23/10/2011 The Politics Show West Midlands


23/10/2011

Jon Sopel and Patrick Burns are here with the top political stories of the week.


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In the Midlands: the lorry drivers with loads on their minds.

:00:48.:00:54.

The yew is planning height restrictions on HTVs. And what is

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the connection between a Worcestershire chip shop, a German

:00:58.:01:08.
:01:08.:01:08.

Apology for the loss of subtitles for 1775 seconds

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hot-dog seller and a European Court Hello from the Midlands. As our MPs

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prepare for the crucial vote on the European referendum, we also have

:30:49.:30:54.

Europe on our minds. We will have the answer do the link between the

:30:54.:31:01.

German hot-dog seller and a Worcestershire fish and chip shop.

:31:01.:31:05.

Midlands road hauliers are in a tailspin over plans to restrict the

:31:05.:31:09.

height of many of their HGVs the commission says it would make it

:31:09.:31:14.

easier to move goods around Europe if lorries were no taller than four

:31:14.:31:18.

metres. To help us get the measure of this, here with me today,

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Malcolm Harbour, one of our Conservative MEPs for the West

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Midlands. Ms Reynolds, the Labour MP for Wolverhampton North East and

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newly-appointed as the shadow Europe Minister, and might mattress

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-- Mike Nattrass, UKIP's MEP for the West Midlands.

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Our transport correspondent has been talking to truckers.

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Love them or hate them, HGVs are a common sight. Even with greater use

:31:53.:31:57.

of the railways, the majority of the things we make or buy still go

:31:57.:32:01.

by road. Concerns about the impact on the environment means that

:32:02.:32:06.

haulage firms up sympathising with bigger lorries, fewer journeys and

:32:06.:32:12.

less pollution. -- soubrette sizing. Some fans like Birmingham-based

:32:12.:32:15.

Palletline claim that the EU proposals could see the brakes

:32:15.:32:19.

being applied when it comes to going green. It is bureaucracy gone

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mad. Clearly someone has not thought this through. They are not

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aware of the problems back European hauliers face and particularly

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British hauliers face. The EU is considering proposals to restrict

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the height of lorry trailers to four metres like this one. The

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reason according to officials is that it will make it easier to move

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goods around or 27 EU countries. -- or 27. Some countries have low

:32:47.:32:52.

bridges on major routes. Rather than rebuild them, the EU appears

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to want to change the height of lorries, regardless of where they

:32:55.:33:01.

operate. For the UK, that is a big problem was that according to

:33:01.:33:05.

government figures, 80% of the lorry fleet is over four metres.

:33:05.:33:08.

What it would mean for Palletline as an organisation and other

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British hauliers is that potentially they would have to run

:33:11.:33:15.

more vehicles, by more vehicles, employ more drivers and there would

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be twice the number of vehicles on the road. This is what he is

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talking about. The trailer being unloaded is well over four metres

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and the goods are being transferred to a trailer that meets the EU's

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proposals. As you can see, it does not fit so you need a second lorry.

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Other companies have -- are just as concerned. This is the John Lewis

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Warehouse in Redditch. Online orders are dispatched from here all

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over the UK. Much of its fleet consists of double-decker lorries.

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Here at least there is some good news. The euro appears to have done

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a last-minute U-turn meaning that regardless of height, they can

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still run. They form a major part of our environmental strategy. They

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reduce our carbon dioxide by 25%. They are Keith in that ensuring our

:34:06.:34:10.

environmental impact of our transport fleet is minimised --

:34:10.:34:15.

they are key in ensuring. Under the current proposals, this 4.9 double-

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deck trailer would be allowed on the roads. But this 4.6 metre

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single deck trailer would not. Nat Copsey is an expert on all

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things Europe and despite the confusion, he maintains that it

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makes sense to harmonise. Harmonisation is what allows the

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single market to function proper to -- properly. The single market is

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our largest trading partner. We have to have the same rules and

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regulations in place across the 27 EU member states otherwise it will

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not work. The government is not impressed. A statement from the

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Department of Transport says, we share the concerns of the UK

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haulage industry about the European Commission's proposals. It adds

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that it will press the Commission to maintain the existing right of

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member states to set the permitted height of lorries.

