UKIP Launches “Save our services”

A report by Edward Spalton

CIB is, of course, a non-party organisation but, as I had received an invitation to their press conference I thought I should attend. I wanted to meet Henry Bolton, their new leader, on this first public event since he took office. It is seventeen years since I left UKIP to campaign on a cross-party basis but I met some old friends and was pleased that several people, whom I had not met before, told me they appreciated CIB, mentioning recent articles on the website.

The event was well-attended, briskly and cheerfully organised. The first speaker was Mike Hookem MEP, who included a video presentation of his work amongst veterans who had fallen on hard times and were not receiving the help either from government or local authorities which the Military Covenant says they “should” receive – but do not. Service charities were doing their best to fill the gaps but it was not enough.

He called for a Minister and a department, like the American Veterans’ Administration, to be in charge of welfare for former service personnel and to help them back into civilian life. It was no good telling local authorities what they “should” do, it needed to be “must”. He also called for ex service personnel with good records to be given favourable consideration for employment in the police and other public services where their skills and discipline would be an advantage to the community.

Henry Bolton took the podium and ranged further and wider, mentioning the sharp cuts which had been made not only to the armed forces but to the police, reducing our defences against internal terrorism and criminality as well as external hostility, at the very time when they were all increasing. The government had not signed up on Monday 13th November to integration of British forces with the increasingly unified EU military command under the PESCO agreement, which would suck resources away from NATO. It had signed up to much else and EU absorption still remained a threat.

Whilst British armed forces should be capable of joint operations with our neighbours, they must always retain the ability of independent action – or we were not a sovereign country. Tied in with the developing EU army and trapped in sourcing our military supplies under EU tendering rules, we would not only be unable to act independently in the field but forbidden to maintain the necessary British industrial base for supplying our forces. EU arms suppliers, under political direction, could in effect, choke off any significant operations by British forces of which the EU did not approve – by simply withholding supplies or, for instance, the use of aircraft on which we had an expectation to rely.

I was able to ask Henry Bolton one short question. Did he think that Political Correctness in local authorities, particularly left wing authorities, was pushing the welfare of ex-servicemen and women to the end of the queue? He replied that authorities of all political colours were negligent in this matter.

From what had been said by government, it appeared that the needs of returning Jihadists for housing, “re-education” and employment would take precedence over the welfare of our own ex-service people. This was monstrous. Those known to have been in arms for Jihadism should be charged with adhering to our country’s foes – what used to be called treason, rather than handled with kid gloves for the sake of “community relations”.

I think we will be hearing more of Henry Bolton and many people will like what he has to say.

A thought for Remembrance Sunday – a letter from our Chairman

This letter was sent to a number of local newspapers in the Midlands area.

Sir,

As we approach Remembrance Sunday, perhaps we should consider the words of the German Chancellor concerning the European project –

“ We must create a…European Economic Association to include France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Austria, Hungary …Italy, Sweden and Norway….All members will be formally equal but in practice under German leadership and must stabilise Germany’s dominance over central Europe”. (Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg, Imperial Chancellor, 9 September 1914).

The European Union is well-suited to these long-nurtured ambitions. It is noteworthy that the states of Central Europe are today becoming increasingly restive under their predetermined subject role in this geopolitical construct. For home consumption, today’s German politicians occasionally refer to their “benevolent hegemony” over the area. Few would deny that it is exercised in a more enlightened way than earlier attempts – but hegemony means hegemony, just as Brexit means Brexit.

This geopolitical Weltanschauung predates the political unification of Germany and remains influential in academic and political circles. One eminent German businessman broke free from the mental shackles of the past in a rousing speech in the House of Lords on 24 October by  invitation of Lord Fairfax at a meeting arranged by Global Britain. He was Dr. Markus Krall, Managing Director of Goetz Partners in Frankfurt.

He contrasted the top-down, authoritarian rigidity of the EU project with the long-standing tradition of liberty typified by the Britain’s parliament. He said “ Germany is probably the one country in Europe that was emotionally and intellectually least prepared for the news that a majority in the United Kingdom had decided to call it quits with the European Bureaucratic Union…. We Germans – regrettably- have a tradition of belief in the infallibility of government. While the liberal school of Anglo-Saxon origin views the state and its bureaucracy with a healthy dose of scepticism, this is not so between the rivers Rhine and Oder”.

