EU Referendum

EU Referendum: Cameron, the little European


In a classic application of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt), David Cameron is targeting micro-audiences with a particularly insidious claim.

Writing for the Gloucester Citizen, he warns that "Cider, single Gloucester cheese and old spot sausages [are] under threat with Brexit", losing their "protected status" under EU law. He also claims that Brexit could also threaten products such as Scotch whisky, which at present can only be applied to whisky that has been made in Scotland.

As usual though, the fear tactic relies on half-truths and deception – and the ignorance of the media and politicians. And not least of these deceptions is the omission of rather crucial information: the scheme also applies to third countries.

Applicants from outside the EU can register their products with their national authorities, which then pass on the details to the EU, where they are then – after due process – recognised as protected process.

The system can be seen at work here, when in May 2011 four Chinese agricultural products received protected status in the EU, bringing the total to five, with another five being processed through the system.

In a reciprocal move, the Chinese authorities set in motion the recognition process for "ten celebrated European products". These were: Grana Padano; Prosciutto di Parma; Roquefort; Pruneaux d'Agen/Pruneaux d'Agen mi-cuits; Priego de Cordóba; Sierra Mágina; Comté; White Stilton Cheese/Blue Stilton Cheese; Scottish Farmed Salmon and West Country Farmhouse Cheddar.

Thus to represent British products being at risk when we leave the EU is a plain, outright lie. And even if the Prime Minister doesn't know he's lying, some of the people briefing him must know the truth. There is almost certainly calculated deceit being perpetrated here.

Furthermore, these reciprocal arrangements are only the tip of the iceberg of what is, in fact, a vast global scheme based around the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), administering what are known as "geographical indications".

The scheme relies on a network of treaties and agreements, starting with the Paris Convention adopted in 1883, the Madrid Agreement of 1967, the Lisbon Agreement of 1958 and the protocol to the Madrid Agreement concluded in 1989.

These tie into the 1995 WTO TRIPS Agreement (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights), which enabled the system to be extended globally. Part of the WTO Doha round, this agreement is opening the way for other trading nations to protect their own traditional products and brands, to the same level enjoyed under EU law.

Despite this, there are complaints The EU is using its coercive power and the UK outside its system could provide a vital corrective, helping other nations to develop their own systems. Sadly, nothing of this makes the media. Instead, we get the likes of the Guardian and the Mail picking up the story, with no attempt to verify Mr Cameron's claims.

In the Mail, however, we do get to hear from "Brexit supporters" – presumably Vote Leave – who "dismiss" Mr Cameron's claims and argue that Britain would "take back control" of product regulation if it left the EU. They say that the Government "could ensure our products remain protected in European markets by striking a new deal with Brussels".

Therein, the lack of knowledge and preparedness of the "leave" campaign comes to the fore. But, most of all, it illustrates the narrowness of vision of the "little Europeans", and especially Mr Cameron. We should not be letting Mr Cameron set the agenda on these matters. The world is where we need to be.