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A good example of how Brits were mislead on the EU

by Luis de Sousa Wed Nov 22nd, 2017 at 04:57:11 PM EST

Days ago I was embroiled in a closed mail-list discussion on Brexit regarding the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) and wild life protection programmes. The subject was a reportage by a famed British euro-sceptic journalist, aired just days before the referendum:



I attempted to show my colleagues the dimension of the falsehoods in this reportage, but George Monbiot seems to be a holy cow of sorts in environmentalist circles, thus my argumentation was not welcome. Under the coat of a left-leaning environmentalist, George Monbiot engages in unconstrained bashing the EU, sowing unwarranted mistrust and scepticism. This makes for a good example of how the British public has been mislead, that must be fully understood. Therefore I leave here my reasoning for future reference.

Front paged - Frank Schnittger


Subsidies to EU farmers are paid from the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF) the main financial instrument implementing the CAP. Monbiot claims these subsidies to be directed at land owners, but there is a document published by the Commission entitled Eligibility for direct payments of the Common Agricultural Policy that provides concrete rules on whom may actually receive them:

In order to be eligible to receive direct payments, applicants have to be active farmers.
The subsidies are targeted at active farmers, those folk that not only work the land, but that have in farming their main source of income:
In the context of the latest CAP reform, the co-legislators indeed adopted the active farmer provision which aims at preventing individuals and companies from receiving support from the CAP when their business is not agricultural or is only marginally so.
There is no reference whatsoever to land owners in the document, that being a mere invention by Monbiot. But there is more, the UK is far more in control of these subsidies than Monbiot's words may lead to believe:
The key element of the active farmer provision is a negative list of businesses/activities, which includes airports, waterworks, real estate services, railway services and permanent sport and recreational grounds.
This is another important point to understand the extent of Monbiot's falsehoods. The EU defines a minimum set of economic activities that automatically exclude a farmer from these subsidies. For instance, if a farmer also manages a golf field, it is possibly unwise to pay her or him farming subsidies. Each member state is free to expand this list to guarantee that funds reach those farmers actually in need. If in the UK there are farmers receiving funds they should not, it is entirely to the UK government to make amends.

Beyond these limiting aspects, farmers must also make proof the parcels they work actually need intervention. Subsidies are not available to whom may left fields for vacant, something that might also be wrongly perceived from Mobiot's claims:
Finally, those farmers who have mainly areas which do not need any intervention to remain in a state suitable for grazing or cultivation and who do not perform a minimum activity on those areas, whatever the level of direct payments they were granted in the previous year, are considered non-active and may not receive support.
Another point worth considering, in the continent land owners are taxed, in varying degrees, but certainly not subsidised. The property tax is an important instrument to steer land owners towards best practices and fight neglect in rural areas. If land ownership is not properly taxed in the UK, that is a problem of their exclusive creation.

Monbiot further claims the EU pays farmers to destroy natural habitats. Again, reading the EAGF documentation one finds the opposite to be true, provisions are set in place to fund natural habitat protection:
In addition, as to recognise the ecological and agricultural value of some areas with extensive traditional pastoral/agricultural systems, Member States may decide to include in the category of permanent grassland any land which can be grazed and which forms part of established local practices [...] :

. practices which are important for the conservation of habitats
And once more, it is largely left to each member state how to exactly do this.

But wild life protection policies in the EU are not resumed to EAGF. Financial instruments like LIFE, EuroNatur and similar have been used for decades to protect autochthonous species and expand natural habitats across Europe. The re-introduction of top chain predators, such as wolfs, bears or lynxes, has been so successful that they threaten human settlements again.

Monbiot omits an important aspect of EU policies: the quotas systems imposed on its members states on Agriculture and Fisheries. This is one of the rare policies in the world that actually takes into account wild life stocks, as environmentalists like Herman Daly have long advocated.

