UK government’s ‘swivel-eyed lunacy’ over Europe under fire

MeanwhiLe, MPs were engaged in a war of words in the House of Commons yesterday over EU farm subsidies.

Reforms must be about simplifying the rules and getting better value for money, UK Agriculture Minister David Heath told MPs yesterday.

Heath said British farmers could expect the UK would receive a broadly similar share of a 13 per cent smaller common agriculture policy (CAP) budget, following concessions won by the Prime Minister this year.

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Fresh talks about reforming the CAP are due to take place, Heath said, adding: “We must have simplification at the heart of all the reforms on CAP we make, it is one of the government’s priorities.

“I firmly believe we should be getting out of farmers’ hair and freeing them from the burdens of unnecessary red tape. We have already made significant progress on this.

“I know, however, there is more to be done and I am determined to allow farmers who consistently achieve high standards to earn recognition and receive less frequent visits.”

But his Labour shadow, Huw Irranca-Davies said the government’s “swivel-eyed lunacy” on the European Union had affected its negotiations on CAP reform and lessened the outcomes for UK farmers and consumers.

The Labour MP said the government had faced criticism from farmers, farmers’ unions, ministers of devolved governments, environmental groups and others on its CAP negotiations.

Irranca-Davies told the Commons: “[Environment Secretary Owen Paterson], like his Prime Minister, is boldly and valiantly galloping into the field of diplomatic battle.

“He and the Prime Minister are the Lord Raglan and Lord Cardigan of CAP reform and European relations, charging headlong into the cannons of Brussels being heroically scythed down but riding nevertheless into Eurosceptic mythology and mayhem and madness.”