Wednesday 28 March 2012

An Uphill Battle

It's long been my view that a referendum on EU membership is far from a foregone conclusion and will probably put back the cause for years.

Over the last couple of days has further confirmed that view. Two stories have agitated the MSM to a great degree reflecting popular anger, however they are stories which also do not acknowledge the dead hand of Brussels that lies behind them. A trait that is very common.

Firstly there has been much consternation over the dramatic increase in Royal Mail stamps. But what's not mentioned is that many of the recent problems of the Royal Mail, including the dramatic rise in the cost of stamps, stem largely from EU Postal Directives - a point that was made here and expressed very clearly by a Government review of the postal services in 2008. See here, page 19 onwards. However in the MSM? Not an 'EU mention' at the time.

And secondly there's also George Osborne's extension of VAT for all hot food as per his recent budget. Now VAT is, as Autonomous Mind rightly says, an EU Tax:
This concerns the proposal in Gideon Osborne’s coagulation budget to impose VAT on hot take-out food.  Anyone with a modicum of knowledge about the governance of this country will know Value Added Tax is a European Union matter and that member states must impose a VAT rate – currently with a minimum standard rate of 15%.
VAT is one of the most obvious and long-standing EU interferences in our life. Therefore any major changes will almost certainly have the dead hand of Brussels behind it. And so it proves as Richard North demonstrates:
And there gripped the cold, mindless jaws of the VAT Sixth Directive, of which the ECJ had so cruelly reminded us. To their horror, HMRC have confronted their worst nightmare. If the fish fryers are selling hot food rather than services, and have to charge VAT on it, so does everybody else who sells hot food.

That is what the Sixth Directive says: you can't charge different rates of VAT on the same goods. If a member state charges VAT on some hot take-away foods, it must charge the same rate of VAT on all hot take-away foods. They must, therefore, all be charged at zero rate or the standard (higher) rate. And, of course, Georgie opted for the higher rate, taking in the (hot) puddings and pies.
The acknowledgement from the MSM? Er...nowt, nothing. Now, I've often wondered whether large scale omission of EU matters in our country by our MSM is due to laziness and ignorance or a deliberate 'conspiracy of silence'. A Twitter exchange today with Daniel Knowles from the Daily Telegraph suggests the former.

Daniel Knowles has blogged about the recent VAT changes, couching his piece in the classic, and politically self-comforting style, of Tories are rich and toffs:
This morning, the Conservatives have no such luck; for raising tax on Greggs Cornish pasties, George Osborne is described as a "modern Marie Antoinette". In its leader column, the newspaper says that "unlike Sun readers", he and his Cabinet colleagues, "don't worry how to pay for food, rent or petrol. If they ever have done, they certainly can't remember how it feels now". For a moment, I thought I was reading the Daily Mirror, or at least a Dan Hodges blog post.
Daniel misses the point of course, it's not the love of being a toff that is the reason but the Tory love of the EU that has led to this change. A point I mentioned to him on Twitter with revealing responses. Firstly we had the usual "No one cares about this because of the EU":

As I've pointed out before people do care about the EU because it affects the majority of the top ten issues that they care most about. But then Daniel is not even "sure this is an EU issue at all". FFS, call yourself a journalist? No of course VAT isn't, not at all. Then we get this:

Apparently the Sun doesn't mention the EU so that's all ok then? Because the Sun is the Oracle when it comes to all matters EU. But then...we get to the final flurry:

Let's remind ourselves that the self-proclaimed "Assistant Comment Editor at who writes about politics and economics" thinks Thatcher introduced VAT for ideological reasons. Oh dear, oh dear. I had moments of doubt whether he was taking the piss or being serious. But I've not a reply since when I highlighted his mistake.

And if that's bad enough then there's today's Daily Express. In 2010 the Daily Express ran with this front page below:

The Daily Express is the only British paper to openly advocate complete withdrawal, whilst the Daily Mail and the Telegraph still want in. Yet today's front Daily Express looks like this:

Despite two EU open goals, the Daily Express in the print edition does not mention the EU once regarding the price of stamps, nor (scanned here) on page 2 in relation to VAT on 'hot foods'

The Express has editorials on both matters:
SINCE the advent of the internet making the nationwide delivery of ordinary post pay its way has become more challenging.
Many fewer letters are sent these days so economies of scale are less effective than they once were.

The Royal Mail also has to cope with private competitors plundering the lucrative business despatch market, so the scope for subsidising letter delivery from other very profitable activities is also limited.

And yet the one thing that will hasten its decline is round after round of massive rises in the price of stamps. There is still a lot Royal Mail can do to become more efficient but it doesn’t even seem to want to try.

Not everyone is able to access the wonders of email and almost everyone does, on occasion, need to use the post.

That the organisation that ushered in the Penny Black should now be anticipating the £1 first class stamp suggests it has lost the plot.
THE revelation that Chancellor George Osborne cannot remember the last time he ate a hot pasty offers a rare political opportunity for Labour.
Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls would be fully justified in making some fact-finding trips to hot food takeaways.

Although by the looks of things he probably already has.

So the so-called Eurosceptic "we want out" Daily Express, even in their editorials, cannot bring themselves to mention the EU on issues which clearly agitate their readers. With EU friends like this who needs enemies?

Absolutely hopeless.


  1. All I can see is that even when shackled physically to a wagon, the horses having all been eaten, the British Public will only be thinking of "Corrie" and "East Enders" in their cold cells after gruel and lights out.

  2. TBF: As I discovered some time ago and posted, KKK - Knowles knows knothing!

    He attempts to mimic John Harris, Guardian, with what he considers sarcastic wit - and like Harris, fails miserably.

  3. Knowles is not knowledgeable. Wow. If he'd like a readable and very simple introduction to VAT, he should try pp127-8 of the book "Europe on €387m A Day", which is here: (4mb pdf)

    If anyone wants to tweet him the link and page ref, feel VAT-free.

  4. @Oldrightie :-)

    @WfW, sadly though he's paid for knowing (k)nothing

    @Anon, Unfortunately I don't think he'll read it 'cos the truth's inconvenient

  5. I've just been guided to your piece via EU Ref - I'll try and post after work - with linkeee, of course.

    Well spotted.

  6. Gents, I suggest that we are all mispronouncing the man's name. It should sound like 'know less'. Or he has an 's' missing from the end of it.