Oh, you can just imagine them chortling away in the TaxPayers’ Alliance producing the above video about the Common Agricultural Policy. It contains a heady mix of fact and prejudice and there’s even a report to go with it. The ‘stats’ in the TaxPayers’ Alliance report are correct in as far as they go in terms of the costs of CAP, but of course their tables forget the money that is paid to UK farmers from the CAP. But stating that the UK gets money from the EU budget doesn’t assist with the sensationalist line that it’s Brussels stealing all our money.
Let me be frank about it – I think the CAP is absolute rubbish. But I have 2 problems with all of this. First of all there is no-one putting the other side of the debate about CAP in the UK. Secondly, having a go at the EU as a whole as a result of this is quite cheap.
So then, what about the other side? Well there are a whole bunch of people that do benefit from the Common Agricultural Policy in the UK. How many of them have any sort of communications strategy to state how EU agricultural money helps them? Well, that would be no-one. The National Farmers’ Union has a load of EU news on its website, but nothing clearly in favour of how CAP aids UK farmers. Defra has no clear page about CAP on its website. There’s also nothing on the UK Commission Delegation’s website about how CAP pays money to UK farmers. There are some half-valid concerns about farmers’ incomes such as those expressed by German milk farmers; those concerns have to be weighed up against other tensions in the economy. But there’s essentially a communications imbalance – the scattergun critique of CAP is played out in public, while the farming lobby quietly presses for business as usual.
And what about having a go at the EU as a whole? Well, the single, simplest way to reduce the CAP budget has been opposed by the UK government – reductions in the Single Farm Payment. The UK opposition to this is here (half way down) in response to a Lords PQ. Essentially the UK has a few large farms and they lobby like mad to make sure the maximum payment per farm is not limited. So the UK talks a good story on CAP reform but in practice fails to deliver. Then there are Brits in key positions – Tories even like Neil Parrish, chair of the Agriculture Committee in the European Parliament. Would the TaxPayers alliance think of that? No, of course not. They want to appeal to Tory voters after all!
There is a way to solve all of these issues if any British politician were to be bold enough: it’s to trade the UK budget rebate for complete reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. Fat chance that’s going to happen any time soon.