HAYES IN THE HOUSE: By John Hayes
Uncertainty about the unknown is an inevitable feature of looking forward. So, the falsehood perpetrated by those who want Britain to stay in the European Union -that the only safe option is to maintain the status quo - is designed to fuel fear. To leave, they argue, is a leap into the unknown.
This false premise fails to acknowledge that the greater risk is staying in the EU. As Iain Duncan Smith said, leaving the doomed European Union would empower Britain to “stride into the light”. The European project has been failing for many years as Eurozone economies are stagnating and unable to grasp - let alone solve - the enormity of the big challenges facing the continent. Some of these problems are relatively recent – the migrant crisis, the disastrous single currency – whilst others have been around since the dawn of the EEC, with perhaps the worst example of failure being the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
Arguably the biggest folly of all the grand European designs, the CAP drains roughly 40% of the EU budget, as it distorts markets by over-producing some things (the infamous butter mountains and wine lakes), and under-producing others (in effect, paying continental farmers not to farm). In essence, efficient farmers – like those here in South Lincolnshire – subsidise through their taxes tobacco growers in Bulgaria and goat herders in Greece, amongst others.
The current subsidies make no sense – the UK pays £6 million a year in to the CAP, with our farmers and growers getting about half that amount back. Considering that French farmers get three times as much is it any wonder that vested interests in the EU ensure that the CAP won’t be further reformed any time soon. It’s not competitive, it’s not fair and it’s not a system we should fear leaving.
Freeing ourselves from the EU would allow Britain to take back control of our own rural policy, meaning we could protect the financial support farmers need at greater levels. Countries outside the CAP like Switzerland and Norway do just that. Indeed, the Prime Minister has confirmed that the government would continue to support farmers were we to leave the EU, and the farming Minister George Eustice is campaigning for Brexit.
Leaving would mean we will be able to cut red tape and reduce the burden of administration for local businesses - the days of thousands of confusingly worded EU diktats that aim to control everything farmers do will be a distant memory. At the moment, the EU decides the maximum width of a gateway, tells farmers how to define a hedge, and delivers instructions on the size of billboards they erect - none of it necessary, nothing to be missed.
Farmers and growers in South Holland shouldn’t fear a vote to leave because Britain as a whole buys far more from EU countries than we sell to them; our continental neighbours need us more than we need them. We are the EU’s largest export partner – it will be in everyone’s interests to negotiate a better trading deal which benefits all.
Lincolnshire is the breadbasket of Britain, our farmers and food firms make up the backbone of the rural industry which contributes around £11 billion a year to the British economy. With agricultural policy made in the UK, not in Europe, we could deliver the changes for which British farming has yearned for so long.