Let us hope that Dr. Krall’s refreshing wind of change will blow through the corridors of power in Germany and Europe. We can then look forward to honouring the sacrifice of our war dead in the reasonable expectation of a happy “Concert of Europe” – something like the “Europe des Patries”, envisaged by General De Gaulle and the association of countries advocated by Winston Churchill.

Yours faithfully

 

 

Edward Spalton

 

 

The complexities of Brexit

Having been opposed to to our EEC/EU membership since the early Seventies when Mr. John Selwyn Gummer (as he then was – now Lord Deben) addressed our grain trade conference and told us that the Commonwealth countries wanted nothing more to do with us, I have picked up one or two things along the way.  Our family firm bought milk powder from New Zealand and we knew that our friends there were not at all pleased to be losing one of their best customers.

From late 1971  the government consulted our trade association and gave  very full, detailed information about what our firm would have to do when we joined the EEC on January 1 1973.

Without that information, we would have been in a total mess. Please see my account in Articles 2 and 3 of “The Miller’s Tale”.

We are due to be out of the  EU by the end of March 2019, so the government will have to start giving full, detailed information to all trades quite early in 2018, if businesses  are to have any chance of being ready.  Government departments such as Customs and Excise will have to be fully informed and equipped  too. There appears to be very small chance of this because of the lackadaisical way the government has approached the negotiations, handing the initiative to M. Barnier.  It always was unrealistic to expect to complete a wholly new style of comprehensive trade agreement within two years but they appear not even to be able to agree in cabinet what they actually want.

We already have three ministers involved – David Davis, Boris Johnson and Liam Fox plus the new unit which has been set up in the cabinet office, in part by transferring staff from David Davis’s department DExEU .

Robert Peston, who  is reckoned to be a very well-informed reporter, wrote in a Facebook post that

 “(Mrs May’s) fatal weakness is that she lacks the authority to settle this argument such that the EU  would have a clear understanding of who actually represents the UK and what we want from Brexit.

In the words of a senior member of the cabinet, it is a scandal that there has never been a cabinet discussion about what kind of access we want to the EU’s market…., what kind of regulatory and supervisory regime should then be in place  to ensure a level playing field for EU and UK businesses….”

As far as I know, no significant country trades with the EU on World Trade Organisation rules alone. They all have additional agreements on things like customs co-operation, approval of manufacturers and their quality standards  etc. All our present arrangements simply cease to exist if we “just walk away”.

To give just one example – British farmers presently export 40% of their lamb to the EU. As an independent country outside the single market without an additional agreement  that would be subject to a “sheep meat” tariff of £2,689 per tonne. The price to British farmers would collapse. But the lamb would not even get as far as customs until it had satisfied the “sanitary and phytosanitary” health controls which apply to all food products. The shippers would also have to appoint official importers on the other side – firms or individuals resident in the EU – to be responsible to the authorities for conformity to EU standards and, of course, the payment of inspection charges and tariff.  This is not the EU “punishing” us but the simple effect of the rules, if there is no other agreement.

With regard to EEA/EFTA, you may recall that Mr. Cameron went on his “hug a husky” trip and gave out quite a bit of unfavourable information which was misleading and not entirely correct but still avidly accepted by many  from UKIP  to extreme Europhiles.

Very few have since taken the trouble to check it. We in CIB have been supporting our fishermen and insisting on the need to assert control over all our fisheries – including the 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone.  Norway and Iceland reserve all their territorial waters and EEZ for their own boats under article 112 of the EEA agreement. Our government is not guaranteeing that to our own fishermen. Iceland was able to impose capital restrictions during the financial crisis and Liechtenstein imposes strict limits on immigration – all under this arrangement.

Mrs. May is proposing a  transition/implementation period which involves continued subjection to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The EEA agreement is preferable, being subject to the EFTA court which can only rule on on “EEA-relevant”  matters and has no formal powers of enforcement. If the arrangement does not suit us, we can be out of it by simply giving a year’s notice. Under the ECJ we would be subject not just to the 20% or so of EU legislation affecting trade but to the other 80% which enforces the political project, including things like the European Arrest Warrant..

Given the weakness of the government’s performance, I cannot see it negotiating anything better than the EEA agreement as a basis.  As an interim, it has the advantage of being a known quantity and could be subject to agreed amendments  (off the peg with alterations rather than “bespoke”). It is a least worst option. I have not heard of anything equally practicable and achievable in the limited time available.

