11th December 2018 update
I went to London on Monday to attend two events, the first was a Leave means Leave demonstration by a statue close to Parliament. When I arrived I assumed I had the wrong statue because a group of about 30-40 Anti Brexit demonstrators were on parade in front of it. They were very well equipped with large EU flags, loud hailers, whistles and drums. I couldn’t find another ‘populated’ statue, so walked back again and noticed four people on the steps of the original statue, largely hidden from view, and one of them was holding a small Leave means Leave correx board. I joined them, feeling pretty foolish, realising what a PR disaster this was for our cause.
Fortunately a TV reporter (for a foreign TV station), wanting to maintain journalistic impartiality came and interviewed me after a session with the enemy. Some of the enemy thought it would be a good idea to stand behind me chanting and waving EU flags. As a farmer, used to dealing with vermin, I was able to keep the area clear.
The next event was in a packed Committee Room in the House of Commons. Here, animal rights activists were seeking to persuade the Government to ban “factory farming”. My own intervention was to insist that this emotive term has to be defined before any legislation can be considered. I gave some examples of the different criteria for which thresholds have to be agreed. I was the only speaker not to be applauded. Even if a definition is eventually agreed, we will see the strange situation whereby the addition of a solitary chicken to a flock will immediately convert the farm concerned from being a lovely twee family farm, into a hell hole of a factory farm where acts of unspeakable cruelty are condoned on an industrial scale.
Legislation from the top down is self-defeating if Supermarkets react to more expensive British meat by importing cheaper products from foreign “factory farms”. The way to avoid this is for campaigners to agree a definition of “non-factory farmed” food, and urge their supporters to lobby supermarkets with the message that consumers will willingly pay more for food produced in a certain way. This is how free range egg production became established. The meeting was chaired by the actor Jerome Flynn who plays “Bronn” in the TV drama “Game of Thrones”. It appeared to me that Bronn is more used to slaying enemies than chairing meetings, as all the speakers grossly overran their times. Very fortunately for him, we were able to get an unexpected extra half hour in the room, which just left time for my intervention.
I stayed overnight in London, ready for a funeral in Kent the following day. An old college friend, Keith Outram, had finally succumbed to pancreatic cancer after surviving eight years with the disease, (which usually kills within two). He has helped mankind immensely by being a willing guinea pig for various treatments, and their side effects. The crematorium was packed, and I met several individuals who I have not seen since 1971 when I left college.
I went from there to Brussels where I heard the news that Nigel Farage had left UKIP. He had hinted the previous week that if the NEC vote of no confidence in Gerard Batten failed, then there would be consequences. The relationship between the two has been tricky over the 26 years. However, I have always felt that they complement each other remarkably well, even if they can’t see it themselves. Many UKIP members found it easier to empathise with Gerard’s working-class roots, than Nigel’s world of City lunches and the British Public School.
Nigel’s disillusionment with UKIP is not sudden. He had a major disagreement with the NEC three years ago concerning Welsh Assembly candidates. This resulted in him calling for the disbandment of the NEC to be replaced by a board of directors. When he approached me about it, I asked him; “who will appoint the board?” He didn’t give me any names, but I was left with the clear impression that he would not be interested in leading UKIP again whilst an NEC was in place. His resignation sparked a number of others from our MEP list and UKIP MEPs are now in a minority in the EFDD Group. This will have consequences for myself, the question is how unpleasant or inconvenient will they be?
UKIP MEPs signed up to a code of conduct when they were at the Candidate stage. The financial contributions clause has been largely ignored. The clause agreeing to resign the MEP seat as a consequence of leaving UKIP has been totally ignored. Nigel is planning to form a new Party to fight the next European Parliament elections. We could be involved in these if there is an extension of article 50 or a second referendum campaign is announced. I will throw my hat in the ring for UKIP, and see what happens. Nigel himself is the only person in the country who could stand as an Independent solo candidate and win a seat, particularly in the South East where 10 seats are available, and a vote of 5 per cent can secure a seat.
Wednesday and Thursday were taken up with Lobbyists, an IMCO Committee meeting and an agricultural conference. I returned on Friday to do battle with the new style VAT form. We are still in the phase where this is voluntary the old and new systems will run in tandem until April.
As an MEP I make no apology for spending time on the topic.
- VAT is an EU construct.
- Any country wishing to join the EU must first have the EU VAT system up and running before they join.
- The EU takes a “rake-off” from all VAT collected by a Member State.
- The EU operates a ratchet system to slowly converge the scope and rates of VAT that the different Member States operate.
I am probably the only British MEP who personally completes a monthly VAT return, and there will be very few MPs either. This means that I am a politician living in the real world that small businesses live in. On my first attempt to complete this form, I abandoned it because I couldn’t work out how to split supplier invoices where the items supplied had varying VAT rates. On my second I abandoned ship when I could find no way of distinguishing money put into the business by a partner, as opposed to a sales receipt. I am now in trouble on the third attempt because I am being denied entry despite a correct password. By my trying too frequently the “system” may have identified me as a hacker, and simply closed down. My accountant will need to be involved again. Even he is on a learning curve. On the old form I needed to complete less than ten boxes. This month I will complete more than 110 boxes. All of this will become compulsory at the same time as all businesses that trade with the EU are facing a still unknown change in their procedures post Brexit. It is utter madness for our Government to impose such major admin changes at this time.
On Sunday I went to London to attend the Brexit March organised by Gerard Batten and speak at the subsequent rally. I have not seen estimates of marcher numbers, but it was certainly more than the four grim souls at the Leave means Leave event earlier in the week. It just felt like a big event. I was near the front, we were at least 30 abreast on both vehicle lanes and both pavements. Even on the longest straight stretch I couldn't see the back of the parade. I had been warned that the event would be a disaster for UKIP because Tommy Robinson was present. Thuggish behaviour would predominant and there would be violent confrontations with “Hope not Hate”.
The only unruly behaviour I witnessed was a man standing on top of a bus stop shelter burning an EU flag. One man was wearing a coat with F...the EU written on the back. Unimaginative and tasteless, but not a provocative image of Allah alongside unpleasant slogans. During the speeches, Islam and gang rapes were never mentioned. Robinson announced his gratitude to Lord Pearson who had entertained him in the Houses of Parliament. Robinson was incensed that he could hear out and out lies being spoken about him by MPs protected by Parliamentary privilege. He says that this has motivated him to stand for Parliament. With a million followers on Facebook and the Leader of UKIP giving him overt support, Robinson is likely to achieve this ambition. He appears to be able to impose discipline on his supporters, which is absolutely crucial. The moment he does get elected, the Labour Party will shrink drastically. On a personal level I have never addressed such a large gathering, and to do so on a platform alongside three of the most courageous men in public life, is an unforgettable experience.