Wednesday, January 19, 2005

A new class of parasite

Not so very long ago, stuck in Frankfurt Hahn airport, waiting once again for a delayed Ryanair flight, we got chatting with a businessman who was also waiting for the same aircraft.

We were on our way back from the EU parliament in Strasbourg and, inevitably, the talk drifted into a discussion on EU laws and "red tape", at which point our man brightened up and told us, with some animation, how much he favoured it.

The man had not struck us as a raving Europhile. In fact, up to that point he had seemed quite normal so we were curious to hear the reasons for his enthusiasm. It turned out, they were quite straightforward. He owned a company that made rubber stamps.

Very much into that category comes an obscure manufacturing company which has attracted the attention of The Daily Telegraph business section today.

It has run a story entitled: "Brussels lays golden eggs for Domino", which give you little clue as to what it is all about but, reading the details, it soon becomes clear.

Domino – or Domino Printing Sciences – to give it its full name – is a specialist printer manufacturer, which producing machines designed specifically to print messages on eggs.

Fortunately for Domino – but unfortunately for the egg industry and everybody else (who will have to pay the bill, one way or another) – on 1 January 2004, EU Council Regulation EC 5/2001 came into force, requiring all Class A eggs sold at retail level within the EU to be marked (stamped) with a code identifying the establishment (production site), country of origin and method of production (i.e organic, free range, barn or cage).

This led to a rush of business which helped deliver a 22 percent increase in pre-tax profits at Domino, with profits jumping to £24.7m for the year ending 31 October 2004, with an eight percent turnover increase, to £178.3m.

And the business has been very profitable, with gross profit margin rising to 50 percent, up from 48.9 percent in 2003, despite the company spending 5 percent of sales on research and development.

It's an ill wind, you might say. But I won't. Domino makes its living off the growing regulatory culture. Furthermore, it is not just the rubber stamp and egg printer-makers who are living off the fat of the land. There are also the thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of lobbyists, consultants, and hangers on, all of whom depend for their wealth and status on EU activities.

Not least of these are the trade organisations and representatives, typified by the Federation of Small Business, which has bought into the EU and now acts as a mouthpiece for it (see here and here).

These are a new class of parasite, amoral and opportunistic - and dangerous with it: they form a bedrock core of support for the project, for as long as they can benefit from it.

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