Funnily enough, when we started discussing this possibility some  years ago it was fiercely attacked by a man who said it would be enough simply to repeal the European Communities Act 1972. It turned out he was a keen Europhile! I wonder why he was so against it?  Perhaps this article Europhiles for a sovereign Parliament may give us a clue.

When Mrs. May announced the government’s approach to Brexit in her Lancaster House speech in January, I felt that she was biting off much more than she could chew. A free trade agreement of the scope and complexity which she proposed seemed just too much to cram into a maximum negotiating period of two years.

But, on reflection, there was not even two years available. Basing things on my experience in a firm approaching entry into the EEC in 1972, it was obvious that both government departments and businesses would need a substantial lead time to get ready for the changeover to the new system. Farming and other industries with long production cycles would need at least a year’s notice, in full detail, of what the government intended. Businesses contemplating investment projects would need to know too.

In our CIB newsletter of 29 March 2017, (when Article 50 was triggered), I wrote about our chemicals industry which is a very important part of our exports. I had listened to the proceedings of the Environmental Audit Committee of 7 March.

“GREAT REPEAL BILL MAY SECURE BRITISH EXPORT SUCCESS – OR NOT

The chemicals industry is a key British exporter. For years now it has been working to comply with the EU REACH Regulation (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals). On 7 March DEFRA told MPs that the Great Repeal Bill (Now the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill) would create an identical British version to be called BREACH so that British-manufactured chemicals could continue to circulate freely in the EU market.

REACH requires companies which produce the same chemical to submit joint dossiers on their product with safety data to the European Chemicals Agency. Many such registrations have been filed at very considerable expense.

Next year will be the deadline for registering specialised low-volume chemicals which will affect thousands of companies. This is creating problems. For instance, should a British manufacturer which only sells in the UK go to the expense of registering with REACH when it might have to do the same a year later with BREACH?

The officials appear to be in a muddle and not to know. DEFRA has promised that the UK “will have a functioning scheme from Day One” but this is not good enough. The UK Chemical Industries Association says there is “no clarity at all” and doubts that such a scheme can be put in place within the two year negotiating period. According to a survey of the industry, one fifth of the UK chemical manufacturers are already planning to establish themselves in another EU country as insurance against the muddle. Whether they stay or go depends on their confidence in the British government.

The government has realised that the British chemical industry must be helped over this non tariff barrier, if it is to continue its success as our second largest single exporter. The highest levels of political and official will are needed to secure the confidence of the industry. The Devil, as always, is in the detail and will not be exorcised by vain repetition of mantras about “WTO Rules”. At least it is clear, they know that much!”

Yet now, seven months later the muddle persists. Private Eye reports a setback, even from this unsatisfactory position.-

“MORE on the consequences of Brexit nobody seems to have thought of until now. The European Chemicals Agency has quietly confirmed that more than 6,000 substance registrations filed by UK-based chemical s companies will be “regarded as non-existent” after Brexit.

These registrations are a condition of access to the European Union market, but in the bloc’s overarching REACH chemicals law, there is no legal basis for registrations from countries outside the single market, which the British government is determined to leave.

This puts UK chemicals companies in a bind. As 60 per cent of UK chemicals exports go to the EU, companies will need to switch their registrations to associated companies or agents inside the single market. This will involve new contracts and costs, including payments to the European Chemicals Agency which charges about 1,600 euros to change the identity of a registrant and between 9,000 to 34,000 euros paid for the original registration.

A final deadline for registration of chemicals under REACH falls on 31 May 2018, nine months before Brexit. The deadline applies to low-volume and specialised chemicals. Should UK- based companies bother? Those that sell sufficient volumes into the EU market will need to ensure their registrations continue, but what about UK companies that sell only in the UK or to non EU countries?

In fact, they have no choice. The UK will still be a member of the EU in mid -2018 and companies have a legal obligation to register their substances. Moreover, the British government has said that it will continue after Brexit with a facsimile of REACH, including its registration provisions. So, if UK companies selling only in the UK don’t file their EU registrations, when Brexit comes round they would be on the UK market illegally.

The government says it is “working to ensure a smooth transition for the chemical industry as we leave the EU”. But time is short and there is still little clarity on the many practical details.”

