Brexit stirs debate about EU madness across Europe

Britain’s impending departure from the EU has at the very least stirred up a wave of discussion on a subject largely unknown to the European people. They are suddenly beginning to realise the costs and effects of a corrupt subsidy and tariff regime most thought normal. Brexit will bring much needed perspective to the debate about the EU, which is only just getting started in continental Europe

How long will both fly together after Brexit?
Tim Hedges
On 24 July 2018 10:08

The strange story of European understanding of Brexit continues. The Italian press quotes the British Minister for Brexit, Dominic Raab, that in the event of the two sides being unable to agree a trade deal, Britain would not be paying its leaving bill of around €40 billion.

In a sharp turnaround, arch remainer Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, has confirmed that in the event of no deal, EU countries  would suffer more than Britain.

The BBC News, by contrast, said that Dominic Raab would not be able to withhold the money because it had already been promised. I am afraid the BBC is not on Britain’s side here. My only problem with Raab’s statement is that it is an announcement of the obvious. Of course we won’t pay.

Here in Italy, Roberto Moncalvo,  the head of Coldiretti, the Farmers Union, has spoken in apocalyptic terms, simply of Britain leaving, not of the ‘no deal’ scenario. Italy is a similar sized country to Britain, yet has more than six times as many farms, each hungry for subsidy; Mr. Moncalvo is an important man.

The loss of Britain’s net contribution will mean cutbacks to subsidies and Italian farmers know it will hit them hard. The press here are warning that Britain could suffer shortages of peppers, aubergines, prosecco (disaster!) and such vital products.

But this shows the limited understanding there is of this in Europe. Tariffs are on imports, not exports, and Britain could simply keep the prosecco tariff at zero. Good idea, in my view. Britain will have plenty.

But however limited the understanding, the business of tariffs is becoming increasingly important. For example the EU subsidises both the growing of tomatoes in Italy and the export of tomato concentrate. Italian tomato paste is subsidised as much as 65% of the market price by the European Union.

Naturally this has its effect round the world. In Ghana, where tomatoes form a part of every meal, the EU has pretty well destroyed the local growers, hundreds of whom have taken their own lives. What was once a thriving industry has been wrecked by European subsidies.

And Britain? We have a major aid programme to Ghana, as well as paying our share of the EU budget which has destroyed a large part of their agriculture, making the Ghanaians aid dependent. Does anyone seriously think this can go on indefinitely?

Tobacco planting continues in Europe, often too close to watercourses, causing irreparable damage. This happens only because it is subsidised. At the same time there is a massive and expensive programme to stop people smoking. Is all this money wasted because one programme cancels the other, or is it all a trick to get third world countries smoking while we are healthy?

And I could tell similar tales of Indian rice growers and many others. Europeans don’t realise the damage the EU does; incredibly, most think it is a force for good. At least we British are getting out.

Indeed Britain’s departure has at the very least stirred up a wave of discussion on a subject largely unknown to the European people. They are suddenly beginning to realise the costs and effects of a corrupt subsidy and tariff regime most thought normal.

People now can read that Europe charges 10% on the import of American cars whereas they only charge 2% on European models. Perhaps President Trump isn’t so wrong to be angry.

Europe designed itself in the 1950s to be a fortress. There was enough industry in the north and agriculture in the south that it didn’t need imports, and so could tax them to defend local jobs. This industrial model left it in the position that it never produced modern companies such as Microsoft, Google, Apple and Facebook.

In the EU’s anger it is now penalising their success in the courts. And the one success Brussels has had in the modern free trade era? CETA, the agreement with Canada. Now, Italy is refusing to ratify it in case the Canadians produce their own Parma Ham or Mozzarella.

Just think: we can leave this madness in March!

Tim Hedges, The Commentator's Italy Correspondent, had a career in corporate finance before moving to Rome where he works as a freelancewriter, novelist, and farmer. You can read more of his articles about Italy here

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