Carrot and stick

Customer and supplier discuss the possibility, or not, of improving the EU

What to do? What to do?
The idea of organic farming is sound and we support it both in principle and practise. Guy Watson owns farms in the UK and France and will be best known for his company, Riverford , who sell and deliver organic vegetables to your door. He wrote the following news letter while working in France and put it on the Riverford website and put a copy in each of the deliveries.

“I get asked about Brexit at every break from our field work. The sentiment is generally that we should stay; that the European project is precious but fragile, and that our exit may make it crumble. Everyone here acknowledges that the EU has problems and needs to become more democratic and responsive to concerns of Europeans rather than Eurocrats, but resentment at a potential exit is not far under the surface. With Holland and the Czech Republic threatening to follow, it is not in Europe’s interest to make exit look easy; indeed, EU politicians are likely to get voters’ approval for making our post-exit life hell. I have no appetite for “ever closer union” or an ever larger Europe; if this was a referendum on whether to join the EU, I would be for staying out, but that train has left and I will be voting to stay for three reasons:

1. The uncertainty following an exit vote will make the next 5-10 years of negotiation and adjustment hell for anyone trying to run a business; we need stability and certainty to allow us to make the good, well informed decisions and long term investment plans so vital to growth and employment.

2. Despite all its failings, the EU has brought peace and many other benefits; personally I would regret precipitating its demise.

3. Given the current mood in Europe, reform of the EU is inevitable; Eurocrats will be forced to be more accountable. The EU needs to change, but we should push for the reforms most of us want from the inside. It will be a lot harder should we walk”.

Feeling that it warranted a comment from a customer this is our reply.

Hello Guy,

With the last delivery from Riverford came your opinions on Brexit, here are mine. Your views are set out as three numbered main points and a preamble. My views will form a reply to yours and go through the preamble and at the same time include anything that appears in, and thus related to, your three points. This will keep a big subject as brief as possible. To aid clarity my points will be lettered and thus not need to follow the same order as yours, although this may be the end result.

A – In the preamble you state that the European project is 'precious'. This begs the question, precious to whom? Certainly some, too few, seem to be doing well out of it. While others quite the opposite. Such imbalances are common to any political federation and inevitable thus not affected, improved or made worse, by Brexit. So when you go on to say it's fragile and may crumble post Brexit we could equally claim leaving would help by stiffening it up! And more, if after all these years the EU project is fragile then maybe it's because the whole project is flawed? Devout communists used to believe that 'come the revolution' all troubles would be resolved. I say it's an equally long and futile wait for the EU project to sort itself out. It's a post WW2 solution to a problem that no longer exists. Its time has passed.

You also say that “everyone” knows the EU needs to become more democratic and responsive. I fancy I'm older than you and can thus report I first heard such worthy sentiments in the mid 1990s. I can also say as a long term EU watcher that when you are my age the same cry will still be made. Things were supposed to 'get better' following the 2008 financial downturn. And following elections many EU governments changed tack. However, the response from Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister was “elections change nothing”. Thus if he did not like the new government he did his best to quash it with the full approval of Brussels. So yes more democracy is needed but you won't see it so long as the present EU elites have power.

You also mention you detect resentment. Are you confusing this with jealousy, or perhaps there is both? If the French are unhappy with the way the EU is working and, crucially, the lopsided outcome of their relationship with Germany, then the remedy is in their hands. An ever closer union with the UK or any other country or countries, won't help them. They, like the UK, are a sovereign country and the solution is the reaffirmation of sovereignty not its dilution.

Furthermore I too have detected resentment. The cack-handed way the French authorities have handled the migrant camps on their  north coast has been a gift to anti-EU feelings here in the UK. After years of this resentment in the UK is rife. You also say EU politicians could get voter approval for make UK life 'hell'  post Brexit. Surely you can see that this sort of threat helps the Brexit cause? So if the EU elite are really that stupid then let's get out now! We deserve better than stupid people in charge of politics.

And to say you have no appetite for an ever closer union or EU enlargement. This makes me wonder how you are going to cope with the future. For both of those things are what the EU elite have planned for you.