So the authorities have marked time for seven months. I hope that CIB members and supporters – especially those with experience of the industry or living in areas of substantial chemical manufacture – will contact their MPs to pressure DEFRA to get a move on. There are thousands of similar things which will need to be sorted out quite early in the New Year, if affected firms are to have a chance of making a living and paying their workers after Brexit.

As a post script, readers may be interested in an e-mail exchange in which I was involved:-

From: [email protected]

To [email protected]

Sent: 24/10/2017 11:19:06 GMT Summer Time

 Subj: RE: The complexities of Brexit – Campaign for an Independent Britain

THERE  NEED  NOT  BE  ANY  COMPLEXITIES  WHATSOEVER !!!!!!  We have a very good balance of trade and payments surplus with that Mighty Economic Colossus, The  United States of America, the largest economy in the World. Nor do we have a trading agreement!!!  This endless babble with the EU, by the UK Government is just a load   of procrastinating tripe created by a weak leadership who are quaking in their Knickers and Underpants. We also have good trading, and profitable relationships with a good number of other countries around the World.

The  fact the people who would be quaking in their underwear if we simply walked away; would be the likes of Merkel, Macron, Barnier and Juncker. Particularly Merkel who is     already in the cart following the German elections, having caused an election result that has resulted in the Neo NAZIs getting into the Bundestag for the first time since 1945. As we all know this is the direct result of her insane immigration policies. She would also be very worried about the German car industries employees because of the huge number of cars that are currently imported into the UK. 1.3 million German car industry employees rely on exports to the UK, in order to keep their jobs.

As we are seeing with other national elections, the four of the above EU and national leaders, plus a number of others, are between them destroying the EU from within. The USSR was destroyed from within, and in that there is a lesson for Juncker and Barnier; POWER!, without accountability, destroys that which it represents.   Ken.

Dear Sonya and Ken,

I just remembered this article from PRIVATE EYE which includes BREXIT problems with regard to farming, trade with the USA under EU/US trade agreements and the time needed to adjust to any new arrangements.

“BREXIT is less than 18 months way and yet still no post-Brexit transitional arrangements or EU-UK trade deal is even under discussion, let alone agreed. Given that farming is a long-term business and its viability is currently governed by the EU’s international trade arrangements, will UK farmers continue to commit to the financial risks of food production faced with such uncertainty?

A good example of the difficulties ahead concerns the threat to the UK organic cheese Kingdom Cheddar, which is currently exported to the US .

Kingdom is made from organic milk produced by the 265 UK dairy farmers in the Organic Milk Suppliers Co-operative (OMSCo). In 2015, under US-EU trade arrangements, OMSCo qualified to export its premium organic cheese to the US. It took OMSCo eight years to develop the Kingdom brand, its dairy farmer members having substantially altered their farming practices to meet US standards (including using fewer antibiotics and improving animal welfare).

The arrangement that allows Kingdom to be sold in the US however is between the EU and the US. OMSCo points out that unless an “equivalence” agreement on organic farming standards is signed between the UK and the US “in the next three months”, it will stop production of Kingdom at the end of December. OMSCo chairman, Nicholas Saphir says “We cannot take the risk of producing a niche market product that, given its 18 month production(cycle) may not be able to be sold after Brexit”.

OMSCo is unique in the UK in exporting high volume premium organis cheese to the US; but given agriculture’s long production cycle, all UK food exports face the same risk of disruption, as th clock ticks down”.

The article goes on to make the same point about lamb production which I made in “The Complexities of Brexit”, pointing out that farmers will have to decide this Autumn whether to retain millions of ewe lambs for for breeding or send them for slaughter as fat lambs because their progeny will not be brn until Spring 2019, just as Britain leaves the EU which currently takes 40% of British lamb.

I am afraid that neither government nor Brexit campaigners appear to be taking this sort of thing into consideration.  All industries with long lead times will have similar problems.

Regards

Edward

 

Three little words

This letter was sent by our Chairman to Derby, Leicester, Nottingham and Burton on Trent papers.

The government is introducing the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill and many Europhiles have acquired a new-found zeal for the principle of parliamentary scrutiny. They say the Bill gives “Henry VIII” powers to the government to strike out legislation which has come to us from the EU.

This is the height of hypocrisy. The European Communities Act 1972 was voted through by MPs who had not had a chance to see the treaty to which they were agreeing. Nigel Spearing (Labour), the last MP to speak against it, complained that Parliament was “signing a blank cheque”.