Ironically, right after engaging in these deceptions, Monbiot declares himself against Brexit. If Monbiot actually wanted the UK to remain in the EU, he would have not spent time spreading false claims about the CAP and demonising the Union. He would have instead called out the implications of leaving the legal framework protecting farming in Europe.

It were people like Monbiot that, by sowing the seeds of mistrust, cast the UK to the quagmire it finds itself in. Now the UK seeks a FTA with the USA, that will forcibly include agriculture. Coming April of 2019, the UK will not only lose the environmental protection funding and legislation from the EU as it will ready itself to be flooded with products grown without any drop of environmental scruple. Soon enough we will get to know how well American farming works for the UK.

This is a crosspost from AtTheEdgeOfTime

Display:
The British have been eurosceptics for many years, also by influencing Brussels on globalization and undermining the rights of labor. Brexit was always going to be a choice of the establishment (capital, wealth and the 1%) and their henchmen the politicians. How close was the EU and the US on the new trade treaty of the TTIP? Yes, under the rule of Democrats in the White House.

London was the trojan horse for America inside Europe, NATO played a key role in pushing an agressive stance towards Moscow. People will always suffer at the hands of politicians looking after the welfare of the elite.

The referendum on Brexit was never abour ratio, similar to elections it's based on falsehoods and emotion.  

America First - Déjà Vu

by Oui on Thu Nov 23rd, 2017 at 05:40:52 AM EST
Ironically, right after engaging in these deceptions, Monbiot declares himself against Brexit. If Monbiot actually wanted the UK to remain in the EU, he would have not spent time spreading false claims about the CAP and demonising the Union. He would have instead called out the implications of leaving the legal framework protecting farming in Europe.

Since George Monbiot is a Remainer, perhaps he misunderstands how the CAP works and is not wilfully spreading disinformation.

When he says that subsidies goes to big landowners (and he has given specific figures for major UK landowners in his Guardian columns), it's surely a given that the money is paid to an entity that meets all the requirements for active farmer status, regardless of whatever other businesses the ultimate owner might have.

by Gag Halfrunt on Thu Nov 23rd, 2017 at 11:29:46 AM EST
Perhaps yes, UK farmers that do not deserve these subsidies are receiving them. But as I have shown, it is not the EU to blame for it.

The misinformation spread by Monbiot is outright invented. I doubt it is the result of a misunderstanding.

You might find me At The Edge Of Time.

by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]a[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]gmail[dot]com) on Thu Nov 23rd, 2017 at 01:42:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Monbiot is no where near as smart as he thinks on technical issues: he's executed a couple of u-turns recently - nuclear power and eating meat, I think - from prior convictions that, uh, suffered from a lack of evidential support.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Nov 23rd, 2017 at 02:12:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And Monbiot is supposed to be one of the good guys... There is no doubt that a lot of CAP money ends up in the hands of the "landed gentry" or agri-businesses which do not need such subsidies. The CAP was supposed to enable family farming to survive in the face of cheaper global competition.  It was as much a social construct to support rural areas in decline, and strategic construct to avoid too much food dependence on external sources.

No doubt national governments had the power to prevent many of these abuses, but what national government is going to oppose EU money going to their donors, natural supporters, and local industries? CAP reform is essential, but blaming the EU is at best disingenuous  when most of it is in the hands of national governments to drive such reforms. Ironically the greatest abuses may have been in the UK with its extremely unequal land-owning class structure.

In many ways the UK is the greatest beneficiary of the worst aspects of the EU. In some respects, Brexit itself is a reforming act for the EU.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Nov 23rd, 2017 at 01:02:42 PM EST
While by and large avoiding specifics, I do note that Monbiot mentions putting a cap in CAP that we discussed here some seven years ago.
by fjallstrom on Thu Nov 23rd, 2017 at 02:57:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In many ways the UK is the greatest beneficiary of the worst aspects of the EU. In some respects, Brexit itself is a reforming act for the EU.

