The EU idea has come and gone

George Eustice MP says that If we leave the EU, the only question we will ask is why we didn’t do it sooner.

Who should decide what size ear tags on cattle should be?  You might think it’s a trivial question and doesn’t really matter but we are currently having to spend tens of thousands of pounds on lawyers fees to argue the toss with the European Commission through the European Court because of a recent inspection in Wales by EU auditors.

EU Referendum

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You can find all of our articles on the EU referendum here.

In parts of the country, including Wales, farmers often use a small, metal tag as the second back up tag on cattle because they are less likely to be lost, although they still contain all the information needed to identify the cattle concerned.  The UK and Welsh governments have no problem with this.  It makes sense.  However, the European Commission argue that these tags are against the law and that the second back up tag must be exactly the same size, shape and colour as the primary tag.
We never asked for the opinion of the European Commission and have no interest in their view.  We are quite capable of making our own rules on ear tags.  And yet, the European Commission have created an ear tag dispute as an excuse to take money from us through an iniquitous system of fines known as “disallowance penalties” and we are having to waste huge amounts of time an money resisting this smash and grab raid on the public purse.
Sometimes it is witnessing the trivial minutiae of EU law that makes you realise the reality: that the very concept of a centralised, pan-European legal system that attempts to govern farming and the environment is fundamentally flawed.  EU law is all pervasive.  It tries to codify and regulate almost every conceivable feature of our landscape and virtually everything a farmer might try to do with their land. EU law militates against good governance.  However hard we try to abide by the rules it is inevitable that the British taxpayer will be routinely stung by completely unjustified, arbitrary EU fines.  Civil servants spend their days fretting about whether we are obeying this or that regulation and it is impossible to implement coherence in policy making or to deliver change.  No one knows where they stand and it creates a culture of perpetual legal jeopardy.
If we leave the EU and take control we will be free to try new things and develop new, more coherent policies.  Civil servants who today spend their days writing pointless strategies for the EU bureaucracy or having to ask permission before being allowed to do anything will be free to think things through from first principles and to pilot new ideas.
If we stop sending £350 million per week to the EU, we will have more than enough money to fund all the activity that the EU currently does on our behalf and still have billions left over for other priorities like the NHS.  We will support farming in Wales at the same level as we do now but we could spend money better and more effectively with new policies to protect farmers from risk and more holistic schemes that really deliver for our environment and promote animal welfare.  There would also be more power for the Welsh Government to decide how best to help their farmers.
We will also be able to afford to continue to fund regional economic development grants in Wales.  I am a Cornish MP and I familiar with the arguments about EU structural funds since we also qualify for Convergence funding.  However, there is no such thing as “EU money”.  There is only the money that we have given the EU, about half of which we then receive back with lots of strings attached and an army of bossy EU auditors finding fault in everything we do.  In recent years, the burden of clunky procurement rules and huge retrospective fines on businesses has damaged confidence in these EU funds.  It would be better by far to have sensible Local Growth Funds administered nationally by the Welsh administration.
The EU is an idea whose time has come and gone.  It is time to replace our membership of the EU with a new UK- EU partnership instead.  If we decide to leave the EU this Thursday, the only question we will ask ourselves in a few years time is why we didn’t do it sooner.

George Eustice is the MP for Camborne, Redruth & Hayle and is Minister of State at DEFRA.

4 thoughts on “The EU idea has come and gone

  1. Remarkable. The best Vote Leave can do to advance their post-EU vision is the size of tags on the ears of cattle.

    I am also surprised to Mr Eustice continuing with this £350 million a week nonsense (as am I disappointed that the IWA has allowed it to be published). That figure has been proven over and over again to be false.

    Vote Leave’s arguments seem to be either false, or amount to desiring a divorce where you still share a bedroom.

  2. I have some sympathy with this but not alot. There is this myth perpetuated by some farmers that they are ‘custodians of the countryside’ whilst the truth is that they are more ‘custodians of agribusiness corporations and tractor salesmen’. If the ‘bossy EU’ bureaucrats from Brussels are replaced by our own home grown jobsworthies, the backhanders, blind eyes, clunkiness and VAT scams will still continue unabated but maybe less likely to be policed. Farmers are just as prone to trying to drive down costs (even pennies on an ear tag) as any other business people.
    The EU’s time may well have come and gone as the author says but that doesn’t mean that we should go back to the ‘old ways’.

  3. “When I go to Downing Street they do what I say, when I go to Brussels they take no notice” quote from Rupert Murdoch. A good reason to vote remain. Do we want to continue on the EU path of cooperation and liberalism or do we want to take a violent lurch to the right and enforced conformity? The unionists who want to free Britain (meaning England) from what they regard has foreign domination and will see no hypocrisy in banning the Assembly and Scottish Parliament. If UKIP win their next target will be the Assembly and Scottish Parliament, all of which of course will be done under the guise of democracy, saving money and restoring the union to their mythical land of milk and honey.

  4. The quality of the EU debate has been appallingly low these past two months with propaganda being thrown around from both sides and this article has been yet another mindless contribution. The point has already been made about the pettiness of basing a decision about whether to leave the single market on the size of a cow’s eartag.

    There is a simple reason for the regulations that Mr Eustice objects to; it is part of establishing a single market of half a billion consumers. It is about establishing standards that all manufacturers have to meet from Galway to Riga so that the consumer does not get ripped off.

    Mr Eustice also asserts that we pay £350 million a week to the EU. This is factually wrong which means that either he is ignorant of the truth, in which case we cannot trust what he has to say on the matter, or he is aware of the real figures, in which case he is deliberately misleading the Welsh public.

    As a Tory, George Eustice should know that Margaret Thatcher negotiated a rebate from the EU which is actually deducted before payment is made to the EU. Last year that rebate amounted to £102 million a week. So the actual amount sent to Brussels was £248 million a week.

    The figure he quotes also ignores the money that the UK receives from the EU. Last year, that amounted to about £112 million a week. So, in total, the net figure we pay over to the EU is about £136 million a week. This is the net cost of EU membership in financial terms, which is actually 38.9% of the original Leave campaign’s figure. By anyone’s standards, that is a gross misrepresentation of the truth but when have lies ever gotten in the way of a political agenda.

    Eustice concludes by saying that there is no such thing as EU money, there is only the money we have given the EU. Wrong Mr Eustice. EU money is made up of money that Germany has given, that France has given, that Sweden has given that Lithuania has given; in fact the money that 27 countries other than the UK have given so that Europe can have the peace and stability that established trade can bring, something that pre-EU Europe failed to achieve in centuries.

    If Mr Eustice wishes to live in a nostalgic little Englander bubble when Britain was an imperial power, that is a matter for him. What we must ensure is that Wales, which is a net beneficiary of EU membership to the tune of £245 million a year, does not get dragged in to that deluded world otherwise it is we who will pay the price.

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