Friday, April 15, 2005

Danger, children at work

As it is published by the main anti-EU party, we could not afford to ignore the UKIP manifesto issued today, if only to see where the self-proclaimed standard-bearer of the Eurosceptic movement is going.

The overall conclusion from the policy, however, is that UKIP should be thankful that the media do not take them seriously. If this manifesto was given the same scrutiny to which the others have been subjected, the Party would be exposed as the amateurs they really are.

Central to their policy, for instance, is the claim that the UK currently pays £12 billion in contributions to the EU, the non-payment of which the Party says will enable it to raise state pensions by £25 a week for all pensioners.

However, apart from the fact that this varies – from £9-11 billion – UKIP seem to have forgotten that this is the gross contribution, of which more than half is returned to the UK to pay for things like agricultural subsidies.

So, having given all the money to the pensioners, what of the farmers. Ah, says UKIP, we would replace CAP subsidies with guaranteed minimum prices, along the lines of the deficiency payments scheme which operated before 1973.

The slight problem here is that such a scheme could hardly cost lest than the current subsidy arrangement (no costing is offered) yet there is no money available in the kitty. Additional borrowing, the Party tells us, is to be diverted to cutting taxes – there is no money left for farmers.

Another slight problem comes when UKIP tells us that we “shall regain our independent seat in the World Trade Organisation” yet, when this happened, UKIP would immediately find that their agriculture subsidy scheme would fall foul of WTO rules.

And, talking of money, the Party wants to “reverse the planned cut in all branches of the armed forces… and increase spending to improve our own independent military capability”. Capability to do what, one might ask, and where will the money come from?

Turning to perhaps the more substantive point in the manifesto, the Party argues that formal withdrawal from the EU “will be achieved by repealing the European Communities Act” (ECA), following which a transitional committee would be set up, at Cabinet level, to govern the repeal or amendment of EU originated law.

What the Party shows no signs of understanding is that a huge tranche of EU law is promulgated by way of EU Regulations. These have direct effect, without being passed into UK law. Repeal the ECA and these regulations fall, leaving vast swathes of commercial activity entirely uncontrolled – until replacements are drafted.

As for the fishing policy, UKIP argues that the Conservative Party’s promise to "negotiate" out of the CFP cannot be fulfilled until Britain leaves the EU. Odd how UKIP believes that you can repeal the ECA and not amend it, but there you are.

It would be tedious and unproductive to outline more of the pitfalls of these policies, but what disappoints is that, despite the influx of money and staff that came with success at the Euro-elections, UKIP have failed to manage something a little more professional. Evidently, that was too much to ask. All we can do, therefore, is post a warning: danger – children at work.

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