The UK’s obsession with its so-called EU rebate is costing farmers across Britain access to their rightful share of CAP funding according to Scottish MEP Alyn Smith, “It really is galling that the wins we have secured on the objectives of Rural Development funding risk being totally undermined by the fact the UK has secured such a remarkably poor deal.”
He was responding to figures given by the European Commission, showing the allocation of the EUR 84.7 billion rural development budget for the next seven years. The UK will receive just EUR 350 million for 2014 and this will tail off to EUR 306 million by 2020.
To be sure, every Member State faces cuts, yet the UK has already trailed behind the rest of Europe for the past seven years in its allocation of EUR 20 per hectare (constant 2011 prices/area) against an EU average of EUR 72 per hectare. The impact of this is disproportionately hard on Scottish agriculture, Smith contends. For Scotland, omparable shares of the rural development budget would be EUR 70/hectare for Ireland, EUR 83/hectare for the Czech Republic and EUR 138/hectare for Finland.
Smith is also annoyed that the UK missed the opportunity to negotiate a top-up of rural development funding, which has pushed it still further down the Pillar II stakes. France, on the other hand, has secured an additional EUR 1 billion for the coming seven years, while Portugal gained an extra EUR 500 million and Ireland a further EUR 100 million. These were just three of the 11 member states to secure what Smith describes as “sweetheart deals” for their farmers out of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF).
The UK’s EU rebate obsession is damaging the prospects for Scottish agriculture, Smith argues. “We’ve argued for years that the UK is structurally incapable of negotiating a good deal in Brussels for Scotland’s farmers, land managers and rural businesses. These figures are yet more proof that independence, and the ability to represent your own interests in the EU, really does pay a dividend.”
Westminster’s rebate preoccupation fuels a different agenda, since the money: “…goes straight to Treasury coffers and doesn’t benefit Scotland.” Smith chastises a UK government that “…has scandalously allowed itself to be squeezed out of vital support mechanisms for key communities in Scotland. Just as in the last seven years, the UK will continue to rank dead last in its share of rural development support: even in absolute terms it receives less money than much smaller countries such as Greece and Austria.”
Scottish agriculture ’s future is being held back the UK, when small independent member states have come away from the negotiating table with deals at or above EU average levels. “It’s crystal clear to me that the UK holds Scottish communities back in Europe: not just through its eurosceptic attitude and its ability to lose friends and alienate people, but through its complete lack of interest in securing a good deal from the EU budget.”
Scotland’s priorities are clear, Smith explains. “Scotland can do better, but we need independence to get direct representation in these critical negotiations.”