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Already, several haulage firms have gone out of business because of the

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recession. There is our best that any new EU rules could see even

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more going the same way -- there is now the rest.

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Confused? Me too. I can see that Mike Nattrass is itching to get on

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it. I will come first to the two of you who want Britain to stay in the

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European Union forever, as far as we can see. Isn't this exactly the

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sort of issue that makes Europe such a hard sell? It does look like

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it is making regulation a fetish. Part of the problem is that your

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report, I'm afraid, is very misleading. First of all, we are

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aware of the problem. I have been working on it for months. The

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commission is very much aware of the problems. What is the problem?

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First of all, what your report did not say is that 22 out of 27

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countries already do not allow trucks of more than four metres to

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go on their roads. That is there now. That will continue. If the

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issue is that member states, including Britain, can allow larger

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trucks to operate. We have already had the double Decker trailers

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which are significantly higher and there is no question but a dark and

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I would be astonished if the commission also did not make a

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concession for the normal trailers. They are also very good green

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reasons. If you look on the roads, streamlined the trailers are saving

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CO2. I think you have not actually reported the facts. Why is it that

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so many including some in your constituency are so anxious about

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it? First day, let me say, I am a pro European, I believe in the

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benefits of our membership of the European Union and I believe in the

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benefits of the biggest single market in the world. His commission

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proposals are not to get final. Because we have a strong voice in

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Europe, we are able to influence these. That is very important. I do

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not think that the commission should, when it comes to the

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European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, I do not think they

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should decide to restrict the height of our hauliers. I think

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that will be what happens in the end. Mike Nattrass. 80% of the

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trailer fleet would be out of order on this regulation if imposed. A I

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think it should be the result of our government and what they need

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to tell us and our roads are capable of taking traffic and very

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little to do with Europe. If these traders have to go into Europe,

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obviously they have to abide by the rules of any of the individual

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countries. But we should not be told to restrict the height of our

:38:07.:38:12.

vehicles because it is a green issues. You are saying the result

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would be more lorries, each of them a bit smaller and therefore more

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traffic was sacked more Denny's, lorries. -- more journeys. The

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distinction between using the trucks on the road and the

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technical regulations... If you make trailers, all the braking

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systems and construction is common so you can make a 40 ft trailer

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anywhere in Europe and get it approved locally and it can run

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anywhere. That is an important part of the single market if you are

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manufacturer in trailers. Also, other countries have the same

:38:45.:38:50.

issues as we do. In Sweden, they run bigger trucks because they have

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longer open highways. This is perfectly normal and there is no

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reason at all why we cannot get the permission to set it up and frankly

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we have been working on it for a long time. It does seem to be a

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more prescription for more lorries, more congestion. I think we can win

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the argument on this one. It is not clear that these are the final

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Commission proposals. I feel it is a bit dramatic to say that these

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are already the proposals and these are going to have this kind of

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implication when we do not even know what the commission are going

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to propose. Nat Copsey says that you should not see the issue in

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isolation, it is part of a broader harmonisation to make the single

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market work. It is none of their business. They should not be

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discussing the height of trailers within the UK. But they have to run

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across Europe. Our trailers can change. We do not have to run those

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trailers into Europe. The single market, we are looking to make

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things easier for manufacturers and also for exporters. But that does

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not mean to say that we have to apply every single role within our

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own roads. We have in some cases different speed limits, for example.

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The government is putting up speed limits on motorways where different

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speed limits... We have different road signs, we have different

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alcohol limits, different driving licence regulations. This is the

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same thing. If Labour from a government, we do not have you have

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moved on to something less double- ended did tell than this? I do not.

