CAP reform has gone up a gear now the budget has been agreed.

With the Irish in the presidential role, there’s a feeling that things are going to start moving along quicker.

Isn’t it remarkable how everyone’s spirits lift when the Irish take over the presidency? Ireland is not a huge country (fewer than 5m inhabitants), but it seems to have a massive reputation for getting things done in Europe. With the first language being English and with a strong agricultural bias, it makes the Irish highly effective brokers in the talks that go on to reach agreements in the EU. Speaking a common language such as English is definitely an advantage when it comes to negotiation in Europe.

The other major EU country with English as a first language is not feeling it at all for Europe at the moment and I’m not entirely sure that Europe is in love with us either. The possibility that the UK could leave the EU before the end of the decade should be a serious concern to us all.

With the UK government gesturing towards the European exit with a possible referendum in 2017 and the Scottish government charging towards the UK exit with its independence referendum in 2014, anything could happen. It’s entirely possible that as Scotland makes its way in the European door in its own right it will bump into the rest of the UK heading in the opposite direction.

It is still too early to make predictions, but if the UK re-elects a Conservative government in 2015 then the clock will start to tick towards the “in or out” referendum. And, with the pro-European Scottish population possibly out of the equation, then chances of the UK voting to leave the EU will become even greater than it is at the moment.

What a bizarre turn of events that would be. When Scotland’s turn comes round to take up the presidency of the council of the European Union, it would find itself the largest English speaking country in the EU. Whether it could also eclipse the Irish for their gift of the gab would be another matter.

But the good news for Scotland’s auld allies, the French, would be that the number of English-speaking countries with a strong agricultural bias in the EU would be double what it is at the moment. That could only be good for the EU’s farmers.

At the recent NFUS AGM at Saint Andrews, the UK’s membership of the EU wasn’t on the radar yet. However, Scottish Independence was well to the fore.

Alyn Smith MEP made a very positive case for an independent Scotland. Unusually for a politician, he invited the crowd to ask him the big difficult questions that were on their minds. As you would expect, the farmers didn’t disappoint him in this regard, but he didn’t disappoint with his answers either.

Michael Moore MP, on the other hand, only approached the independence debate as a last resort near the end of his presentation. He went on just long enough to issue the stark warning that Scotland will suffer a reduction in trade with the rest of the UK if it chooses independence.

I’m not sure if I’ll be eligible to vote in the UK’s “in or out” referendum. However, I’m certain that if Angela Merkel adopts the same tactics and issues warnings to the UK about the grim consequences of leaving the European Union, then the “out” campaign will definitely win the day.

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