Ross Clark Ross Clark

Do French farmers really have it so bad?

A convoy of French farmers block the A6 highway near Villabe, south of Paris (Credit: Getty images)

What a shame we are not still in the single market, seamlessly exporting our lamb and whisky so it can be enjoyed in the finest restaurants in Paris. Or rather so that it can be burned and poured over the A1 autoroute.

French farmers have blockaded roads with tractors and haystacks, set lorries on fire and are now threatening to re-enact the Siege of Paris by cutting off food supplies to the capital. They are protesting against red tape, environmental policies and what they say are cheap imports. And no, it isn’t just UK farmers whom they don’t like exporting food to Britain. Over the past week, they have attacked lorries from Belgium, and Germany. They have also poured 10,000 litres of Spanish wine onto the autoroute.

French farmers have been trying to fight the single market ever since it was proposed

So much for the spirit of the single market. But then French farmers have been trying to fight the single market ever since it was proposed; they famously set light to lorries carrying British lamb back in 1990.

I can sympathise with their beef against EU regulations; over-fussy rules were one of the reasons why many UK farmers were strongly in favour of Brexit. A French environmental journalist writing last week in the newspaper l’Opinion revealed the extraordinary labyrinth of bureaucracy which French farmers have to negotiate. Egg-producers must wade through dozens of pages of regulations, laying down everything from the size of cage doors to the angle of the floors on which the birds lay their eggs.

But do French farmers really have such a raw deal when it comes to trying to compete with foreign competition? As with all farmers in the EU, they are protected by tariffs which average 13 per cent on fruit and vegetables, 19 per cent on meat and 32 per cent on dairy products.

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