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There is an important issue. In some cases it, it is very important

:40:30.:40:35.

to have an effective single market and that they are roars across the

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27 member states. In other cases, it is not important for that to

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happen and it is no better handled at a member state level. This is a

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case in point. I do not think that this will be hopefully the

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commission's final proposals. I am worried that we are worrying about

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this too early. You can choose any product that you like. You can

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choose manhole covers and you can find that the French hold -- friend

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specification is being used of manhole covers which is putting

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business that in why is it that every time I want to speak, Malcolm

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Harbour is coming in. I never speak when you are speaking. There is

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plenty of mileage left in this but at this point, we have to go. Thank

:41:23.:41:33.
:41:33.:41:35.

you. At last, the answer to the puzzle linking a Worcestershire

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fish and chip shop with a German hot-dog seller who took a test case

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to the European Court of Justice. The result was that VAT had to be

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cut on hot takeaway food throughout the land of the Frankfurter and the

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hamburger. Now the Worcestershire chip-shop is hoping to emulate his

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German counterpart because VAT was after all originally introduced as

:41:56.:42:01.

a European harmonisation tax. Ben Sidwell reports now from Hannover

:42:01.:42:11.
:42:11.:42:11.

and Hagley. Fish and chips, they are about as British as you can get.

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Our place -- Our Plaice is one of the best trip and fish shops in the

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country. Now they have their sights set on Europe. Cod and chips please.

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There are over 10,000 fish and chip shops in the UK but you may not be

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aware that every what time you buy it food from one you are paying VAT

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on it. That could all be about to change banks do a sausage seller

:42:40.:42:49.
:42:50.:42:54.

He in at Hannover, like the rest of Germany, the sausage is big

:42:54.:42:58.

business. It is one of the most popular takeaway foods. So when one

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sausage seller decided to challenge the government over tax laws, it

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became very big news. The sausage seller who goes by the name of

:43:11.:43:14.

Manfred Bog claimed that he supplied simple easily prepared

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food. And unlike a restaurant, did not offer any service. Therefore he

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should not pay VAT, he said. On Mars 10th this year, the European

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Court of Justice found in favour of Manfred Bog and three other similar

:43:27.:43:37.
:43:37.:43:41.

cases. It was a ruling that could Here in England, our sausages are

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much bigger. But this is not a row about size. It is all about money.

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Wrong altogether. No food should have VAT on it. All countries

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should be treated the same way. really is unfair. We want a level

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playing field for our members. May, Gregg Howard was elected as

:44:09.:44:11.

President of National Federation of Fish Friers, representing every

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fish and chip shop in the country. They have now appointed a by --

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advisers to fight to the VAT battle. It is a matter for the courts.

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There are some complex legal arguments in play here and it is

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for the courts to decide. I think it is better than a 5050 chance

:44:29.:44:32.

that some of these principles and indeed other principles should

:44:32.:44:40.

apply to the UK zero rate. As we are all part of the European Union,

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does it follow that rules in place in Germany should be applied it to

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the UK? The tax man here does not think so. Her Majesty's Revenue and

:44:50.:44:53.

Customs say, the European Court of Justice judgment has no

:44:53.:44:57.

implications for the United Kingdom. It should be across the board. If

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it is good enough for Hannover, it is good enough of Hagley. It should

:45:02.:45:09.

be exactly the same across Europe. We are all Europeans. If the fish

:45:09.:45:11.

and chip shop industry win their case, other takeaways and could

:45:11.:45:15.

soon follow. Whether that means cheaper food for us, that remains

:45:15.:45:21.

to be seen. That is one that sausage and chips and one of fish

:45:21.:45:26.

and chips. Do you want to VAT on those?

:45:26.:45:31.

That really is a question, isn't it! Ben Sidwell has found his true

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calling on life. Mike Nattrass, a clear example where most people

:45:36.:45:41.

would see tax harmonisation as a good thing. In Yorkshire, the best

:45:41.:45:48.

fish and chips you can buy, in Whitby. UKIP are supporting tax

:45:48.:45:55.

harmonisation? Certainly not. VAT is a European tax. We regret I have

:45:55.:45:59.

to speak about harmonisation in Parliament. There is a prospect of

:45:59.:46:04.

harmonisation of VAT across Europe. That is heavily guarded against by

:46:04.:46:08.

a number of member states including the UK. We believe that we should

:46:08.:46:13.

have control of our own taxation. I strongly believe that we should do

:46:13.:46:18.

that. But if you try to reduce VAT, the European Commission get excited

:46:18.:46:25.

because they are going to cut. So, if for example the Labour

:46:25.:46:30.

government want to zero rate fuel, gas or electricity, they cannot.

