Angus Woods: EU politics are more important to us than local politics – we have to stay at the center of EU decision making


January 22, 1972 is a date that should be celebrated as it marks the 50th anniversary of Ireland’s entry into the EEC.

then the Taoiseach Jack Lynch signed the accession treaty in Brussels, which took us from a former colony of the United Kingdom to an equal partner in an EEC then made up of nine countries.

Denmark and the UK signed on the same day.

It was over 10 years since we first applied to join the EEC. As is always the case, everything was done in an open and transparent manner and nothing was rushed in Brussels.

Although we are a republic, we have always been economically linked to the UK. So when France first vetoed the UK in 1963, we were forced to rethink our request and reapply in 1967.

From that time on, two points emerge: France was deeply concerned about the United Kingdom’s commitment to the EEC, which led it to veto the United Kingdom’s candidacy on two occasions; and it was a Conservative prime minister, Ted Heath, who signed the UK accession treaty.

Since the Treaty of Rome in 1957, the CAP has been a cornerstone of European policy. It is considered the most successful EU policy in Brussels.

Initially, its role was to provide enough safe and affordable food to European citizens. It has evolved considerably since then and with discussions already starting around the reform of the CAP after 2027, it is clear that the CAP is constantly evolving.

When we first joined, we were considered one of the disadvantaged countries, and additional funds were directed in our direction through the European Regional Development Fund.

Joining the EU has dramatically increased our standard of living, but now these funds are moving east to help develop other less well-off EU countries, and we are now contributing to the EU more than we do not receive any.

But the CAP still brings in € 1.5 billion a year for Irish farmers and the rural economy. All the research shows that farmers spend the vast majority of their money in their area.

When it comes to policy reform, there are no big last-minute deals made in dark rooms.

Policy making takes place over several years, and if you do not have a political position at the start of negotiations, you are left behind because the timetable for policy reform is well signaled in advance.

Farmers need to be aware of this. A repeat of the McConalogue reform agenda, where most farm organizations had little policy or direction until major decisions were made, would be a disaster for the remaining farms that depend solely on agriculture. for their income.

There is no doubt that Ireland has benefited greatly from being a member of the EU. In an age when bad news sells, the good story is often forgotten.

RTÉ Coiled up in the years is one of my favorite TV shows. The old one clips from Ireland in the 60s, 70s and 80s should be watched for everyone as a reminder of where we came from.

Poverty was widespread, both in urban and rural areas. Large families living on small farms, rental housing in cities, emigration, lack of gender equality, lack of workers’ rights and many other inequalities in society were rife.

Ireland today would have been unimaginable in the 1960s before we joined the EEC, when Church and State worked closely together.

The financial difficulties encountered on Irish farms during the economic war with the UK in the 1930s underscored the importance of having more than one market for our products.

Before joining the EEC, the UK imported a significant amount of food from former colonies and non-EU countries such as New Zealand, Australia and Argentina.

Their exclusion via tariffs has opened up opportunities for Irish food in the UK and the rest of the EEC.

The avant-garde agricultural leaders of the 1970s immediately recognized where they needed adequate representation: they acquired an office in Brussels right next to the European Commission and the European Parliament.

Irish agriculture and our agricultural industry have benefited greatly from being part of the EU. Along with funding the CAP, free access to the EU’s single market has helped reduce our dependence on the UK for the purchase of our agricultural products.

The UK is still very important to us as an export market and the difficulties of Brexit made it clear but duty-free access in 26 EU countries is vital for our economy at large.

As the EU has grown from six countries to nine, and now to 27, Brussels has had to evolve.

The CAP is no longer decided between the Commissioner for Agriculture and the representatives of the farms. The whole of society is involved in an open, transparent and evolving manner. Power shifts occur and policies change.

The solidarity shown to us around the Brexit negotiations has underscored the importance of being part of a united group of countries, especially for a small nation like Ireland.

The key for us now is to remain relevant and at the center of EU decision-making.

As a country, we need to send the best possible representatives to the European Parliament in the 2024 elections, as well as a constant flow of the best officials at our disposal.

Brussels is where big decisions are made and the EU is the key to our future.

Joining the EU has been the biggest step in becoming a proud nation.

Too often Irish politicians only focus on local politics. Our place at the table of European leaders is where we belong.

Angus Woods is a dry cattle farmer in Co Wicklow


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