1.6 per cent to EU profits, and no more than 5 per cent work in farming. It simply seems like this is a protectionist racket, intended to make sure agricultural industries in continental Europe stay in profit.
This is where the EU propaganda machine comes into play. By playing on the fears of British farmers about losing their subsidies, the pro-EU lobby is misleading the public about where the money comes from. Groups like Britain in a Stronger Europe (BSE) suggest the EU-superstate is the sole guardian of keeping struggling British farmers afloat. It is not!
It must be highlighted the subsidies are inefficiently processed through the EU agricultural budget, and the public do not know how the system works. The money originates from all the Member States’ contributions to the annual EU budget, and taxpayers are clearly unaware the money comes from their own pockets. We are simply contributing to our own country’s welfare. The EU is actually giving us nothing.
This is also explained brilliantly in Roger Bootle’s The Trouble With Europe, as he correctly states “When the EU spends money – on regional aid for example – it makes a big thing of the fact that it is the EU that funded the project, with frequent displays of the blue flag, bedecked with yellow stars”. It is a simple case of taking British taxpayers money, placing EU branding on it, and returning it via ‘benevolent Brussels rebates and subsidies.
Britain will be contributing £14.5 billion to the EU during this financial year. We will only receive £4.1 billion back. The money given to farmers and landowners in the form of the CAP subsidies is not EU money, it comes from British taxpayers. It is ridiculous they are now being forced to celebrate these ‘EU grants’ by putting billboards on their land and advertise they are ‘receiving’ funding from the EU. It is an arrogant case of EU self promotion. Subsidies for British farmers could be far better implemented by our own government, with the money going directly to where it is needed.
We could replace the CAP with free trade agreements in agriculture which would be good for British consumers and farmers alike. For example, research shows the average cost per household is close to £400 a year, without artificial prices plonked onto EU goods, food would be a lot cheaper for consumers.
Contrary to false EU-funded reports, all Brexit proposals outline plans to match EU spending for our farmers and fishermen for a minimum of five years at the same level as current “EU subsidies”. As Ian Milne, Chairman of Global Britain highlights, the money Britain sends over the channel is “spent by the EU Commission to subsidise the UK’s competitors”. When Britain stops funding the powerful farming lobbies in Europe, there is no reason to believe British farmers would not thrive post-Brexit.
The inability of the EU to effectively and efficiently implement wide-ranging policies is well documented, and the CAP is no different. Some of the money has even ended up in the hands of big multinationals such as Group Doux (part supplier to KFC and Pizza Hut) and large producers of meat, rather than small to medium operators who do the actual farming work.
In addition, over-protective policies on pesticides have not only threatened small British farmers who need to protect their crops, but have placed ruinous regulation on the Plant Protection Product (PPP) industry. Such is the threat to PPP companies in which Britain has a stronghold, jobs linked to the farming sector could reduce by up to 35,000 – 45,000, according to an independent report by Andersons.
All this comes at a time when our food trade gap is continuing to widen and Britain is importing more and more food. EU red tape is hindering the incentives for long term investment in new pesticides. It is hurting our small farmers, and the British agriculture sector will have to undergo dramatic shifts in order to accommodate the burden for as long as we remain in the EU.
Brussels does not base overprotective pesticides regulation on sound science, or lengthy studies on how much British farmers are set to lose, but arbitrary targets set on paper. Likewise, the bureaucratic limbo which plagues the CAP has resulted in ‘lakes of wine’ hidden away in France and ‘mountains of bread’ thrown away in Germany. Such waste will always occur when bureaucrats dictate from their ivory towers and have no direct contact with workers on the ground.
This has been the EU’s approach for decades – so why should British taxpayers continue to fund such a damaging and wasteful policy?
This is why our own politicians must acknowledge the growing democratic deficit of Brussels’ rule. British consumers and farmers must be put first. When we get our chance to vote in the referendum, this is why we must vote to Get Britain Out of the EU.
Chris Muspratt is a researcher for the cross-party grassroots Eurosceptic campaign group Get Britain Out.