UK farmers warn against leaving Europe with the launch of ‘Farmers for In’

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In a letter in The Times today, 42 leading figures from the UK farming industry have called for Britain to remain a member of the European Union.

Launching ‘Farmers for In’ alongside a host of farmers from around the UK, the signatories argue that leaving the European Union is a “risk we cannot afford to take.”

Led by former NFU President, Sir Peter Kendall, the letter has been signed by prominent members of the farming community, including: Lord Plumb DL, former President of the NFU and former President of the European Parliament; Rt. Hon. Sir Jim Paice, former Minister for Agriculture and Food; George Lyon, former President of the NFU Scotland; and Jilly Greed, co-founder of Ladies in Beef.

The letter argues: “The European Single Market accounts for 73% of Britain’s agri-food exports and gives us access to a market more than twice the size of the USA. Outside the EU we could keep all or some of this market, but we would have to abide by EU regulations without a say in their formation and pay into the EU budget without receiving EU payments in return. We’d pay, but have no say.”

Further details can be seen at
Sir Peter Kendall, former President, NFU, said: “Being part of the world’s biggest trading block is crucial to the future of our farming and food industry. Not only does it give us direct access to 500 million of the richest consumers in the world but more EU free trade agreements with more than 50 countries mean we can sell into burgeoning markets across the globe.

“Environmental threats cross borders, so do the animal and plant diseases which endanger food supplies, and market volatility isn’t just a problem for British farmers. It is pointless trying to tackle these challenges unilaterally, at a country level; only by working together with other member states - with common standards and thresholds - will we give farming the security it needs in today’s uncertain landscape. I won’t pretend the EU is perfect but I’m convinced that as farmers we’re stronger, safer and better off inside.”

George Lyon, former President, NFU Scotland, former MEP, former Chief Whip and Deputy Finance Minister, Scottish Government, said: “As a seventh generation farmer, I know how much stronger and better off the British farming industry is as a result of our membership of the EU. The CAP is far from perfect, but at least it gives us a level playing field on farm support, safety nets at times of crisis, access to markets and the same rules on SPS and marketing. It ensures UK farmers are not disadvantaged against the vast number of heavily supported and protected agriculture sectors around the world. It is my firm opinion that we must not put all of this and more at risk by walking away from Europe.”

Rt. Hon. Sir Jim Paice, Farmer, former Minister for Agriculture and Food, said: “Farmers have had the certainty of the CAP behind them and whilst it has many faults it is helping them through the current crisis of falling prices. Inside the EU we gain from the strength of farmers elsewhere; outside we would be of little importance in a country where very few people and even fewer politicians have links with farming.

“To pretend as some do that we would get better treatment is cloud cuckoo land. Whilst we might be able to abolish some EU regulations it doesn’t mean they would not be replaced by UK ones to address the same issues. The pressure groups and the ‘something must be done brigade’ would still be here and any government will bow to them. Farmers need the EU not just for support but for free access to our main export market; leaving Europe would put it all at risk.”

Jilly Greed, co-founder, Ladies in Beef, said: “There have been claims from some Brexit MPs that UK food prices could fall by up to 17% if the Common Agricultural Policy was scrapped. Spending on food as a share of total income has already fallen substantially through aggressive discounting between supermarkets.

“An unsupported farming industry would be a disaster for consumers, producers, food processors and manufacturers alike, with already squeezed farm gate prices plummeting in the struggle to compete with increased volumes of cheap imported food, produced to lower standards of product safety and animal welfare. This will have a huge long term impact on our glorious landscape, tourism and hospitality sectors as the farming industry becomes utterly unsustainable.”