Readers familiar with our standing advice to newspaper customers that the headline is nearly always a lie might like to consider today’s Press & Journal.
The word “pyre” comes from the Greek word “pyra”, meaning “fire”. Surprisingly, it’s NOT the same root as “Pyrrhic”, as in “Pyrrhic victory”, meaning one that’s achieved by metaphorically burning your own city down. (Which in fact is named after the Greek general Pyrrhus of Epirus.)
But why the etymology lesson?
Experienced alert readers will have spotted just from the image above that the P&J’s story bursts into flames from the picture caption onwards. As early as the end of the first paragraph the “Brexit boost” of the headline has subtly changed in character, and it’s not long until we find out why.
““The weakening of the pound following the EU referendum led to improved prices for grain, beef and lamb, resulting in a boost to the value of outputs,” said government.
“Another important effect of the exchange rate was the increase in the value of EU support payments. The 17% change in the exchange rate resulted in total payments increasing by £53 million.”
Subsidies, including coupled support, accounted for £533million of total income in 2016. This was made up of £400million in Pillar 1 direct support, £91million in Pillar 2 rural development payments and £42million in coupled support.”
Most of the “boost”, in other words, was accounted for by the collapse in the value of the pound increasing the value of EU subsidies – the subsidies that will end when the UK leaves in a couple of years’ time. So farmers will have collectively gained £53m from the exchange rate for a brief period, but will lose just over TEN TIMES that much EVERY YEAR when the supply of EU cash suddenly dries up in 2019.
(The gains from better prices will almost certainly be wiped out in turn by increased costs when the UK is no longer in the single market, and/or direct trade tariffs.)
Of course, it’s always possible that the ever-generous UK government will step in to replace the EU subsidies in full so as to keep a bunch of Scottish farmers happy and oh for Heaven’s sake stop laughing at the back we can’t hear ourselves think.
Now, you have to hand it to the Tory-leaning P&J for putting a positive spin on Brexit while the sun shines. But if we were Scotland’s farmers we’d bung the windfall into a high-interest savings account ASAP. Or perhaps invest it in a hefty insurance policy for when that sunshine sets some haybales on fire and burns their farms down.