:46:30.:46:34.

Malcolm Harbour, you were shaking your head through much of that.

:46:34.:46:39.

What is your concern? First of all, VAT is a comment type of taxation

:46:39.:46:46.

that we have agreed to. Member states, have different rates.

:46:46.:46:56.
:46:56.:46:56.

have a zero rate and Germany has a 5%. The show hearers -- Series... I

:46:56.:47:00.

think it is most unlikely that it will change in Germany. That is

:47:00.:47:03.

certainly the impression they have in Germany. I do not think so. They

:47:03.:47:07.

must have read the judgment. It came up from the lower courts

:47:07.:47:13.

because Manfred Bog said in a VAT plane which said that this is food

:47:14.:47:19.

and where people eat at my school, I charge VAT, which is something

:47:19.:47:24.

that goes on with cold food here. It has been referred back to the

:47:24.:47:26.

court to make a judgment. The judgment does not actually support

:47:26.:47:32.

his case. The whole issue is what is food and what is a service. If

:47:32.:47:36.

you look in the UK rules on VAT, they are very clear. If you heard

:47:36.:47:46.
:47:46.:47:46.

hot food, heating is delivering a service. Before week loom on to the

:47:46.:47:51.

other issues, what do you think Emma Reynolds? I can see that the

:47:51.:47:55.

fish fryers are looking at the German hot dog sellers and thinking,

:47:55.:47:58.

if they have managed to win it, if they do managed to win it, is in

:47:58.:48:03.

not quite similar, serving a sausage in a square in Germany and

:48:03.:48:07.

providing fish and chips in a chip shop in Hagley? This is much more

:48:07.:48:11.

of a product than a service. I can see where they are coming from. We

:48:11.:48:16.

do not have total harmonisation of VAT. We have got to bear that in

:48:16.:48:23.

mind. Quick word about the referendum vote which is looming.

:48:23.:48:27.

Mike Nattrass, yew and the Independent MEP are the driving

:48:27.:48:34.

forces between the British and. delivered it to Number 10 a month

:48:34.:48:38.

ago and it is now going to be debated. We got 14 MPs saying at

:48:38.:48:42.

that time that they would speak to it when it got behind the chair.

:48:42.:48:47.

Now it has caused a lot of problems. Reopening all of the traditional

:48:47.:48:51.

divisions within the Tory party. The European nightmares under way

:48:51.:48:55.

again. I do not think that is true at all. David Cameron is right to

:48:55.:48:59.

say that why should we have a referendum now? They are big issues

:48:59.:49:02.

to be sorted out and there are three questions on the ballot paper,

:49:02.:49:06.

including the idea of having a change relationship based on trade

:49:06.:49:09.

and corporations. Nobody knows what that means. I do not believe we

:49:09.:49:13.

should go forward without a referendum without a policy behind

:49:13.:49:17.

it. If it is a diversion. We have big problems to sort out now and

:49:17.:49:20.

big opportunities within the European market to help growth and

:49:20.:49:25.

recovery and we should be focusing on that. And a Reynolds, to pursue

:49:25.:49:31.

at the German theatre -- theme. I am sure you feel an element of

:49:31.:49:35.

schadenfreude. You have rebels on Labour's benches as well. You are

:49:35.:49:40.

not exactly united on this one either. The vast majority of our

:49:40.:49:43.

parliamentary party Labour MPs will vote against the question of a

:49:43.:49:47.

referendum tomorrow. The truth is that David Cameron, when he was in

:49:47.:49:51.

opposition, he should have been saying what he is now saying in

:49:51.:49:54.

government that our membership of the European Union is in our

:49:54.:49:58.

national interest. If he had not been quite so opportunistic,

:49:58.:50:02.

calling his MEPs out of the centre- right grouping in the European

:50:02.:50:08.

Parliament, perhaps he would not be facing he is tomorrow. I agree.

:50:08.:50:12.

agree says Mike Nattrass. We will end there. We are going to have to

:50:12.:50:17.

leave it. A fascinating moment in politics. Thank you all very much

:50:17.:50:23.

for being with us. That is about it from us here in

:50:23.:50:27.

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