A regulation burner through and through, he has spent much of his political life railing against “EU red tape”, seeing this as an integral part of his neo-liberal Thatcherite ideology. Paterson’s war on “red tape” has dovetailed neatly with his refusal to accept well-established climate science. He opposes government support for renewable energy but backs fracking to the hilt, and when his views on climate change have been challenged he has trotted out myth after discredited myth.
“insisted on a mass cull of badgers against scientific advice, who stripped away the last regulations protecting the soil from erosion, who believed that “the purpose of waterways is to get rid of water,” who sought to turn our rivers into featureless gutters, and who championed the pesticides that appear to be destroying bees and other animals.”
Bizarrely, he has claimed that “we will use taking back control of our borders to better protect our native fauna and flora”, giving as examples protection against “the signal crayfish and the alien grey squirrel”. Both species were introduced from America, a country Paterson says will offer a “very big and exciting” new trade deal.
Owen Paterson claims to be one of three founding MPs of the Vote Leave referendum campaign group who developed the “take back control” of our laws, money and borders message. Along with “hard” Brexiters such as Farage, Banks and Tice, he sees a “no deal WTO rules” Brexit as desirable, saying that “it is an ineluctable certainty that we’re going to end up with WTO at the end of this.”
He also believes that “an abrupt departure from the EU would give the UK the opportunity to strike trade deals with fast-growing economies outside the EU and would generate reduced food prices, since the UK would no longer have to impose the EU’s high tariffs against non-EU agricultural goods.” The NFU’s policy director Martin Haworth has described this as “the absolute nightmare scenario” for British farmers:
“We’d be outside the EU, we’d lose access to the single market, we’d have lower tariff barriers so food prices would drop and farmers’ prices would come down, and our farmers wouldn’t be subsidised, whereas our competitors would be, both in Europe and in large parts of the world.”
Paterson stunned a meeting of Cameron’s coalition cabinet by suggesting that EU workers who currently do much hard and essential farming work in Britain should be replaced by pensioners. He claimed they would be happy to pick fruit and vegetables for less than the minimum wage. One Whitehall official, reported his cabinet colleague David Laws, “tried, unsuccessfully, to stifle a laugh”.
Paterson’s comments have frequently, as the Independent observes, “caused some degree of bafflement and derision.”