Excellent insight, Frank. I wish the latter were even more true, as Jungker's neo-liberalism is only a few shades less toxic than May's.

As long as policies favour finance over peoples' savings, as long as countries in the EU Zone continue to do worse than they did before joining, as long as the wealth gap keeps widening, and growth is so sluggish, as long as the cost of living continues to outpace the costs of employment and wages, as long as we continue to spend useless Euros on armaments while millions slip below the poverty line, as long as scandals such as Libor and the emissions scam go blind-eyed, wrist-slapped, relatively unpunished, as long as policies on mass immigration remain incoherent,as long as even after Paradise and Panama papers are revealed as business as usual nothing is done, as long as the cream of Europe's wealth is siphoned off leaving ballooning debts and underfunded pensions, as long as high taxes do not return to workers in the form of better social benefits, as long as every subsequent generation for the last three lives poorer than the previous ones the Brussels gang will not be credible as truly entitled to govern such a wide and varied continent.
If we don't change soon another country or two will want to bail and and risk their chances on their own.

Britain will spanked very hard by Brussels because if they do do well post-Brexit, it will show Europe up no end, and even if they just don't do worse, could be the thread that unravels the whole sweater.  

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Nov 23rd, 2017 at 07:46:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As long ... the Brussels gang will not be credible as truly entitled to govern such a wide and varied continent.

This is on a par with the disinformation of which Monbiot is being accused. Go back through your list of grievances and identify how many are primarily (or even exclusively) the domain of the national governments.

Even in the case of EU-wide directives, they are the result of agreement between the national governments. The lie of a "EU government" was the comfortable lie underpinning the entire Brexit debate. If people are unwilling to hold their own governments to account while they are part of the EU, it is naïve to think they will suddenly start to hold them to account if they leave.

As for your final paragraph, the EU might wish to punished the UK for leaving, but the British are doing such a bang-up job of spanking themselves it is hard to see what else the EU could do to make it worse.

BTW, exactly which parts of the official EU position do you consider to be punitive punishment as opposed to legitimate attempts to protect the interests of the EU and its people?

by det on Fri Nov 24th, 2017 at 08:32:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Melo, that is the discourse of the British right, and true, the discourse of some right parties in Europe. They are unhappy with the social and regulatory order imposed by the EU and therefore blame it for everything that is bad. Their goal is sole and simply to dismantle the EU. They abject people like me, symbols of an acquired level of social mobility that is unprecedented in History. Naturally they understand how an EU without social or geographical borders is threatening the Conservative ideal. For now they prevail by instilling all sorts of external fears into citizens, but reality will eventually impose itself on them.

And the ridiculous claim we are punishing the UK. Like it was us who voted them to leave. Their purgatory is exclusively of their own making. I reject any responsibility on the predicament of that vagrant nation.

You might find me At The Edge Of Time.

