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MEP warns of 'deep worries' over likelihood Britain may leave EU

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 24, 2012

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Britain has never been closer to leaving the European Union – which would mean a serious reduction in the £400 million of annual funding the South West currently gets, an MEP told a debate on Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform.

Liberal Democrat Sir Graham Watson made the "depressing" prediction at a flood-affected event staged by the European Parliament, in Exeter.

His Tory counterpart, and member of the agriculture committee, MEP Julie Girling was unable to attend and offer her view on CAP talks – described as "crucial" to the Westcountry – because her home was flooded.

Sir Graham said the British Government's desire to see farmers weaned off European Union handouts meant support payments under a "renationalised" farming budget would be much reduced.

He told the audience at the National Farmers' Union (NFU) regional headquarters he was "deeply worried" about CAP reform, but said the matter may be irrelevant if Labour popularism and Tory scepticism combines to produce a referendum and an early exit from the EU.

"In no time in the 18 years I have been a member have I thought we were this close to leaving the EU," he added.

"I am sorry that's a rather depressing note on which to end but it is only fair for me to share my very serious concerns at this moment."

The meeting was opened yesterday by Alex Stevens, of the NFU, who laid out its main demands for the CAP negotiations, which cannot begin in earnest until the EU budget level is resolved.

The CAP is under discussion by a 44-member agricultural committee, described by Sir Graham as a "conservative forum wedded to the defence of vested interests". The next swathe of funding will run from 2014 until 2020 and there are slim hopes that a deal may be done during the first six months of next year, when Ireland holds the EU presidency.

Mr Stevens called for the CAP to go back to its roots, in the EU's founding Treaty of Rome, as a truly common policy, which should be simpler and fairer than the hugely complicated system which so frustrates farmers today.

He said there were three key issues, topped by "Greening" – the environmental requirements qualify for subsidies.

Also controversial is the definition of an "active farmer" and how much of the direct payments to support farmers should be put into supporting nature, a number which could rise to 30% under proposals from Defra.

Mr Stevens added: "It is hard to know how it will all look until after the budget but it is seriously complicated".

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  • reiwruwiou  |  November 28 2012, 1:56PM

    Hitler said "Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it." It seemed to work for him. I would suggest that people prefer to believe a simple lie to a complicated truth - it is said in US politics, for example, that once you start explaining, you have lost the argument. Now, repeat after me the following phrases; - "We will all be much better off out of Europe." "All of our economic woes are down to barmy Brussels beaurocrats." "The world cannot exist without us." Keep on doing this until you believe it (or until some starts a political party based around it.)

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  • realityzone  |  November 27 2012, 4:38PM

    If the rather concerted voting on here is anything to go by the truth seems to hurt. Its odd that the voting is totally at odds with the known views of the majority of people at this time. Most people would like to leave the EU's regulation factory and I am one of them.

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  • Baby_boomer  |  November 26 2012, 10:41PM

    Jambuster, I do not necessarily disagree with your views on the remuneration packages awarded to some of those employed by the EU. However, do not forget that obscene salary levels of salary are far, far greater in the private sector and are regularly accompanied by abuses of the tax system as well. 1. http://tinyurl.com/cbsdv5p 2. http://tinyurl.com/blgdj2b Do not fall either for the much peddled rubbish that the EU is awash with bureaucrats - the so-called EU bureaucracy employs only about the half the number engaged by Birmingham City Council (roughly 25,000 staff for a total EU population of approximately 750 million against Birmingham's 50,000 staff for a population of just one million).

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  • Baby_boomer  |  November 26 2012, 7:52PM

    Dear Jambuster, I agree with you that there are numerous costs within the EU which need addressing - expenses claimed by MEP's included, together with the ludicrous situation of the European Parliament upping sticks and moving between Brussels and Strasbourg in the way in which it does. It shouldn't be forgotten, however, that UKIP MEP's also subscribe to the system and one former UKIP MEP was of course rightly gaoled for fiddling his expenses (http://tinyurl.com/ygdpq7s). However, the main thrust of my previous post was merely to try and throw some light on the rubbish alleged by "inneedoftherapy" about the EU accounts not being audited. This so-called "story" isn't very original and crops up in the plethora of letters with which the anti-European brigade flood the letters pages of the press - both locally and nationally and is a thread which they keep regurgitating like a stuck gramophone record, in much the same way as they used to peddle rubbish about the EU imposing straight bananas!

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  • jambuster  |  November 26 2012, 7:49PM

    Baby boomer, you should also note the following: AT least 3,000 Brussels bureaucrats earn more than David Cameron, it emerged yesterday. Official figures show that at least 3,325 EU officials – 7 per cent of the total workforce – take home more than the Prime Minister's salary of £142,000. The totals do not include the 27 EU commissioners – politicians appointed from each of the member states – who earn up to £219,000 each, plus allowances.

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  • jambuster  |  November 26 2012, 6:56PM

    Babyboomer, You make no mention of the fiddling from the overpaid MEP.s on fridays they turn up to sign in to receive their daily expense (£193) at 7am with their week end bags and then go home to wherever also put on their expenses, they say you only need to be an MEP for three years to become a millionaire .

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  • Baby_boomer  |  November 26 2012, 4:45PM

    Dear "ineedtherapy", Despite the number of times that UKIP (in conjunction with its vested interest friends in parts of the press) and others on the far right continue to make reference to the unaudited accounts of the EU, the more intelligent readers of this site actually realise WHY this scenario has arisen. In fact, the primary reason for this problem is that INDIVIDUAL governments within the EU cannot satisfactorily report to the EU Commission or European Parliament precisely how they are spending the funds allocated to them each year. This is, of course, totally unacceptable and steps do need to be taken to address this problem which has gone on far too long. However, the fault lies essentially with individual states, not the EU itself and we in the UK are just as guilty as anybody else in this respect. Perhaps one of the most blatant scenarios which exemplifies this was DEFRA's distribution of funds received from the EU to assist with the Foot & Mouth outbreak. A lack of accurate record-keeping at DEFRA meant, for example, that the EU could not establish who was paid how much or when out of its funds to slaughter infected animals – an incidental reason also being that, quite rightly, the sums so paid might need to be cross-checked with tax returns of the recipients. As I have said, unacceptable practice, but not per se the fault of the EU. As for the really bizarre suggestion that voting for UKIP will solve anything, think again, pal and try these for reference – 1. http://tinyurl.com/3m8cpmw 2. http://tinyurl.com/75vs7a9 3. http://tinyurl.com/7s8gf7g

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  • trogg  |  November 26 2012, 4:21PM

    worst thing ever to happen to this country,good old ted heath, told us that it would be good for britain, yer right, when???? we should have never joined the wastefull eu, euro sceptic? me ? NO totally ANTI and it's about time that we left. Europe or eu-ROPE telling us what we can and can't do, makeing laws for us and costing this country millions in bloody mep wages,END THE ROT AND LEAVE NOW

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  • ineedtherapy  |  November 26 2012, 4:03PM

    and of course the other thing our honourable MEP has to worry about is the fact that he might lose his job.....more than a little self interest in this scaremongering methinks...

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  • ineedtherapy  |  November 26 2012, 3:59PM

    one other thing about the financial side the EEC as an entity has not been able to produce a set of auditable accounts for well over 10 years...so nobody actually knows where all that money we, or any other country for that matter,send goes. And now they want a further 5%....if this were any other business the only response you would get would be one of "you're 'avin a laff"

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