IT WAS not so much the wine I missed as the cheese. There are now plenty of New World wines on the market which are at least as good as anything but the elite products of Burgundy and Bordeaux, and at half the price, but a ripe brie or some of the many French goats’ milk, even horse milk, cheeses are pretty irreplaceable.
But boycott them I did, for years, because of the duplicitous behaviour of former French President Jacques Chirac, who many people – including large sections of the French Press – thought should be in jail rather than in the Elysee Palace.
French farmers hold EU to ransom
He was the man who milked the European Union dry to continue paying huge subsidies to keep French peasant farmers rich, the man who ordered the police to do nothing when those same rioting farmers were setting fire to British lorries taking sheep to French markets, burning their unfortunate cargoes alive.
And he was the man who proved that, when it comes to Machiavellian politics, British so-called “statesmen” – what a laugh! – are mere Babes in the Wood. His final triumph was to get that wide-eyed innocent, Tony Blair, to give up the £7 billion EU rebate won by Margaret Thatcher in return for the French dropping the corrupt and monumentally expensive farm subsidies they enjoy under the Common Agricultural Policy.
“D’accord – but not until 2011” crooned Jacques and our Tone – known as Bambi to many MPs – believed him. Then Jacques was gone and a bright new man was on Napoleon’s throne, the son of an alien and harbinger of new ways of French thinking. With Nicolas Sarkozy in power, Roquefort was back on the Sheard table and, at Christmas at least, a bottle of calvados in the drinks cupboard.
It would appear that I am just as gullible (perhaps stupid is a better word) as British politicians for in Paris today (November 28), Sarkozy is chairing a meeting of EU officials in which he is expected to go back on the promises given by his devious predecessor and demand that CAP farm subsidies continue – in France, at least – or he will use his power as current EU President to sabotage up-coming World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks aimed at making it easier Third World nations to export their food to richer nations.
This, of course, is downright blackmail. Not only is he going back on solemn promises given in the name of his nation – admittedly by a scoundrel – but it shows a complete disregard of millions of starving people in Africa, South America and South East Asia who desperately need new sources of export earnings to help them buy basics likes fuel, fertilisers and agricultural equipment: a simple pump to bring up water from a well is a life-saving piece of technology in some of these places.
...Sarkozy could not give a fig for the opinion of his so-called partners
It is also patently obvious that Sarkozy could not give a fig for the opinion of his so-called partners like Britain and Holland, who have lobbied for years for CAP reform, which adds something like £350 a year to the food bill of the average British family. And he even has the gall to call for EU unity in this blatant attempt to blackmail the world.
That call will go down like a lead balloon with farmers here in the Yorkshire Dales, many of whom were pushed to the edge of bankruptcy when Tony Blair accepted French lies and abandoned CAP subsidies here. In its place came the disastrous Rural Payments Agency, which was sometimes three years late in coughing up the new farm payments and gave us yet another layer of suffocating, strangling red tape.
This week, our farmers were once again protesting at even more EU bureaucracy – see News, November 26 –whilst French farmers sit on their fat backsides and expect their leader to keep on fluffing up their feather beds. And what will our new leader, Gordon Brown, do? My guess is: sweet Fanny Adams.
Here’s a man who doesn’t seem to know that British farming even exists, a man who is so scared of the EU that he didn’t even turn up to sign the Lisbon Treaty, which gave the EU even more powers over our lives. But as he plans to raise more money than this nation borrowed in Word War 11, I bet he would love to have his grasping mitts on the £7 billion that Bambi gave away.