UK Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed that a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union will take place on June 23.
The announcement followed a long night of negotiation in Brussels where Mr Cameron reached an agreement on a new ‘special status’ for the UK. If approved at the referendum in June, the UK will be exempt from the idea of ‘ever closer union’ and will also be able to apply an ‘emergency break’ on access to migrant benefits.
Also, European legislation could be blocked by the UK parliament if it forms alliances with other European parliaments. The Electoral Commission will now identify two official groups to lead the campaign on both sides of the debate – some of the groups campaigning are Vote Leave and Britain Stronger in Europe, as well as Grassroots Out and Business for a New Europe.
NFU puts ‘Brexit’ under the spotlight
With the referendum announced, the UK farming sector will waste no time in discussing the matter.
As part of the National Farmers Union conference in Birmingham earlier this week, delegates debated the issue with two high profile speakers.
Speaking for the ‘Yes’ campaign – calling for the UK to remain within the European Union – was George Lyon, former Member of the European Parliament and former President of the National Farmers’ Union of Scotland. Arguing for the UK to leave was Daniel Hannan, Conservative MEP for the South East of England.
Mr Hannan has been an MEP since 1999 and sits with the European Conservative and Reformist Group. 1300 farmers attended the two-day conference. Also in attendance at the conference was Defra Secretary of State, Liz Truss MP, who has already voiced her intention for the UK to remain in the EU. Her deputy, farming minister George Eustice MP, called for the UK to leave.
UK farming unions call for urgent EU action
More must be done to address cash-flow pressures on British farmers, according to the presidents of the four UK farming unions.
Speaking after a series of meetings in Brussels last week, leaders of the NFU, NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru and the Ulster Farmers Union called on the European institutions – along with the UK government – to take steps to help farmers withstand current market volatility. Specifically, the unions called for the European Investment Bank to speed up its work refinancing farm borrowings; for the dairy intervention price to be reviewed and for tariffs on fertiliser imports to be removed, boosting competition in the European fertiliser sector.
NFU President Meurig Raymond said: “The farming sector in the UK is facing a severe cash flow difficulty at the moment, not least due to the unacceptable delays in issuing Basic Payment Scheme payments.
“Farm businesses are really struggling financially and it’s vital the EU acts now to do all it can to alleviate the problems farmers are facing in the wake of the Russian ban – caused through no fault of their own.”
The call to action came after Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan asked member states to put forward proposals on potential solutions before next month’s Agriculture Council.