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Dinner in Tuscany

At dinner last night in Tuscany, I ate a delicious meal with my hostess, a Slovene, and the other guests, including a retired Danish diplomat, a Pole, a Russian, an Englishman, and two Americans. Everyone at our table was suspicious of the EU except for one person, who, being thoroughly steeped in Brussels nonsense, was even prepared to defend the EU directive on the curvature of cucumbers and the other directive on the curvature of bananas. This is interesting since usually when these issues are raised, EU apologists deny these and many other EU directives exist.

But I continue to sense a shift in mood. At the dinner table, we all laughed in disbelief at the idea that any sane organisation would seek to impose directives on the curvature of vegetables. But so the EU does, and has imposed more than a hundred thousand other largely absurd and interfering directives.

Recently Tuscan winemakers were told they can no longer use chestnut barrels for aging their wines. After a thousand years of use without adverse effect, the EU claims the chestnut casks may pose health risks. The winemakers are being forced to switch to stainless steel, which is dramatically raising their costs and changing the taste and personality of their wines. However they will be allowed to use barrels made of French oak.

That is the beauty of the EU bureaucracy – whether you are growing apples or trying to make wine, importing art or trying to build a business, they will always figure out a way to make it more difficult for you to make a living, unless, as in the case of Britain’s fishermen, they destroy your livelihood altogether.

Many may suspect these are not simply the decisions of an Alice in Wonderland bureaucracy. I cannot prove that makers of French oak or stainless steel barrels are being handed extra business while their competitors are destroyed, but we may well wonder whether the 10,000 lobbyists barracked in Brussels have had something to do with the decisions of some of the three thousand EU committees churning out directives.

I remain confident that the sheer energy and imagination of Italians and Slovenes, Danes and Poles, Brits and Czechs will restore their people as the rightful deciders of their destiny, and that directing the curvature of cucumbers will not be part of their mission.