Thursday, 18 February 2016

Why you can't buy French cheese in Norway (a case study in pro-EU ignorance)


Some readers will recall the Great Norwegian Butter Crisis:

With the sense of national crisis deepening, the national daily Aftenposten ran a two-page spread with instructions on how to make your own butter. It's all a big disappointment for the domestic goddesses of the north for whom butter is a standard Christmas staple.

"I need butter today to make my lussekatt buns and my Christmas biscuits," grumbled one elderly Norwegian. "I brought up my four children under German occupation but this is nothing like that."

And the readers who got beyond having a great old laugh at the Norwegians will have learned that the reason for the butter crisis is Norway's deranged (this is genuinely the only way to describe them) agricultural protection policies:

"The problem is more to do with a lack of competition in the market," he said. "Tine is a monopolist in the market as a result of outdated postwar regulatory regimes in a concentrated market with high entry barriers."

Put simply Norway requires its milk producers to sell to one producer of dairy products and then slaps a complicated bunch of quotas, limited, controls and regulations of the industry. All this before lumping on a huge tariff on imports.

Hence the abject ignorance and stupidity of this remark (from the Director of Britain Stronger In Europe):

For, had Will Straw known about the Great Norwegian Butter Crisis, he would have been a little slower in suggesting that the lack of Camembert in Oslo was down to the French not wanting to sell the stuff to Norwegians:

Cheese imports from the EU that were hit by the tariff, including Gouda and cheddar, became almost three times more expensive when the tariffs took effect January 1, driving many brands out of the Norwegian market. EU politicians claim the punitive tariffs have damaged trade and not least Norwegian consumers, and kept European cheeses out of the Norwegian market at a time when Europe needs all the trade it can get because of its economic crisis.

So there you have it - the problem was caused by the decisions of idiot politicians in Norway rather than idiot politicians in Brussels. And, if Will Straw wants to make the case for staying in the EU, then he really ought to get his facts straight.


1 comment:

asquith said...

Yes, but there is a danger of protectionalism and nationalism following Brexit and equally half-witted decisions being made in London. UKIP's "policy" on agricultural subsidies is hardly inspiring, essentially more of the same wasteful public spending but with even fewer environmental protections. From Russia to Donald Trump's America, protectionism, illiberal nationalism and state capitalism won't work, their popularity these days (in the Visegrad countries, now) will end in tears.

I am concerned about the subsidies coming out of Europe, which are a bad use of taxpayers' money and environmentally damaging, but I am more concerned that after Brexit it would carry on in an essentially unchanged form and there would be no liberals still standing in Brussels, just socialists, national socialists, protectionists, Gaullists and whatever other ragbag.

I've never heard of Will Straw but I will argue for liberalism and while it's theoretically possible for Brexit to be followed by a libertarian turn, I dispute that this is what would actually happen. The divisions between the outers seems to be being won by people I wouldn't give the time of day to.