Members of the House of Lords were shocked last Wednesday to hear, from Lord Willoughby de Broke...
One of UKIP's peers. Netch'relly.
... the extraordinary story behind the closure in October of a Lancashire cheese firm, employing 26 people.
John Wright had built up Bowland Dairies in Nelson into an £8-million-a-year business making curd cheese, mostly exported to five EU countries, including France and Germany, for use in quiches and flans. On June 12, inspectors of the European Commission's Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) visited the plant for 90 minutes, looked through the paperwork and, after misinterpreting one document, issued a "rapid alert notice" that its products were unsafe. The milk in the cheese, they claimed, broke EU rules on antibiotic residues.
On June 20, after thoroughly inspecting the plant, Britain's Food Standards Agency (FSA) strongly disagreed. It recommended one or two minor changes in procedure, and allowed production to resume.
Let's leave aside the point that the EU's laws on antibiotic residues and, actually, most other things, have about as much foundation in science as... well... the idea that increases in atmospheric CO2 despite lagging 800 years behind temperature rises is responsible for those same rises, and concentrate on the fact that our national Food Safety Agency found no critical problem with Bowland's produce.
On July 4 the commission repeated its claim that the milk did not comply with EU rules. The FSA responded that the FVO inspectors seemed to be confused over the type of milk the firm used.
So, the Commission's inspectors didn't know what they were talking about. No change there then.
Telling the European Standing Committee on the Food Chain that "no evidence was found that contaminated milk was used", the FSA issued a notice to all EU member states that Bowland's cheese was entirely safe and fit for market.
So, have you got that? There was nothing wrong with Bowland's produce.
The commission appended its own negative comments to this notice, effectively maintaining the ban.
OK, so the unelected Commission's inspectors trumps our national agency.
Black propaganda began to appear, claiming that the firm had been selling cheese contaminated with cleaning fluid and sweepings from the floor. Bowland took the commission before the ECJ and, on September 8, Judge Bo Vesterdorf, president of the Court of First Instance, having reviewed the case legally and scientifically, found unreservedly in the company's favour.
Clear here? The European Court of Justice found, unreservedly, in Bowland's favour.
The commission was ordered to withdraw its notice and its comments about the firm. Twice it refused. On September 12 Vesterdorf ordered it to "stand aside".
So, the European Commission defied an international court of law. I would like all of those who argue that the Commission has no power to note this.
The commission tried to add a statement to the court order, claiming that it had lost on a mere technicality. The judge ordered this to be removed, observing: "It is sad that a company is dying while giants fight it out".
On September 27 the FVO returned to Bowland, this time for an exhaustive two-day inspection, but could find little wrong. (Any findings, the commission's chief inspector told Mr Wright, would be "non-emergency".)
Got that? Despite retrospectively attempting to justify its intransigence, the Commission could find no grounds for doing so.
However, on October 4, the commission asked its standing committee to approve a commission decision banning Bowland from further trading. The 25 members present were not shown the court's judgment or any technical evidence, other than a defence of the new procedure for testing antibiotic residues – from the firm which had devised it.
In other words, the decision was deliberately rigged, the evidence falsified and the countries deceived. And the result?
Twenty two countries voted for a total ban, with Britain abstaining.
Britain abstained? So much for standing up for our national interest in the EU, eh? What the fuck are our representatives playing at?
The commission announced that it would seek to have the UK food safety authorities fined for failing to protect consumers against contaminated milk (despite the court ruling and the lack of any evidence of contamination).
So, levying a punitive fine on the British taxpayer in order further to justify an apppalling
Furthermore Britain was warned that the FVO was about to carry out a full audit of Britain's £5-billion-a-year cheese industry.
And, of course, our representatives were too spineless to tell the Commission to fuck off.
Despite the FSA's solid support of Bowland and its insistence that no rules had been broken, the Department of Health bowed to the commission's diktat.
Cowardly fucking bastards.
On October 16 it rushed through a statutory instrument, the Curd Cheese (Restriction on Placing on the Market) Regulations 2006, to take immediate effect. Section 3 read "No person shall place on the market any curd cheese manufactured by Bowland Dairy Products Limited".
Never before, it is believed, has a statutory instrument been issued in Britain directed at closing down a single named company (breaching the ancient principle of British law that "the law must be blind", i.e. it must be general in application, not directed at any specific individual or body).
This, of course, is an absolute travesty and, incidentally, just the sort of behaviour indulged in by the worst sort of police states.
When Lord Willoughby de Broke recounted this chilling story last week, eloquently supported by others, including Lord Greaves, a Lib Dem who lives near Mr Wright's plant, peers were visibly horrified. The only defence that Lord Warner, as junior health minister, could muster (apart from seriously misrepresenting the terms of Vesterdorf's judgment) was to plead that failure to implement the commission's decision "would constitute a serious breach of the UK's obligations under the EC Treaty".
Well, just possibly we should have told the Commission to FUCK OFF AND DIE.
For truth, justice, the rule of law and Britain it was a black day.
In order spitefully to justify their wrong-headed decision, the EU Commission flouted their own laws, the judgement of an international court, over-ruled a national agency and deliberately deceived a transnational investigative body.
Our spineless government then bowed to the EU and instead of defending the interests of our nation and the individuals living and trading in it, the government and rushed through an unprecedented act which destroyed a fundamental tenet of British national law and destroyed a profitable, private company and the livelihoods of nearly thirty people which had done no wrong.
It is a shameful, shameful story. I am not surprised at the Commission: I expect those bastards to act in a deceitful, high-handed and illegal way. Sadly, I am not surprised at our government either but, in the name of fuck, when are we going to get a government that defends our interests*?
So, can we fucking well leave yet?
UPDATE: thanks to the commenter who pointed out that the British instrument has been revoked.
“Those Regulations implemented in relation to England Commission Decision 2006/694/EC prohibiting the placing on the market of curd cheese manufactured in a dairy establishment in the United Kingdom (OJ No. L283, 14.10.2006, p.59). Commission Decision 2006/694/EC has been repealed by the Commission Decision of 2nd March 2007 repealing Commission Decision 2006/694/EC of 13th October 2006 prohibiting the placing on the market of curd cheese manufactured in a dairy establishment in the United Kingdom. A full regulatory impact assessment has not been prepared for this instrument as no impact on the private or voluntary sectors is foreseen.”
* No, the Tories would have done nothing different. They have even more form on capitulation to the EU, remember?