I was intrigued by the train analogy, “that train has already left”. This is a bit of pro-EU propaganda that has been around for years. There was another popular one to do with the bicycle relying on the notion that if you stop pedalling you fall over. So suggesting that the EU had to be constantly 'evolving' to 'help' us reach the sunny uplands. Needless to say evolving meant an ever closer union and more enlargement, the very things you say you don't want.

But back to the train, the idea it has left implies a linear motion, hence the once and for all evocation, this is wrong. A better description of EU behaviour would be circular motion like a merry-go-round at a fair. There are frequent opportunities to get off, there is one now! If you study the Lisbon Treaty you will find a reference to Article 50. This is the EU approved route to leaving and not something unofficial, exit is possible. If you want to take this further then read this a lengthy and detailed exit plan free from propaganda and taken from here .

In your point No1 you mention uncertainty, you have no doubt heard the other daft bit of propaganda on this theme, 'the leap in the dark'. There is plenty of uncertainty if we remain. For example did you spot the Merkel plan to open the EU's borders to all migrants coming? This was done without any reference to or consultation with other EU elected leaders. The destabilising effects of this have begun and will get worse. Most of your comments could be described as the business case. But the possibilities of an expanded labour pool come at a price. The social costs need to be factored in too, these could well be vast and negate any business advantage. And as you worry about uncertainty I have to say these negatives appear to be hard to fathom.

There is also the European Central Bank's lust for quantitative easing. This action by the ECB has gone completely out of control and has, typical of the EU, never been subject to proper democratic approval. It was said, originally, QE was to 'secure' European financial institutions.

Yet is has become as good as permanent, indicating the nature of the security sought and the mechanism employed is flawed so making a mockery of any attempt at long term investment plans. The uncertainty here is how to regain control and should keep you awake at night as it will really be hell if it goes wrong. Surely the point of organic farming is a natural approach, you may think of QE as a massive use of something like DDT. It's very unhealthy and is imposed on you, business and saver alike.

You also say that there will be 5-10 years of uncertainty during negotiations and various adjustments. Here I can assure you that the UK civil service would love you to think that! However, if you refer to the Flexcit pdf you will see there is a plan to minimise disruption. Barack Obama recently showed considerable ignorance of trade negotiations and treaties and even some malice. But experts do exist and they tell us treaties are both common and quickly created.

B – I see you also say “the EU has brought peace”, this is sometimes, though perhaps not in your case, to dismiss or over- look the role of NATO. To muddle the role and purpose of a trading bloc with a military alliance is remarkable. It was the EU who through at least ill judged, some say even deliberate, provocation of Russia that contributed to the unstable situation in Ukraine turning violent. The EU has always had delusional and arrogant notions of becoming a super power to rival the US or Russia. Alas it lacks the brains and cohesion so if this is the EU version of peace then we are mad to be part of it.

C – You claim the mood in Europe means 'reform' is inevitable, no it is not. The mood of ordinary people may suggest this to you, but they count for nothing. As I've already suggested assuming that the EU will become more accountable any time soon is risible. You must be aware that auditors have failed to endorse the EU accounts for over 20 years now. What sort of progress did you have in mind? To me that looks like the behaviour you get from an African dictator, sheer arrogance.

As for democratic reform as opposed to reform, we should remember that Italy is on it third unelected Prime Minister. The appointments are made via the guiding hand of the EU. This fits in with the contempt for democracy of the euro elite who, should a country vote 'the wrong way', simply force them to vote again. As for trying to get reform 'from the inside' this too is risible. I'm surprised you have not noticed that David Cameron tried this earlier in the year and came back empty handed. If an elected PM mandated to reform cannot achieve anything that is meaningful or legally binding then who can, who would you send to do this?

You say reform will be a lot harder if we walk! Really? Perhaps it's like giving up smoking. We could try after the summer, or after the autumn, or after Christmas! It's impossible to reform the EU by any of the ways you suggest. What is hard is to face up to this. That's all. It gets easier after that.

Thanks for reading this far, I've never grown a vegetable in my life but wish you well with yours!

But what I have done is spend some 12 years researching politics in general and the EU in particular. It's my opinion that the EU has the morality of a Ponzi scheme and note that George Eustice is pro-Brexit.