Lord Palmer of Manderston, Duns gave his blunt view of the European Union last week when the House of Lords debated the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.
“I believe strongly that the United Kingdom ought to have remained within the European Union and fought long and hard to disband this corrupt and expensive organisation altogether,” said Lord Palmer, speaking in the House of Lords debate.
Responding to Lord Palmer’s conclusion on the EU, Lord Forsyth of Dunlean (Conservative) said: “That is rather like suggesting one ought to remain inside a burning house in the hope of putting out the fire. I’m not sure I follow the logic of the noble Lord’s argument.”
Lord Palmer has lived and worked in Brussels, and as the Scottish representative of the European Landowners’ Organisation he has addressed the European Parliament at Strasbourg on a number of occasions.
As a landowner he declared an interest during the House of Lords debate saying: “I receive a single farm payment, which keeps me roughly sane and solvent.”
“The fact that Brussels decamps once a month and goes to Strasbourg is a complete scandal. The decamp costs a mere 114 million euros. Nor must it be forgotten how much time it takes to close down one operation and restart the whole thing, particularly from the staffing aspect and their downtime.
“I have also done several stints on what was then European Union Sub Committee D, which in those days covered agriculture and the environment. We made several trips to Brussels - although to not much avail, if I am completely honest.
“This is probably the most important legislation that any of us have had to debate in our lifetime, let alone our children’s or indeed, in my case, my grandchildren’s lifetime.
“We really are in the most terrible muddle and mess. Every day a different worm pops out of the can and only goes to emphasise the hiatus that the United Kingdom is in.
“Having been involved in the food business all my life, I know that food today is incredibly cheap. 40 years ago 47% of the weekly wage went on food, but today it is in single figures.
“I remember that 25 years ago during the harvest the telephone rang non-stop, with merchants offering me £165 a tonne for good-quality, low-nitrogen malting barley. Oh to be offered that today, especially when one realises what a huge increase in wages and all other farm inputs there has been in those 25 years.
“If European Commissioners, officials and staff earned the same today as they did 25 years ago, I am not altogether sure that we would have a European Union at all.
“During my time in Belgium I saw first hand the gravy train that pulls along the Commissioners, who are unelected and unaccountable to anyone or anything. If they are British they retire on a nearly six figure pension and a seat in your Lordships’ House. We currently have seven ex-Commissioners.
“If two countries within the United Kingdom cannot agree on policy, how on earth can 27 countries do so? And how can you make laws that affect the Greek islands and the Outer Hebrides?
“Surely that is nothing short of farcical.”