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Common Agricultural Policy

Volume 986: debated on Thursday 19 June 1980

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what problems he envisages arising for the common agricultural policy from the accession to Community membership of Greece in 1981 and Portugal and Spain in 1982–83.

The accession of Spain and Portugal will add to the problems and the costs of the régimes for the main Mediterranean crops. These countries will, however, provide market opportunities for temperate products of which they are net importers.

Does my right hon. Friend agree, however, that the fundamental difficulties go rather deeper than that? Are not the Government banking, perhaps, on the view that the problems caused by Spain's accession to the Community, and particularly to the CAP, will be so great and the financial demands of Spain so large, that that will cause the French to agree to the fundamental reform of the CAP for which we have pressed for so long?

No, Sir. It is true that the French agricultural economy will be more affected by the accession of Spain than our own. It will provide our own agricultural economy with quite considerable opportunities. But I hope that the French Government, as well as all Governments in the Community, will recognise the immense political importance as well as the long-term economic importance of welcoming these countries to the EEC.

Surely the right hon. Gentleman will not brush aside the problems that are bound to arise? After all, when the application was made, the Commissioners made it quite clear that there were immense problems. This ought to be the opportunity to get down to renegotiating the CAP. Is that being done, and, if not, why not?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that obviously substantial new additions to the agricultural economy of Europe provide a further opportunity for having a look at the CAP. There are two other opportunities. One arises from the fact that the new readjustment of the budget is making Germany and France much more interested in the future of the CAP and its reform. The second is that the 1 per cent. VAT ceiling, which is fast approaching, will impose a further discipline and bring a new urgency to reforming the CAP.

Surely the Minister realises that, while we welcome these new countries into the Community, this will create immense problems. If the Minister considers the fact that there is a dairy system stretching from Denmark to Gibraltar and bears in mind all the farm improvement schemes that are needed in Spain and Greece, he will appreciate that it is an immense problem. Is not this the opportunity to get the necessary changes that are required in the CAP?

Yes, Sir. I welcome the fact that this added factor will give an impetus to the reform of the CAP. It creates, more for other economies than for our own, considerable problems. It also creates considerable opportunities.

Does the Minister accept that, while the entry of Spain, in particular, will create special problems for our horticultural producers and the French, those are problems which represent a challenge to the Community, and that it would be quite wrong for the British Government to go down the road of the French and suggest that Spanish entry should be delayed as a consequence of these problems?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. In terms of Greece, Spain and Portugal, I think that the history of Europe will show that it is very important to join these countries in membership as quickly as possible.