by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]a[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]gmail[dot]com) on Fri Nov 24th, 2017 at 09:08:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree Britain is punishing itself plenty already, as the Tories are so obviously winging it, deep in denial and irresponsible.
In a sense they have already injected their venom into the EU and now are on their way out, ostensibly.
That is also due to the gutter press which is allowed to run riot there like in no other EU country to my knowledge. (Please correct if wrong, I know they're not the only ones by a long shot and I don't read Polish or Hungarian press.)
After Greece it seems obvious to many citizens that the priorities for the EU are banks and arms industries, and that the IMF-Troika machine was hungrily ensconced in the halls of power at Brussels.
It is the immiseration caused by the these neoliberal economics and the straitjacket of the Euro that is fuelling the rise of the hard right, exacerbated by hypocritical and ham-fisted immigration policy. 4,000,000 Italians are now below the poverty line, a situation not seen since the postwar period. Italy is half way to Greece's status already. (Not all the EU's fault, but it hasn't helped!)
You might infer that because I wrote exclusively about the EU's flaws, that I have no hope at all for this grand experiment. On the contrary, for many aspects I admire and support the EU, and know that Italy is responsible too for many of its problems.
There is nothing wrong with the EU that could not be solved with more transparency and democracy, those lackings which have given rise to Farage, Salvini and Le Pen. Why give them that easy red meat? Cui bono?
Perhaps the biggest problem the EU had was extracting the individual countries' sovereignty willingly.
While the economy was pre-2007 it was going relatively ok as for many countries such as Italy it did feel a net positive as they were being being governed so sketchily themselves. Polls showed a 70% approval rating from Italians for the EU, even under Berlusconi.
Maybe I should say especially under Berlusconi!
That's why Greece'so case was so heartbreaking, especially as it was revealed that American finance had helped fudge the numbers to have Greece on board in the first place, and that all the bailout money was going to dodgy submarines, dodgier banks and the like.
It sure ripped off the mask for Italians who have gone from enthusiastically pro to the opposite.
No one is blameless in all this fiasco, for the EU's sake Britain under Tory misrule is better off out, maybe once (if) May continues to founder and Corbyn wins there can be another referendum and the UK can still remain, as so many heartily wish for (myself included). Cameron has opened Pandora's box and now unless a redecision is handled with very competent diplomacy there will be great rage in the Exciteers if they don't get their way.
But either way, it's not about who's worse, they both need new attitudes and radical reform, however now some sovereignty has been willingly given up (but far from all) so the baby is half born, as it were.
"Europe made us do it" has become an alibi for the last three Italian governments.
It was always going to be hard overcoming centuries of war and distrust, linguistic differences and cultural memories too.
But after a good start it started attracting envy, now it's undermined by both Russia and the US.
(Precisely when many of its citizens are losing faith.)
If it doesn't reform soon, far right parties will gather strength, just as in the USA where bad faith government by supposedly left-of-centre parties set things up for El Trumpo,  now what will we do to regain broken trust? Or now that the consumer economy here has shrunk along with the middle class, what do our high level operatives want to substitute it with?
All we see is more predator capitalism on the menu as far as I can see, the lobbying in Brussels is rivalling that of Washington in its pernicious influence and no matter what Draghi does, GOP growth remains unsustainably low.
Europe is still a fantastic place to live, (compared to anywhere else especially), I am still a believer in the noble postwar aims of the EU. Even if it flopped the good it did in giving 2 generations the opportunities to spread their wings and learn to know their neighbours better has been a great boon and a good taste of what is possible.

It's the neoliberal brain rot wot's doing her in, opening the door to racism and civil strife. Why can't they see that in the lofty towers of Europower?

Or don't they want to?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Nov 24th, 2017 at 05:16:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
GOP (sic) growth remains unsustainably low

Is it time to define (g)? That is a tall order, melo. Western civilization depends on maintenance of and service to the proposition, every one can profit from his or her as well as others' property and industry; P > R - C produces income equality; and bounds of surplus value  are infinite.

Remind me, when did the "post-war aims" of US or EU governments ever specify successful indoctrination of industrial policy which encouraged their constituencies to abandon those premises of a life well-lived.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Fri Nov 24th, 2017 at 07:44:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Remind me, when did the "post-war aims" of US or EU governments ever specify successful indoctrination of industrial policy which encouraged their constituencies to abandon those premises of a life well-lived.

Round the twelfth of never, Cat.


'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Nov 25th, 2017 at 01:46:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Don't overlook the role of NATO and expansion eastward ...

NATO's New Order: The Alliance After the Cold War

Invoking Article V after 9/11 and a new mission for NATO in Afghanistan, later in Iraq, Libya and Syria.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower said at the time of NATO's creation in 1949: "If NATO is still needed in ten years, it will have failed in its mission."

by Oui on Sat Nov 25th, 2017 at 02:58:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for making that very good point, Oui. It's definitely emblematic, should have been top of my gripe list.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Nov 26th, 2017 at 06:25:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Commissioner Sicco Mansholt and the creation of the CAP

Dutch minister urged to resign in CAP row | The Guardian - Aug. 2005 |

Dutch Agriculture Minister Cees Veerman is being urged to resign over his ownership of a French farm which campaigners say gets more than £100,000 a year in subsidies from European taxpayers.

