2018 – 032 Common Agricultural policy

Then and Now – Entering and Leaving the EU                   Edward Spalton 3 September 2018

The Common Agricultural Policy is the most expensive single European project. When we joined on January 1st 1973, it was a huge revolution in farming and food. We moved from world free trade (with taxpayer support to home production for food security) to high regulation behind a massive tariff. Prices went up and were fixed politically in Brussels.

From late 1971 the government gave increasing guidance so that farms and food processors could understand the system. Although the European Communities Act did not pass until October 1972, we were ready to carry on smoothly from the first day. In retrospect, the government’s timely preparations were excellent.

The contrast with today could hardly be greater. The complications of EU policy have spread far more widely to all areas of the economy. Yet only now, a mere seven months before Brexit, has the government begun to issue technical notices about the consequences of a “No Deal” Brexit. The EU’s “Notices to Stakeholders” are more informative and were eight months earlier. There is precious little time for businesses to prepare or for government to build the necessary infrastructure.

Independence campaigners , who had given some years’ thought to the complex process of decoupling from the EU, were appalled at the amateurish policy Mrs May set out in her Lancaster House speech of January 2017. She would abrogate all the existing EU treaties and then attempt to negotiate a completely new “deep and special” partnership with the EU – an impossible task within the two years’ notice provided . She kept the plans for her partnership secret until July this year. Most people doubt whether the Chequers proposals are compatible with existing EU rules or that they will gain a parliamentary majority.

It took from January 2017 to January this year for David Davis to realise that the abrogation of the treaties also cancelled the EU regulatory approvals which make British products like aero engines, cars, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and food acceptable in the EU and much of the wider world.

This is not something the EU has done to “punish” us – simply the effect of leaving the treaties without putting new arrangements in place. CE markings by British Notified Bodies will also become invalid.

The motives for leaving the EU are constitutional rather than economic. Lord Kilmuir, the Lord Chancellor, wrote to Edward Heath in 1960 that EEC membership would mean “Parliament must…..resign itself to becoming a rubber stamp”. Yet in 1971 Heath told us “There is no question of any erosion of essential national sovereignty”. This deceit by politicians of the main parties multiplied over the years until it was finally rumbled in the referendum.

Parliament, having lost power so many years ago and become comfortable as a rubber stamp, seems unable to complete the basic preparations for the consequences of its task. MPs have the honour to carry out the people’s instruction. They have very little time to regain their country’s trust and prove that they are up to the job.


Before the referendum result PADDY ASHDOWN said “I will forgive no one who does not respect the sovereign voice of the British people once it has spoken. Whether it is a majority of 1 per cent or 20 per cent, when the British people have spoken, you do what they command. Either you believe in democracy or you don’t”. JOHN MAJOR “There will not be another referendum on Europe. This is it”. Both are now demanding a second referendum..

The mainland European attitude is more honest in its contempt for voters. Before the referendums on the EU constitution in France and the Netherlands, Jean Claude Juncker said “If it’s a Yes we say “on we go” and, If it’s a No we will say “We continue”. It was a No in both cases but the EU still got its constitution by calling it a “Reform Treaty” – The Treaty of Lisbon. The EU doesn’t do democracy. Neither can we, as long as we remain a member.

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