Robbing the poor, trashing the natural world: Europe’s farm subsidies are an obscenity

George Monbiot just completely trashed the execrable EU farm subsidy scam – it would be hard to do better than George’s opening paragraphs (the parenthetical numbers are links to all the references you will find when you read the original at

There’s a neat symmetry in the numbers which helped to sink the European summit. The proposed budget was €50bn higher than the UK government could accept(1). This is the amount of money that European farmers are given every year(2). Britain’s contentious budget rebate is worth €3.6bn a year(3): a fraction less than our contribution to Europe’s farm subsidies(4).

Squatting at the heart of last week’s summit, poisoning all negotiations, is a vast wobbling lump of pork fat called the Common Agricultural Policy. The talks collapsed partly because the president of the European Council, pressed by Francois Hollande, proposed inflating the great blob by a further €8bn over six years(5). I don’t often find myself on their side, but the British and Dutch governments were right to say no.

It is a source of perpetual wonder that the people of Europe tolerate this robbery. Farm subsidies are the 21st century equivalent of feudal aid: the taxes mediaeval vassals were forced to pay their lords for the privilege of being sat upon(6). The single payment scheme, which accounts for most of the money, is an award for owning land. The more you own, the more you receive.

By astonishing coincidence, the biggest landowners happen to be among the richest people in Europe. Every taxpayer in the EU, including the poorest, subsidises the lords of the land: not once, as we did during the bank bailouts, but in perpetuity. Every household in the UK pays an average of £245 a year to keep millionaires in the style to which they are accustomed(7). No more regressive form of taxation has been devised on this continent since the old autocracies were overthrown. Never mind French farmers dumping manure in the streets: we should be dumping manure on French farmers.

You have to read the entire essay – the farm subsidies are even more shocking than you think.