The treaty of accession to the EEC had been signed under royal prerogative without any parliamentary scrutiny at all. The 1972 Bill made the terms of the treaty enforcible in British law. It said that all European law – past, present and to come – would immediately become binding in its entirety “without further enactment” by our Parliament. This is the settlement of subjection which advocates of EU membership have maintained and supported ever since.

It was an Enabling Act, transferring responsibility for our laws out of democratic control – more gradual but not dissimilar in kind to the one which Hitler used to nullify the German parliament. Twelve years before, the Lord Chancellor Lord Kilmuir had written to Edward Heath to say that Parliament would have to become accustomed to being a rubber stamp, if we joined the EEC. That was kept an official secret for thirty years.

Governments of all parties have since promiscuously overused the device of Statutory Instruments to bypass effective parliamentary scrutiny and debate. So there is every reason to reform parliamentary procedures, now we are getting our country back. However, the least hint of filibustering by Europhiles under the cloak of a pretended concern for the dignity and powers of Parliament should be seen for the fraud that it is and disregarded. The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill must go through in a timely way, or we will never see a return to any proper, democratic accountability at all. Parliament can always kick out a government here – something we never could do with the European Commission.

Yours faithfully,

Edward Spalton

The Miller’s Tale – part 4. The tale concludes

(Some of the links are quite long. So you may wish to read straight through and then go back to any which interest you)

IMAGINE a country where there are empty shelves in the shops, rampant inflation and shortages of basic supplies, where the electricity is frequently interrupted and rationed, where you cannot get a job in most industries or public services unless you have a membership card of an officially recognised trade union. This is not some banana republic or Eastern European “People’s Democracy” but Britain in the early Seventies around the time we joined the EEC.  When Sir Emrys Jones, formerly a top civil servant in the Ministry of Agriculture and newly appointed Principal of the Royal Agricultural College Cirencester, visited the Society of Feed Technologists  shortly after we  joined, he had more pressing questions for us than we had for him. Where could he get a reliable supply of toilet paper? “Our Victorian drains block solid after a week of the Daily Mail” he said.

Following the financial crisis of 1967 when Prime Minister Harold Wilson devalued the pound (including “the pound in our pocket” which, he assured us, was unaffected) , he and the Foreign Secretary George Brown went to see General De Gaulle about joining the EEC as a possible means of improving Britain’s exports. De Gaulle was not sympathetic but he was ousted after the riots of 1968 and the new President, M. Pompidou, was not only more sympathetic but badly needed somebody to pay for the Common Agricultural Policy which was hugely advantageous to French peasant farmers. So, with the new Conservative government of Edward Heath, it was a matter of “cometh the hour, cometh the mug”, as the Americans say. Heath was a fanatical believer in the European project.  The taxpayer and housewife would pay dearly for his ambition.

The Labour party membership in the meantime had hardened its opinion against the EEC  for reasons amply stated by Nigel Spearing MP in this video.

Nigel was the last MP to speak against the EEC treaty in the crucial debate.  Some 69 Labour MPs defied their party whip to vote in favour of the EEC, which gave the Heath government its narrow majority to join. That was 1972 . As this is all so long ago and memory tends to compress events, I have made the following timeline of some of the most  significant..

1970    June                Conservative Edward Heath wins general election with a majority of thirty

1971    January          First British soldier is killed in Northern Ireland.

November      National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) starts overtime ban

1972    January          Miners begin national strike. Fourteen people killed by British soldiers during “Bloody Sunday” in Londonderry

February        Thousands of miners and others led by Arthur Scargill picket Saltley Coke depot in Birmingham and force its closure in spite of hundreds of police.

Miners’ strike ends with total NUM victory.

March             Westminster government takes direct rule over Northern Ireland

July                 Secret talks between government and IRA

October          European Communities Act 1972 receives Royal Assent.

1973    January          U.K. joins the European Economic Community

October          Egypt invades Israeli-occupied Sinai. Beginning of oil crisis

November      NUM starts another overtime ban

1974    January          Government imposes “three day week” to ration electricity

February        Another strike by NUM. Heath calls general election – “Who governs Britain?” The electors decide not him.

March             Labour forms government without a majority. Ends three day week.

October          Prime Minister Harold Wilson calls general election to win a majority. Wins a majority of three.  SNP wins 30% of vote in Scotland.

