Whether the French Government eventually accepts British beef imports or not (reports, October 23 and 25; letter, October 23), it is clear that the Government’s policy of detente with the European Union has achieved nothing. All the rhetoric about co-operating with the EU rather than confronting our partners is meaningless.
This current episode, and past ones, have shown that continental European self interest will always override the rule of law., whether it be European law or World Trade Organisation treaty, in spite of our policy of appeasement. The refusal of Nick Brown, the Agriculture Minister, to play tit for tat with sewer-fed French beef is not a positive step for British farmers.
Blair says that three million jobs are dependent on our membership of the EU. But this figure only makes sense if non-membership prevents trade with the EU. Countries as diverse as the US, Norway and others all trade with Europe. Their right to do so is protected by the World Trade Organisation to which EU countries are all signatories. Our EU membership clearly has not advanced our position with regard to our rights to trade.
So, given the beef ban by France and the general EU ban which lasted far longer than was necessary, what really are the advantages of EU membership ? It costs Britons billions each year which could otherwise be spent on health, education and improved pensions.
I shall be tabling a series of Private Member’s Bills after the Queen’s Speech proposing an independent commission to evaluate the costs and benefits of EU membership. And as there is some interest being shown in Washington in inviting the UK to join the North Amcrican Free Trade Agreement, I will also be proposing a committee to investigate the possibilities of increased trade with the US and Canada as well as Australia and New Zealand, which would require no membership fee.
Recent changes in technology have made distance irrelevant. Hasn’t the latest debacle made such an inquiry well overdue?