Opposition Green party politicians have demanded an emergency debate in parliament this week, after The Observer revealed on 14 August that Veerman's farm in the Dordogne is being run by his son, despite a promise to avoid conflicts of interest by putting it at arm's length.

Jan Peter Balkenende, the Prime Minister, has defended Veerman but there have been angry calls for him to surrender his portfolio to avoid accusations of a conflict of interest during controversial debates about the Common Agricultural Policy's future.

Campaigners are hoping to build a consensus for radical reform of the CAP in the Netherlands. 'There will be a debate that maybe the Minister for Economic Affairs should take over,' said the Dutch MEP Max van den Berg. 'That could help, because it was clear that Veerman was willing to support agricultural reform only within certain limits.'

Veerman, who was made an honorary citizen of France for his services to agriculture, and also owns a large agri-business in the Netherlands, signed an agreement handing his French farm to a third party in 2002, but the deal lapsed after a year. His spokesman last week admitted 'mistakes' were made.

Yannick Du Pont, of the anti-CAP Evert Vermeer Foundation, said Veerman was the only obstacle to reform in the government.  

The EU agrofood sector: facts and challenges (2008) | Slide Player |

by Oui on Thu Nov 23rd, 2017 at 02:24:19 PM EST
Eligibility rules have changed substantially this decade. The CAP is presently undergoing a reform process, better known as the Simplification Agenda.

We can always discuss if the CAP is reaching the goals it is supposed ot, or if there are alternative and more efficient ways of achieving them. However, I do not see food security, environmental protection or rural development and cohesion as particularly dividing issues.

You might find me At The Edge Of Time.

by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]a[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]gmail[dot]com) on Thu Nov 23rd, 2017 at 03:49:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But at the moment it's hardly contributing to these goals, let alone reaching them.

Some of it may indeed be the responsibility of the governments - and Monbiot does slam the Tory record. That does not change that those goals are not close to being met, and in may ways we are actually moving away from them.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Thu Nov 23rd, 2017 at 04:50:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think I found the problem.



They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sat Nov 25th, 2017 at 02:18:40 PM EST
I wanted to check the status of large landowners, so by way of Member State websites providing information on beneficiaries of CAP payments (shared management) I found the UK Payments search. Searching for (total) grants larger then one million pounds in 2016 gave mostly what looked like government organisations and companies, but also Sir Richard Sutton Limited. Sounds posh.

Searching for more information yielded this article.

Sir Richard, 66, who inherited the estate with his baronetcy in 1981, lives in Dorset. Last year he was ranked 321 on the Sunday Times' rich list with a fortune estimated at £120m, having slipped from a ranking of 279 the previous year.

In the same year, his estates in Berkshire and Lincolnshire attracted a £1.1m European union subsidy, the 14th highest payment on a list of 100,000 EU subsidies paid to enterprises in England last year.

No one on the estate was keen to discuss the subsidy yesterday.

That was in 2005, guess they stopped letting in journalists after that.

So the definition of active farmers apparently doesn't exclude large, extremely rich landowners as long as they own agriculture. That the UK can also set rules is a good point, but I don't think Monbiot is wrong on the particular point that "the rest of us are taxed to subsidise the richest people in the land".

by fjallstrom on Wed Nov 29th, 2017 at 11:33:15 AM EST
I don't think Monbiot is wrong on the particular point that "the rest of us are taxed to subsidise the richest people in the land".

Indeed, with one important little "detail": the blame for this situation belongs to Whitehall rather than Brussels. Suggesting otherwise, as Montbiot did, is misleading.

by Bernard on Thu Nov 30th, 2017 at 08:54:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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