Sometimes the appearance of knee-jerk Europhobia in British newspapers is not the reporter’s fault, but the headline-writing sub-editpr’s. Consider this story by Isabel Oakshott in today’s London Evening Standard:
TAXPAYERS are facing a huge bill for the foot-and- mouth crisis because of government blunders.
Ministers have failed to convince agriculture chiefs in Brussels that the huge compensation pay-outs were justified. The European Commission has agreed to pay only £350 million of the £950 million Defra hoped to recoup.
A new report by the government spending watchdog, the National Audit Office, reveals that officials at the Ministry of Agriculture — now known as the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) — authorised huge payments to farmers without verifying the claims.
In one case, a farmer who paid an average of £60 each for six rams in October 2000 was paid £535 for each animal the following March. In another case, a farmer who paid £14,000 for a bullock in January 2001 received £40,000 when it was slaughtered four months later.
There are also fears that Defra has failed to make contingency plans for another outbreak following the 2001 epidemic. A total of 6.5million animals were slaughtered, devastating many farms and rural businesses.
Clearly, this is a story about a series of blunders in Britain’s national civil service, specifically Defra — in the handling of foot-and-mouth crisis. So what’s the headline?
EC REFUSES TO PICK UP ‘FOOT AND MOUTH’ TAB
That dastardly Commission — screwing the British taxpayer again.
Update: The Guardian’s version of the story explains it a bit better:
The European Commission has refused to meet 60% of the government’s £960m claim for costs and compensation because it says Britain paid two to three times the market value for slaughtered animals and was overcharged by contractors culling them. Taxpayers paid £3bn in compensation and to control the outbreak.