One of the biggest pains that Britain suffers in it’s ties to Brussels is the common policies on agriculture and fishing that is making us go hungrier than ever as farmers and fishers are constrained. People in the British agricultural sector are among the most pro-British supporters of the referendum and they are desperate for change. The effect on them is the way that the European Union constrains them and opens up our waters to the continent.
Let’s start with the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and how it affects us. The CAP was created at the time of the Treaty of Rome in 1962 and set out to help feed Europe and provide a sustainable food supply for it’s member states. After the war there was still rationing in place in Britain and there were food and water shortages in several parts of Europe. The European Community at the time wanted to ensure that no agricultural economy would ever suffer again. It sounded like a god send at the time and it made for great progress in restoring peace and security. It’s aim was to support and invest in agricultural companies allowing farmers to produce anywhere in a safe and sustainable way. This made the produce that they created have a good colour, taste and could be traced back to it’s origin. With the money and subsidies being paid to the farmers it protected rural ways of life and ensured the survival of the European Community through it’s protectionist agenda. Protection against the need for foreign imports of food and drinking water which would have made Europe suffer even worse. Examples of this from history saw plenty of European nations suffer and result in famines with mass migration. Examples such as the 1840s European potato famine which saw vast swathes of migration to the Americas right up to the early 20th century. The CAP does have it’s merits where credit is due. It has created welfare for Europe and jobs for the people and prevents loss of arable farming land and production. However there are some things about it that make it do more harm than good and henceforth it is not appropriate for modern Europe.
Over the years the Common Agricultural Policy has been under scrutiny and several calls have been made to reform it. The problem with the CAP is that it’s too protectionist and only works to serve the EU’s interests. At the moment it makes up 40% of the EU budget and costs about €57.8 billion (£45 billion pounds). But the costs of running it are making more losses than productivity. Among it’s problems are causing environmental health, impact on humanitarian issues, raising food prices, stalling development in farming methods, and blocking the imports of food leading to impoverishment of developing nations. In 2014 the whole of Africa made £1.6 billion from exporting it’s coffee whilst Germany on it’s own made £2.6 billion from export of coffee. This just goes to show that even though we are sending to Africa to develop this poor country of potential profits to better itself we are dismissing them through our EU membership. Africa is not as poor as those charities make them out to be, there are plenty of opportunities for places like Kenya, Nigeria and Sudan to make money then there is money here in Britain to throw at them. Even the recipients of the Live Aid concert think so, they are hungrier for change and trade than they are for aid. Live Aid’s most famous starving victim Birhan Woldu said that the fame that she got out of it has made her jobless and unable to provide for her after graduating from her agricultural college in Ethiopia. All the charities seem to do is pay for schooling and food but provide no means of economic development. They want to be able to transform their own country independently. It seems like we have an opportunity in our departure from the federal protectionist EU. We leave the EU’s bureaucracy and tariffs and in return we will have access to developing Africa and importing their food to bring the costs down. There’s even plenty of opportunities for science in that area as well, just ask the botanists.
There are our own farmers and agricultural economy to consider as well. We paid out £4.6 billion to the EU CAP in 2014 but got only £2.9 billion back Farming Minister George Eustace has received plenty of complaints from farmers about EU rules and regulations which are running them into the ground. Let’s consider the wastage crisis that is currently affecting Britain. Last year I watched a programme by TV chef and campaigner Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall on how Britain throws away so much that we buy. Among the things he discovered was the horrible loss of edible produce that a Norfolk farming family had to throw away because it didn’t meet the cosmetic standards of Morrisons supermarket. In a single week’s harvest they had to throw away 20 tons of parsnips. Less than a week of that can fill over 280 shopping trolleys of parsnips. That’s enough to feed an entire town of families! We are struggling to pay our food bills and the supermarkets who are backed by EU rules on oversupply of produce are in effect making us throw away just as much food as the farmers are forced to discard. The CAP’s policy on over production is part of the EU’s self-reliance on it’s own food supply. However it is creating too much that it not only prevents a famine, but produces waste and creates food stocks that are never used. Every year buys surplus food for food stocks that it supplies wholesale to developing nations. In the financial crash of 2008 the EU emptied a lot of these intervention stocks out to the crippled Eurozone and in the process it caused food prices to rocket for those who could still afford to buy food. It might have stopped us from all going into rationing but it certainly ruined the retail market financially. These stockpiles are also a waste into themselves because by holding onto amounts of the food that never gets eaten the EU has to destroy it and replenish it. On average the EU destroys about enough food every year to feed a famine stricken country for up to three months and that is on top of the intervention stocks.
The overproduction of food has also caused a constraint on our agricultural economy to distribute and sell our produce overseas. As we create these mountains and lakes of intervention stocks they lead to a position where we can’t import certain foods from abroad in Africa, Americas or Fareast Asia or Oceania, leading to restrictions in trade and potential customers. It is certainly having an effect on Africa where we can’t buy or import their food but we can sell our food, or for that matter dump it on them. This leads to an irritating business transaction that sees the African diary, tomato and poultry farmers suffer from cheap competition from Europe causing their income to suffer and they can’t provide for their families. I would rather buy from the lands beyond Europe to open up the powerful and vast trade routes we had in the days of the empire. There are bigger, bolder and greater opportunities for us that behold our freedom on the high seas. However we are not going forth in search of lands as colonial conquers of the globe, but to reach our Commonwealth members and enhance trade opportunities as merchants and business people.
UPDATE: As a proud seafaring I felt that it was right that I should extend this to the support of our fishing industry.
Did you that as an island nation we have access to 60% of the North Sea and Atlantic’s fishing areas? Prior to joining the EU we were able to fish up to 200 nautical miles from the baseline, today we can only fish as far as 12 miles. All because of the dreaded Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), which puts a quota on the amount we can catch and the number of fishing boats a company can have. Many of the fishing companies along with ports of Britain have been hit so badly that they are virtually poor and some of them have long gone. There are a number of fishermen along the Western coasts of the British Isles who are ready to vote out. Stretching all the way from the Scottish ports of Inverness and Aberdeen to the English ports of Hull, Lowestoft, Grimsby, Dover, Brighton, Plymouth and Newquay. One Scottish fishermen has said that each vessel in Scotland’s fishing fleet that has been sunk by the CFP has cost the industry £310’000 per year and shrunk the entire fleet of Scotland’s fishing fleet by two-thirds.
In the long run the CFP was supposed to have protected the fish stocks from overfishing by cutting down the number of boats. But it didn’t work out like that. Instead it’s made the boats desert the North Sea and catch fish further afield. This is because the quotas on the catch meant that they had to throw back whatever they were not allowed to take ashore. On my most recent trip to Tescos I found that all of the fish from the counter and in packets had not come from the North Sea. Some of it like salmon and trout is farmed in the UK and the rest like cod, haddock, hake, plaice and mackerel came from parts of the Atlantic far away from the EU area.
According to the CFP in order to make sure that every member state gets a fair share of fishing rights the area around their shores have to be shared with Britain and Ireland because being that we are an island nation we seem to have an unfair advantage to France, Germany, Holland and Denmark. In 2015 under the EU quotas France was allowed 70-84 % of catchable cod while the UK got just 7 – 9%. When Greenland gained independence from Denmark in 1979 they decided to get of the Common Market in order to get back their fishing areas. They have since been the only state to have left the EU since 1985. Since then their fishing industry has been continously booming to the catch of all the North Atlantic fish they can fetch. Which is great because 90% of their economy is from the fishing industry. If they were still part of the EU then they would have been a bankrupt state on a par with Greece.