November      IRA murders 21 people in Birmingham pub bombings

1975    February        Margaret Thatcher defeats Edward Heath to become Conservative leader.

June                Referendum on continued EEC membership. Pro Europeans win by 67 to 33 per cent

August            Inflation rate hits almost 27%

November      Queen and Prime Minister officially open North Sea oil pipeline.

1976    March             Harold Wilson resigns as Prime Minister

April               Replaced by Jim Callaghan

August            Strike begins at Grunwick photo processing works in London

September      The pound sinks in value against the dollar. Chancellor Dennis Healey turns back at Heathrow from journey to IMF meeting. Prime Minister warns Labour conference “The cosy world is gone”. Healey says he will ask the IMF for the biggest loan it has ever granted.

November      In London the IMF delegation demands huge cuts in public expenditure as condition of loan. Healey argues for smaller cuts. Majority of cabinet oppose all cuts.

Nov –Dec        Callaghan  & Healey persuade cabinet and IMF to accept smaller cuts.

Loan granted.

1977    March             Government negotiates lib-Lab pact to ensure government majority.

June                First mass picket at Grunwick. Fighting between police and pickets.

July                 Postal workers boycott Grunwick mail.

National Association for Freedom (now the Freedom Associatin) secretly collects and distributes Grunwick mail.

1978    January          Inflation below 10% for first time since 1973

July                 End of Lib-Lab pact.  Grunwick strikers admit defeat.

August            Conservative launch “Labour isn’t working” poster campaign

Opinion polls move in favour of Labour

September      PM Callaghan, having toyed with the idea, decides against Autumn election. His policy is to keep wage rises to 5%

November      Unions defy government guidelines for wage increases and strike for  higher pay. “Winter of Discontent” begins

1979    January          PM Callaghan goes to Caribbean for international conference and holiday. On his return, the Sun summarises his response as “Crisis? What crisis?”

Jan-Feb          Peak of strike wave all over country. Dead unburied, rubbish uncollected.

Supermarket shelf stocks run low as lorry drivers stop deliveries.

March               Strikes peter out. Government proposals for devolution defeated in referendum. SNP withdraws support for government which loses a vote of no confidence. General election called for May

May                Conservatives under Mrs. Thatcher win with majority of 43 votes. Liberal vote collapses. Labour slightly increases its vote.

 

There were also several movements which started in this decade and gained influence subsequently. The legalisation of homosexuality in 1967 cleared the way for the aggressive Gay Liberation movement which now dominates government policy from primary school upwards and diversified into transgender ideology. The feminist movement gathered strength  around the same time, eventually leading to the killing of millions of unborn children, as a matter of reproductive health and lifestyle choice. Prompted by increasing immigration, the National Front rose to some prominence but was largely eclipsed by the end of the decade.

This Private Eye cover gives some idea of the country’s financial state and the problems faced by Chancellor Dennis Healey.

The shortages were personally inconvenient rather than catastrophic although the cumulative  effects on an already weak economy were considerable. There were some nasty incidents when supplies ran out but people were mostly good humoured. Sugar ran short. My late sister Sue did not have a sweet tooth and used very little sugar. Yet even she stocked up with several bags “to be on the safe side”. So did millions of others and the shops were suddenly bare. Then a story got round that salt was in short supply and the same thing happened. There are millions of tons of salt under Cheshire but what ran out was retail packaging – and so the shop shortage became real.

Our firm was buying salt in ten ton loads for animal feed without the slightest problem at the time, so I brought a half hundredweight bag home which lasted us for years. We did have our own business problem with packaging though. We had just launched a product range with different coloured bags (blue, yellow and white) but suddenly could only get white. So we had to alter the design and get coloured stripes printed on the bags to match the leaflets and presentation.

This has all faded in the public memory now but it was real enough at the time, as these recollections show

“THE GREAT GRAIN ROBBERY”

No sooner had we got used to the higher prices and bureaucracy of the Common Agricultural Policy than all commodity prices went crazy. For several years as a goodwill gesture  the Americans had offered the Soviet Union a facility to buy wheat at a subsidised price. The Russians had not taken very much until the Summer of 1972 when, through American agents, they very quietly bought a massive quantity. The agents did not alert the authorities and quietly pocketed the subsidy, said to be around 300 million dollars.

