I enjoyed delivering a brief polemic against EU spending in yesterday's debate on the 16th consecutive failure of the EU budget to pass audit. Over 90% of EU spending was "materially affected by error" but I shared three stories which were apparently within the rules.
- The €500,000 payment to two fishermen to scrap their boat in the interests of reducing overfishing, which cleared their debts and paid for a new, smaller boat in which they continued fishing.
- The astonishing €8.5 billion spent failing to improve infrastructure in Sicily.
- An incredible €2.5 million to support an Austrian nomadic contemporary dance troupe.
These were just three examples selected from a briefing by the superb OpenEurope. My constituents should not be paying for this and yet we find we cannot legally withhold their money from this asinine bureaucracy.
It would be too easy to declare the EU beyond ridicule but it simply isn't. Here is a joke I received from a stalwart Wycombe Conservative this morning:
A farmer named Bill was overseeing his herd in a remote mountainous pasture in Scotland when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced toward him out of a cloud of dust.
The driver, a young man in a Brioni suit, Gucci shoes, RayBan sunglasses and YSL tie, leaned out the window and asked the farmer, "If I tell you exactly how many cows and calves you have in your herd, will you give me a calf?"
Bill looks at the man, obviously a yuppie, then looks at his peacefully grazing herd and calmly answers, "Sure, why not?"
The yuppie parks his car, whips out his Dell notebook computer, connects it to his Cingular RAZR V3 cell phone, and surfs to a NASA page on the Internet, where he calls up a GPS satellite to get an exact fix on his location which he then feeds to another NASA satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high-resolution photo. The young man then opens the digital photo in Adobe Photoshop and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg.
Within seconds, he receives an email on his Palm Pilot that the image has been processed and the data stored. He then accesses an MS-SQL database through an ODBC connected Excel spreadsheet with email on his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, receives a response. Finally, he prints out a full-colour, 150-page report on his hi-tech, miniaturized HP LaserJet printer, turns to the farmer and says, "You have exactly 1,586 cows and calves."
"That's right. Well, I guess you can take one of my calves," says Bill.
He watches the young man select one of the animals and looks on with amusement as the young man stuffs it into the boot of his car. Then Bill says to the young man, "Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my calf?"
The young man thinks about it for a second and then says, "Okay, why not?"
"You're a Member of the European Parliament", says Bill. "Wow! That's correct," says the yuppie, "but how did you guess that?"
"No guessing required." answered the farmer. "You showed up here even though nobody called you; you want to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked. You used millions of pounds worth of equipment trying to show me how much smarter than me you are; and you don't know a thing about how working people make a living – or about cows, for that matter. This is a flock of sheep…
Now give me back my dog.
All very well, but the joke is on us. And not just in relation to what the EU spends, but also how it forces us to live. At least we live in a democracy and have positively chosen this destiny for ourselves…
Enough is enough. In or out?