Richard North

"Having spent countless hours on evaluating and analysing the FMD epidemic - with the benefit of having studied epidemiology for my 5-year PhD study and having had priviledged access to information by virtue of my position in the European Parliament - I believe I have a better "handle" on the epidemic than most.

Much of the information I have gathered on the epidemic has been published in one way or another, much of it on Warmwell. From all that, you will not gain the impression that either myself or Booker considered the EU to be primarily responsible for the FMD debacle and, since we have been the leaders in the field trying to pinpoint the EU's involvement, your original e-mail obviously had a particular resonance.

What in fact happened was that both "governments" fouled up. The EU originally in issuing flawed guidelines for contingency plans, the UK government in producing flawed plans, the EU for then failing to detect that the plans were flawed, and then for failing to draw the attention of member states to the changing situation and revisions on planning guidelines.

On balance, it is fair to say that the UK government self evidently made a mess of things. But, it is also fair to say that, had the EU commission properly carried out its duty, and required the UK to prepare well-founded contingency plans (as was its statutory duty) things could well have been very different.

That the commission has now recognised that it fouled up, and is now preparing new legislation which does nothing more than codify and clarify that which it already had responsibility for, had the power to do, and should have done anyway, hardly justifies the triumphal heading "Hooray for Europe".

The facts now are that the EU has determined the "paper" response. It still has neither the resources not the intellectual capability to put it into action. It will still be up to the member states to provide the resources. We could and should do this, irrespective of whether we are in or out of the EU.