The winter of 1972/73 was unusually cold in Russia and there was little snow cover, so all the autumn-sown wheat crop was killed and deliveries became urgent in 1973. The  world price of wheat doubled and more. My recollection is that the price went from around £45 per ton before joining the EEC to around £60 on joining and then zoomed up to a peak of around £200 . Most other commodities were similarly affected in the panic. It was a hectic time to obtain supplies and keep pace with prices. There was a prices and incomes policy too, which meant you were not supposed to put up your prices until your actual material costs increased. But there was no ban on reselling cheaply bought raw materials,  taking the profit, buying in new material at the higher market price and putting up your product price. So it was fairly ineffective.

CLIMATE CHANGE – GLOBAL COOLING!

We were unaware at the time that there was strong scientific opinion that the output of soot and smoke from factory chimneys was blocking sunlight and causing global cooling. Some of the scientists who were keenest to freeze us then are amongst the keenest to fry us now with global warming!

The CIA produced a report saying  “Scientists are confident that, unless man is able to effectively modify the climate then Canada, the European part of the Soviet Union and major areas of northern China will again be covered with 100 to 200 feet of ice and snow…”

“…early in the 1970s a series of adverse climatic anomalies occurred. The world snow and ice cover increased by at least 10 to 15 per  cent. … Nothing like this has happened in the last hundred years” .

The CIA also reported  that climate science was developing a “successful climatic prediction model” and that “scientific consensus” endorsed it. Sound familiar, doesn’t it? But this was all built around global cooling!

THE EUROPEAN FOOD SITUATION

It is a quirk of history that the first few years of our EEC membership made less difference to food prices because the inflationary effects of the CAP were masked by the huge hike in world prices. Generally speaking,  those in favour of independence damned the inflationary effect whilst pro-Europeans thought that our membership of the EEC gave us greater food security. Everybody in parliament would remember food rationing which only ended in 1954.

In the debate on the agricultural white paper of 1975, Margaret Thatcher said

We are the most vulnerable country with our need for food imports. Therefore it is vital that we secure access to  continuous and good sources of food supply. In some years supplies from the continent will be more expensive; in other years they will be cheaper. But the great benefit is access and the greater stability of supplies”  (Hansard 1024)

In those days  she thought that Europe was the place to be. It was a panicky time and many felt that  coming together with the European countries made us more secure. It was psychologically rather  like the American pioneers pulling their covered wagons into a circle.

Because of our dependency on imported food, it is still as true today as when Kipling wrote of the Big Steamers bringing us the produce of empire. He made the case that the mighty Royal Navy of those days needed reinforcement   to protect that trade.

“For the bread that you eat and the biscuits you nibble,

The sweets that you suck and the joints that you carve,

They are brought to you daily by All Us Big Steamers

And if anyone hinders our coming you’ll starve!”

The same goes for cross-channel container ships and ro-ro  ferries today.

OUR BUSINESS SITUATION THEN

For the first years of our EEC membership, our firm was comparatively rather fortunately placed. We were somewhat insulated from the worst effects of inflation because our farmer customers were. Their prices, fixed by the EEC, rose automatically each year.  As a food supplier, we were exempt from the restrictions of the three day week.

We could use electricity whenever it was available. It meant working some odd hours, as it was often switched off in the daytime. So all of us who were fit worked on production and packing at night when it was necessary. When there were strikes, there were arrangements with the unions that food supplies would not be interrupted or “blacked”. So our lorries were not stopped and things were much easier for us than for many businesses.  Nonetheless it was extremely strenuous, keeping up with the rapidly changing situation  and ensuring continuity of supplies.

THE 1975 REFERENDUM

I was by no means overjoyed  to hear of this, much as I disliked the EEC. I thought it would mean unpicking all the work we had done to comply with the European system and we had plenty to do as it was and were pretty tired doing it. I think  my father somewhat typified the deep Tory sentiments of our family. “I don’t like this Europe business” he said “There’s something about it doesn’t smell right”. He paused for a few seconds and added “But that man Wedgewood Benn’s against it, so there must be some good in it” !

Talking to people about it in later years, I found this was a very common attitude. With Enoch Powell and Tony Benn both campaigning to leave, moderate people from either side of the political divide felt rather than thought that the “No” campaign was “extremist”. And, of course, the “Yes” campaign was massively better funded and professionally slick. We did not know the extent to which the press and the BBC were micro-managed.

So I guess we all voted “No” with a sense of duty rather than burning enthusiasm and expectation.  We did not know it but the “Yes” vote would sign a sort of slow  death warrant for our firm’s most profitable product – our baby calf food, Cal-O-Lac. (see previous episode).

