Julian’s May Column in the York Press
May 19, 2014
The European elections on 22 May really count. They are not merely a dry run for the General Election in less than a year’s time as some in the national media might have us believe. They present the perfect opportunity to send a clear message to Brussels that we want real change in Europe. Three years ago I was one of the original Tory rebels who voted against the Government in backing a public vote on the issue. Since then the Prime Minister has staked his position on delivering an in-out referendum on our continued membership of the European Union.
Providing I am not watching the forthcoming World Cup, cheering England on to our inevitable quarter final knock-out, I would go so far as to say that I can be rather pro-European. I enjoy Belgian chocolates, the occasional Italian beer and family holidays to Spain. I remain however ardently opposed to further interference in the British way of life. Only this week the European Court of Human Rights prevented the Home Office from deporting a convicted killer back to Somalia because it would infringe his right to family life. The fact that the 38 year-old is unmarried and has no children does not appear to be relevant to the judges in Strasbourg. Such ridiculous judgements only serve to damage the trust we place in our justice system and undermine the very concept of human rights, which are a uniquely English invention dating back almost eight hundred years to the Magna Carta.
The European Union has been in a state of crisis for years now and the current system is clearly not fit for purpose. Treaty change is inevitable in the near future and it is essential that we have a strong team of MEPs to fight for Britain’s interests. They will be working with the Prime Minister to renegotiate our relationship with the EU in order to repatriate powers back home where they belong. So far David Cameron has succeeded in cutting the EU budget for the first time in history, saving British taxpayers over £8 billion. He has also successfully vetoed a new EU Fiscal Treaty that didn’t guarantee a level playing field for British businesses and has withdrawn from the Euro-zone bailout fund to which Gordon Brown recklessly signed us up to at the very end of his premiership.
However, when we adopt a common sense and pragmatic approach to Europe we can work together to deliver results. One such issue of collaboration is on Europe’s food security. In peacetime Britain we have largely taken the regular supply of food for granted. However, global food prices have risen dramatically in recent years and food riots have become increasingly commonplace across much of the developing world. Feeding nine billion people by 2050 will prove to be a real challenge, made all the more difficult by climate change. Although more northerly areas like Yorkshire could potentially benefit from a longer growing season, food production areas further south will become less fertile as temperatures continue to rise, creating a real danger of future food shortages.
Whilst there is no single solution to this problem it would be prudent to work closely with our European partners to maximise domestic food production, which will not only benefit our rural economy but also act as a vital insurance policy in times of crisis. It is worth remembering that Ukraine is the breadbasket of Eastern Europe and future Russian aggression will only increase the volatility of food prices in the future. I have repeatedly raised the issue with the Farming Minister who shares my view that every effort must be made to increase our food production. We are fortunate to have an extraordinary range of farming expertise in and around York and provided we look to the long-term and protect our rural farmland from unsustainable development, we have a once in a generation opportunity to lead the way in the state of the art agricultural-technology sector. Our future food supply could even depend upon it.