Thursday, June 16, 2005

From Telford to Brussels

The MG Rover demise is causing concern for jobs at Telford based Johnson Controls according to the Telford Journal. The American owned company is owed £1.5 million and has been told it has little chance of receiving any of its money back. The company employs hundreds of people at its sites at Halesfield and Stafford Park.
Across the channel in Brussels Mr. Blair is set for a rough couple of days, as he comes under pressure to give up the British Rebate. It was Margaret Thatcher that in 1984 negotiated the deal with handbag in full swing, and Tony Blair is rightly determined (without a handbag, I hope) not to give it up without a fight. In truth, the British situation has changed since the rebate was originally gained and ironically the expansion of Europe that the British supported is a major contributing factor to the current impending crisis.
What I find incredibly annoying though is the fact that the French and German Governments, are pointing to Britain and our rebate as the cause of all the European troubles. Never mind the fact that it’s the French that have just voted “non” to the European constitution, it’s always easier to blame the “Brits”. I have sympathy with Germans’ who have been and remain the largest net contributors to the EC, but I have no sympathy with the French who continue to “soak up” funds in the form of the CAP. We are accused of being too close to the USA, but the Brits have long memories when “weighing up” who our friends are.
There was always a cost attached to expansion with Spain, Greece and Ireland ( oddly one of the richest- per capita countries in Europe) being the major beneficiaries, whilst the Northern European countries- The Netherlands, Sweden Germany and Britain have been the major contributors (I have accurate data that the French contribute around 5 euros per annum).
Europe could be in crisis, and we may need to accept a reduction in our rebate, but not to support a French Agrarian economy, Until the French accept a reduction in the support they get for agriculture and agree that in the 21st century we need to invest in technology, development and infrastructure then we too should say “non”.
Why does this matter to the steel industry? For the same reason it matters to all industry, whilst money is sunk in to agriculture, that employs an evershrinking percentage of the poulation, less is available to modernise , educate and encourage development and research. Only by being a modern, efficient economy can we ensure jobs, pensions and welfare for us and our kids.
The crisis will be averted; it will end in“fudge”, as these matters in Europe usually do. New rules will be added to the millions of existing regulations, and money will continue to be wasted, it’s the European way.

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