“A FUNDAMENTAL RENEGOTIATION”

Like David Cameron in more recent years, Harold Wilson promised a thorough-going renegotiation of our relationship with the EEC. Of course, he got nothing of the sort – but rather more than was offered to David Cameron. Wilson was able to help our New Zealand friends with increased quotas of butter and lamb and he got certain other concessions which helped to reduce the inflationary effects of the high European prices for food. It was an unintentional consequence of this which so badly affected us – but only because of our failure to recognise and adapt to the situation.

The EEC operated a sort of book-keeping currency, called “the unit of account”. It was somewhat like the euro but without banknotes. To complicate matters there were different exchange rates for agricultural products, called “green currencies”. Harold Wilson wanted to reduce the high cost of EEC food imports and agreed to an adjustment of these. The effect was that continental animal feed manufacturers could ship and sell similar products to our baby calf food Cal-O-Lac at around the cost of our raw materials. This put us at a great disadvantage. We had a well respected product and an efficient plant but, however hard we tried, we would not be able to match the continental competition on price.. As I was responsible for sales, I got blamed for the decline in business. My father had retired and my  uncles, nearing retirement age themselves,  just thought I should be working harder. Of course, it was no use expecting a European  treaty to be altered on our account.

The obvious thing would have been to get our Dutch friends to make our product, close down our own plant and become a warehouse and distributor. A few people in the mill would have lost their jobs and we could have met the competition. But older people did not think like that in those days. We were British and made a British product- a good one too!

So the trade continued to dwindle and I continued to get the blame. I formulated other products, such as flavourings for animal feed which were not affected by the EEC policy and could see a market for liquid flavours which would be more effective if sprayed on the outside of the feed  pellets rather than mixed into them as a powder.  But my uncles were not interested.  So, after five dispiriting, depressing years, I decided to leave and started my own business in 1981.  With the encouragement and help of my wife Ellen, it was pleasingly successful and kept us through the next turbulent years.

But I was no longer a miller, grinding wheat, barley and oats. I was now a specialist manufacturer of feed flavours.. So I think this is the point at which my Miller’s Tale draws to its close.

As a post script, readers might like to enjoy this song by the Strawbs. Dating (appropriately) from 1973, it reminded everyone that we were now “Part of the Union”!

A letter from our Chairman: the white elephant regional fire control centre

Sir, The Origin of the White Elephant Regional Fire Control Centres

Chris Williamson MP seems to have rather a selective memory about this massive waste of money in all regions of England, not just at Castle Donington. It was actually part of John Prescott’s plan to balkanise England into Euro-regions to match the devolution in Scotland and Wales.

The whole of Britain would be divided into bite-sized regions of around 5 million people which would be easier for the EU to digest. The intention was that we should gradually cease to feel British or English and become happy East Midlanders and Europeans. As Nick Clegg was pleased to tell everyone, England did not exist on EU maps.

Scotland and Wales are EU regions. Many EU grants were administered at regional level and could be manipulated through the EU Council of the Regions to remake the country to the EU model. As we always paid more into the EU than we got out, officials and politicians were essentially to be bribed with laundered British money to remodel our country to an alien pattern.

John Prescott had set up unelected regional assemblies and the fire control centres were an attempt to give them something to administer. The project was opposed by the Fire Brigades Union, as the regions were grotesquely oversized for operators to have adequate local knowledge to direct fire engines swiftly. Nonetheless, the money was spent.

The next step was to prove that there was a popular demand for the project which was sold as “bringing government closer to the people”. The fraud was detected by the people of the North East of England. Far from looking enviously to the doings in Edinburgh, they decisively rejected the idea of an elected regional assembly in a referendum, as “A White Elephant”.

In other parts of the country, Church of England bishops were persuaded to chair campaigns called “Constitutional Conventions” to pretend that there was a popular demand for the scheme. They were aided by the political activist Canon Kenyon Wright from Scotland. With vigorous resistance from alert local campaigners, as well as the example set by the electors of the North East, these officially sponsored groups simply faded away to deserved oblivion.

All that is left is the debt and continuing cost and a lesson about allowing insidious foreign forms of government into our country. Perhaps David Davis should demand a rebate from the EU?

Yours faithfully

Edward Spalton

(As a background note:- a number of these centres have been built across the country and continue to be rented but have never been used – ES)