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UKIP and rural England: a bloody nose for the EU

Friday 18 June 2004

Once again, our countryside commentator John Sheard cannot avoid writing about politics. But he believes that the rise of the United Kingdom Independence Party will have profound effects in the English countryside.

IN THE past, I have apologised for writing about politics rather than country life in this column. This week, however, the two are inseparable – and, for once, I think that they have brought good news from the political battle ground.

Will UKIP help British farming?

The huge vote for UKIP in the European parliamentary elections – a phenomenon repeated in most of the other 25 nations of the now huge EU - has delivered a stinging slap in the teeth to those Brussels-bound politics and their civil servant cohorts.

For 30 years since Britain signed up – and for several years beforehand – these inefficient, over-paid and all too often corrupt functionaries have ruled a huge chunk of this continent as though they were medieval lords and we, the voters and taxpayers, were their serfs.

And one of the most mistreated sections of this scorned minority were our efficient (and uncorrupted) farmers, which in turn has had an almost fatal knock-on effect on our landscape, wildlife, and rural society.

Before we joined the then Common Market – which is just what it was supposed to be – Britain's farmers were acknowledged as the most efficient in Europe. Our fishermen held much the same reputation on the high seas

Now, our fishing industry has virtually collapsed, our fish stocks raped by the Spanish, the French and, now, the Poles. Fish and chips have become a luxury if you want traditional cod or haddock. And if the EU Mafia continue as before, our agriculture will go the same way.

Friends of mine who had a large dairy farm worth £1 million in the 1970s (when £s;3,000 a year was a brilliant salary) have just gone bust, bankrupted by the stupidities of the EU milk quota system.

Throughout the Yorkshire Dales and well up into Cumbria and Northumberland, there are hundreds – perhaps thousands – of family farms with no-one to take over when the present farmer retires or, more likely, dies: their sons and daughters are not prepared to work 100-hour weeks in all weathers for less than the minimum wage.

This is caused by the idiocy of the loathed Common Agricultural Policy, which makes it impossible for a farmer in Wharfedale to sell his lamb in Skipton for less than a New Zealand equivalent which has been frozen and shipped half way round the world.

The EU monies that should have gone to these English farmers was and given to peasants in Italy, Spain, Greece and – most of all – France, who made a handsome living on subsidies for crops they hadn’t grown.

And if they did go to the trouble of actually growing stuff, it was often sub-standard and was ploughed back into the earth un-harvested.

The problem with the EU for the British, it seems to me, is that European politicians are expected to be corrupt: it is generally accepted that people only go into politics to feather their own nests.

The leaders of France, Italy, and the former leader of Germany are all under police investigation at present – and they are only the scandals we know about!

Here in Britain, our politicians – as far as I know – don't actually get their hands in the till but they have sat back supinely and let it happen on the European mainland because, if they spoke out, they were worried that those Germans and French might be nasty to us and not let us play with the big boys.

Well, this week, the 12.5 million Brits who voted for UKIP said it was time to take on the bullies and give them a bloody nose – something we have been doing quite well for most of the last millennium.

And before anyone writes in to tell me that I am a raving xenophobe (something that will be illegal, incidentally, under the new EU constitution) I should point out that when we held our first ever referendum about joining the Common Market three decades ago, I actually worked for a committee called Journalists for a Yes vote.

Last week, I voted UKIP, the biggest political U-turn of my life. I don't want to be ruled by men who should be in jail. I don’t want the Yorkshire Dales stripped bare of local folk for the benefit of some Mafia fraudster. If UKIP puts some steel into Tony Blairs's jellied spine in future EU negotiations, those 12 million votes will not have been wasted.

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