THE total idiocy of the notorious Common Agricultural Policy was finally revealed yesterday - but too late to save British taxpayers billions of pounds.
Anti-CAP campaigners using the Freedom of Information Act finally squeezed the figures out of the Government and they show - as countryside observers have always suspected - that the bulk of the European Union funds in the UK have gone to big landowners and agri-industrial giants, not to small farmers in areas like the Yorkshire Dales.
The royal family and the aristocracy have all received millions of pounds over the years - but the biggest benefactor of all was the Tate and Lisle sugar conglomerate, which picked up £127 million in the single year of 2003-4.
"Governments have always tried to persuade country folk that CAP was designed to keep struggling small farmers in business," said one angry Dales expert. "In fact, the vast bulk has gone to the fat cats who were already rich."
The news was leaked as heads of the 25 states now in the EU were meeting to discuss future financial policy. One suggestion is that Britain should lose its EU discount negotiated by Margaret Thatcher. If so, Britain would become the biggest subscriber to EU funds, paying 12 times more than the French.
Sadly, the figures were released when it is too late for reform. From this year, farmers will receive subsidy payments based on the size of their holdings and the environmental work they do, rather than on the amount of food they produce.