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By Brian Monteith – 4 minutes read

WE REALLY DO live in a world that has turned logic upside down and are living through the other side of the looking glass (the proper British term for a mirror- Ed).

We have just had the financial markets pressurising the UK Government to put up taxes – and not any old taxes – but Corporation Tax in particular, from 19% to 25% so the country goes from being the most competitive in the G7 to having one of the highest of any developed nation. Even Goldman Sachs is saying economic growth will be reduced – contrary to the professed aim of the UK Government. That’s not normal.

We have politicians introducing bans and taxes designed to reduce alcohol-related disease or obesity yet the outcomes are invariably worse – so they call for more bans and even higher taxes. That is the definition of madness.

There is a very worrying disconnect between too many politicians and the realities of everyday life and economic reality. It is not confined to the UK but is a world-wide phenomenon. In the United States there is a significant but generally unreported shift in the population from higher tax states such as California and Illinois – to lower tax states such as Texas and Florida. The people are working out they don’t like what’s happening and they are upping sticks and voting with their feet.

Likewise in the EU we have yet another example of disconnect with the passing of directives to discourage global deforestation that will most likely deliver the exact opposite effect of encouraging farmers to switch to crops that will require more land to be cleared for cultivation. That’s not normal politics, it’s simply protectionism by the Single Market and Customs Union tariff wall.

Why is it that politicians cannot see beyond their student union-like wish lists and waken up to how their own prejudices count for nothing with adults, families and communities?  Are we all narcissists now? When a farmer faces ruin because his crop has been banned from the EU market and its value therefore plummets to an uneconomic level is it not obvious he will do what comes naturally, switch to a different crop that is acceptable to the EU so he can eke out a living?

Unfortunately though, when all other crops yield a lower amount of vegetable oil than the preferred but now banned crop he needs to grow more of it to obtain the same value – which means felling more trees to gain additional cleared land to cultivate.

The direct opposite of the EU’s policy is therefore achieved; deforestation accelerates, the threatened wildlife that was filmed to win hearts over to introducing an EU-wide ban then finds its habitat reduced further and its existence threatened even more. This is the politics of self-righteous environmental cults that care not for human life.

What then could or should have been done?

The answer is firstly to recognise that some if some crops require less land to cultivate for a given yield of edible oils, carbohydrates or proteins then they should be encouraged, not demonised.

The second is to establish a programme that encourages sustainable land management that reduces and halts the clearance of forests by giving farmers accreditation that gains their crops entry into the EU irrespective of which crop they use. Farmers then have a reliable and predictable route to grow and sell acceptable crops that do not result in deforestation. Let them choose which crop – invariably it will be the one that yields the most oil (etc.) as it requires less land.

The great pity is that such a system already existed – but thanks to the lobbying of producers (farmers and their conglomerates) inside the EU’s Tariff Wall the priority became protecting themselves from cheaper foods from the rest of the world to protect EU Sunflower and Rapeseed production and so the pretext of preventing deforestation was used to ban particular crops “associated” with the clearing of forests.

So here’s the thing – a system had been established to encourage farmers to stop clearing forests – it was working, but it has now been scrapped so politicians can look virtuous, European farmers don’t face any competition from cheaper crops and consumers will pay top euro for their foodstuffs at a time of EU-wide inflation (over 17% in the Netherlands – the EU’s horticultural showcase!)

Crazy? Through the looking glass?

Yes, but that’s how the demonised Palm Oil is being treated – even though 90% of palm oil imported in the EU is from sustainable farms and does not cause deforestation it is now going to be banned. Prices of foodstuffs will rise, farmers outside the EU in developing countries will go bust unless they switch to other crops and they will need larger fields to produce the same amount of vegetable oils and achieve the same income. The Orangutan will now be threatened like never before.

That is what happens when politicians become disconnected from reality – when they claim falsely they are saving the planet, when in fact they are taking it even faster down the road to catastrophe.Our politicians are increasingly disconnected from real life economics and nothing but harm will come from it.

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Brian Monteith has worked in public relations for nearly forty years, initially in the City, then Scotland and finally as an international consultant in Africa, the Caribbean and Asia. A former member of the European and Scottish parliaments, he is now managing editor of brexit-watch.org and ThinkScotland.org and Director of Communications at Global Britain.

Image of fruit from the Palm Oil tree by tk tan from Pixabay 

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