Monday 21 September 2009

European Benefits?

I'm a bit of a Euro-sceptic really. I'm not keen on the idea of extra bureaucracy laden on everything we do. Having a political law making system that has tiers1 all the way from parish councils through borough councils, parliament and then to the European parliament makes a confusing, costly and over cumbersome system, in my view. Thank goodness in England we don't have regional Governments as well. Besides, I like going to the continent for holidays because they do things differently out there, it seems that more and more these days everywhere we go is becoming more homogeneous with less regional variations to be found the world over.

I'm also a beer tie sceptic. If you read this blog regularly you will have already worked that out. My view for the best part of three decades has been that tied pubs are in many ways inferior and my view on that is unlikely to change. Of course, the beer tie has been an integral part of how the British pub industry has worked for over 100 years or more, so to change it might well accelerate the changes in the whole of the British pub scene. Personally, I'm not convinced that would be a bad thing. The days of the "community pub" may well be numbered, the back street boozer has had it's day, out of those that are left a greater proportion, based on industry statistics2, are tied to some brewery or PubCo.

Recently CAMRA's Mike Benner claimed that European Law would prevent the abolition of the tie. Now, I remembered something in the back of my mind about there being an exemption in place that prevented the Treaty of Rome affecting our beer tie system. I'm no expert on how this all works, but it seems to me that perhaps the first step is simply to permit this piece of European legislation to work.

Although I don't like the tie, I would have to admit that a complete abolition would be a crazy idea. After all, where would I stand as a brewpub? We could argue all day, I'm sure, about what precisely we should do about it. There is European legislation which is designed to prevent undesirable monopolization of various markets without unduly affecting free market enterprise. Surely we just need to allow that to work? Perhaps this solution might pacify my two key scepticisms.

Meanwhile, my mischievous friend Jeff Pickthall has created a survey. He is interested in the correlation between political persuasion and Real Ale. Whilst I think there is an element of paranoia on Jeff's part I also think there is a validity to the question. There does seem to me to be a high number of CAMRA officials who are also union activists. Besides, just because you are paranoid, doesn't mean they are not out to get you and I know Jeff is not alone in his views. I think it does have some relevance to the beer tie.

Anyway, do the survey, I think it's a laugh. I like the political compass that is used. Political opinion is far more complicated than simple left and right. I don't think the political compass is complex enough to really describe peoples political views, but it's better than a simple one dimensional measure. For the survey to be meaningful Jeff will need input from as many people as possible. Also, it needs as broad a selection of people as possible. If you don't want to do it because of some belief you have then you might just be the missing bit of data. It does allow the use of pseudonyms, so he'll never know who you are if you don't want him to.

1.....or is that tears?

2Source: The Community Pub Report, October 2008, page8 which shows an increase in the proportion of tenanted/leased pubs over freehold.


Jeff Pickthall said...

Paranoid? Me? Who said?

Whorst said...

Dave, what if another pub in your area wants to serve your beer? Is this possible? It's not unusual over here to find many guest beers at a brewpub.

Alistair Reece said...

I think the problem with the tie is not the tie itself, but rather the way pubcos abuse the system to make the landlord entirely dependent on them for stuff to sell.

When a brewery leases a pub to the tenant, having invested in infrastructure and technology, then I think it is perfectly reasonable that the landlord be tied to selling only that brewery's beer, but be free to buy the other wares he needs from wherever he sees fit (I understand this is the way Timothy Taylor do it with their tied houses).

Obviously in your situation, you have invested your own money into the pub and have the right to serve whatever the hell you want to.

The pubcos though, especially those not actually brewers, seem to just abuse the system and act as middlemen between the brewers and landlords, producing nothing, selling nothing and yet creaming off profits which could go in the landlords' pockets.

Unknown said...

Wurst, over here we can sell anything we want, providing the substance is legal and we have the appropriate licence to do so. If I want to sell my beer to another pub, and they are stupid enough to want my swill, there is no law to stop that happening.

However, if the pub building is owned by a PubCo then the publican cannot sell what he want's despite the fact that he is running a supposedly independent business. It's written into the lease agreement that he should buy his beer from a certain source.

Velky Al,

You have some good points and you've said the same thing before if I remember rightly. The question is how to stop the problem. My point here is that there are competition laws in place, but in the UK we choose them to be exempt. My simple point here is if the competition laws are good enough for the majority of commerce then they might just sort out the problems with the tie.

Tandleman said...

Velky Al has the right of this though I can't be bothered to go over all this tie stuff again.

As for your comment "There does seem to me to be a high number of CAMRA officials who are also union activists." - I kind of doubt it applies that widely, but I would assume that active trade unionists know that voluntary organisations need people to get involved and they are the type that will take on jobs that others won't. To then equate that with imposing political views seems to me improbable, but then I'm not paranoid.

Getting people actively involved with any voluntary organisation is very difficult in these busy times. If there is evidence of left wing or any other attempts to hi jack CAMRA, I'd like to see it. I wish some of these lefties would show up at my branch to lend us a much needed hand. Roll up please.

Reuben Gray - TaleOfAle said...

Beer and Politics, a sobering thought. Personally I am pro Europe, hell I would even like to see a single world government and a world without all the issues of various governments squabbling over imaginary lines on the ground. I do not see that happening (in my lifetime anyway) and the EU is not heading towards that goal anyway.

On the tied pubs, I know I have mentioned before on this blog that we do not have them in Ireland. Then again, since most pubs all serve the same beer you could almost say we do have tied pubs and the breweries do not even pay for the buidlings etc. Maybe some UK breweries should open a few tied pubs over here and shake things up a little.

Unknown said...


It is true that my impression of CAMRA is based on only a small subset of the overall organisation. However, without pointing to individuals who I have deep respect for it would be impossible to prove the point. Perhaps though you assume that I think the presence of union activists is an entirely bad thing. This is not so. I've been known to stand up in front of 300+ people at a union meeting myself over an issue where I thought the management was simply wrong. Does that make me a union activist?

Besides all of that, people get involved with organisations for all sorts of discretionary exchanges. Like you say, union activists are those type of people who like to be involved in something they feel is altruistic. Unfortunately, altruism and practicality don't always go together.

Don't read too much into the above other than to say I'm trying my hardest to be open minded.


One of my biggest problems with Europe is the layers of bureaucracy and inevitable public costs. Perhaps a single European government would be good, but then local traditions might get lost. I often find myself in conflict over this.

I'd like to get to understand a little more about how various countries deal with their own on-trade. Even more reason to visit your Ireland.

Reuben Gray - TaleOfAle said...

Dave if you ever do get to come over and want to see some country pubs, you are more than welcome to stay in my house.

I am sure we ICB members will be glad to meet up with you and let you sample our beers. I am kicking myself I did not bring some when I came to see you. I came by car so there was no excuse.

Velky Al said...


Didn't your namesake have something of similar idea for the Tower of Isengard?

Paul Garrard said...

There was a piece in the Telegraph recently about how 'the lads' at Tory Central Office were keen on popping out for a pint of real ale. I suspect Right could well be the new Left!

Sat In A Pub said...

"I would even like to see a single world government."

Be afraid. Very afraid.

Reuben Gray - TaleOfAle said...

I am showing my nerdiness when I say that a single world government "works in Star Trek" :D

Just because I would "like" to see that sort of Utopian society does not mean I think it will happen.

Not unless we found out there are other inhabited planets, then we might see a common potential enemy and blah blah... Its all sci fi / fantasy at the moment.

Reuben Gray - TaleOfAle said...

Oh and Al, I believe my namesake planned to wipe out men and replace us with orcs.