Boris Johnson failed to give clear answers on the future of British farming outside the EU in an interview with BBC Countryfile.
He refused to answer when pressed on whether he could guarantee the same level of subsidies for UK farmers outside the EU and also misleadingly claimed the UK could leave the EU’s single market but still keep full access to it.
Alan Davies, FUW managing director, said:
“This is typical bluff and bluster from Boris, who has failed to answer key questions that are vital to the British farming industry.
“He was unable to guarantee that farmers would receive the same support as their key competitors in the European Union.
“And he could not explain how farmers could sell tariff-free into the EU if we left the single market.
“It’s clear that British farming is stronger, safer and better off in Europe.”
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Transcript of Boris Johnson on BBC Countryfile, 29th May 2016
Presenter: As we've heard, one of the key issues for farmers is that currently, under the Common Agricultural Policy, they receive nearly £3 billion from the EU in subsidies and access to vital trade. And like many, Welsh hill farmer John Davies is nervous about giving that up, so he's voting to stay.
John Davies: Being in the EU means being able to sell my lamb, being able to sell my beef without any barriers to 500 million people. And Common Agricultural Policy and support around that, and I'm not convinced we'd have that if we left.
Presenter: So how does Boris Johnson answer those concerns? If we vote to leave, will we remain, or not, a member of the single market?
Boris Johnson: Well, we would have access to the single market, but we wouldn't remain part of the whole empire of EU law making. That's a crucial point to understand. So that means that the UK, UK agriculture, everything, would no longer come under the jurisdiction of the commission and the bubble of the European Court of Justice.
Presenter: So, if I'm a sheep farmer or a beef farmer, you know, some of those export very high percentages to the EU...
Boris Johnson: Yes...
Presenter:...the moment I hear you saying we're going to get out of the single market, I'm alarmed.
Boris Johnson: Well, no, you shouldn't be. The crucial thing to understand from the point of view of agriculture is that provided we'd complied, provided, you know, the goods were... good to eat, they were fit and proper and healthy and all the rest of it, there'd be no difficulty at all selling in to the rest of the EU, you just wouldn't have the same burden of regulation. So, if you think about it, for 94% of UK businesses don't actually export. Most of them are within the domestic market, but 100% have to comply with EU regulations.
Presenter: But if I'm a sheep farmer here, I know I can sell into the rest of Europe, just like I could sell to the farm, to the town next door...
Boris Johnson: Yes...
Presenter: …and that is something you cannot guarantee if we get out of the single market.
Boris Johnson: Well, yes, we can, because...
Presenter: Only if you obey all their regulations that they want to bring with it.
Boris Johnson: Yeah, obviously, but if you want to export any kind of product to a country where they have certain rules, you're obviously going to want to make sure that that product is acceptable to that market. What some people might say is, "Well, what if they decide "that they want to put tariffs up?" And that is not going to happen, in my view. Obviously, you know...
Presenter: But it's your view, you can't guarantee it. You've metaphorically stuck up two fingers to the rest of Europe.
Boris Johnson: No...
Presenter: What makes you think they're going to play nice with us?
Boris Johnson: Not two fingers, not two fingers. We love the rest of Europe.
Presenter: Funny way of showing it, voting to leave.
Boris Johnson: No. Well, we're not leaving Europe, we're leaving the EU system. And what we're saying is, they send us about £18 billion worth of food, we pay about £18 billion to them for their food, and we sell about £7 billion worth to the continental Europe. So, from their point of view, what's not to like? It's a great deal.
Presenter: Can you guarantee that farmers would get the same level of subsidy after we'd left the EU as they do now?
Boris Johnson: Well, I can make that guarantee, but people will say, well, I'm just a backbench Tory MP. All I can say is, I think any government would be mad not to make such a guarantee. It's an economic no-brainer. It's much more important to get a guarantee and get commitments from UK government, that you can hold to account, that you can kick out of office and you can elect. And I'm saying that our point of view on the Leave camp is we want to fund and support agriculture. We've said that from day one of this campaign. But furthermore, the extra incentive for our farmers to go for Leave is getting rid of that burden. It's the form filling, it's being told that you've got to go back and do something again or you won't qualify. It's being told that if your sheep's got two teeth, it's got to be butchered in a certain way, or that, you know, you can't bury your own sheep on your own farm.
Presenter: So if we vote Leave, the claim is we can look after our own affairs. But what about migration? Our rural economy relies heavily on workers from other EU countries, and for some, this dependable and flexible workforce is vital to their business. That's certainly true for Yorkshire farmer Guy Poskitt, and that's why he's voting to stay. He employs 300 staff, 70% of whom are migrant workers.
Guy Poskitt: We rely very, very heavily on migrant labour. What that's brought to our business is we've been able to attract customers because we've then had a workforce that would meet the demands of the consumer. If we come out, I don't get the access to labour, I've had it, because, sadly, I cannot find enough local labour to meet the needs of my business.
Presenter: A number of farms in the UK are dependent on migrant labour, a lot of which comes from the EU.
Boris Johnson: Yeah. Well, obviously, people who exist, who are here already under the Vienna treaty, they would have a right to be here and to work. That wouldn't change. All we're saying is in taking back control of immigration, we are saying to people, if you want to come and work here and contribute to the agricultural sector, fantastic. But you've got to have a job offer, there's got to be some sense in which we know that you're not just arriving without any qualifications or any job.
Presenter: Basically, workers can come here if there is a job for them. There could continue to be an increasing number of people from the rest of the continent of Europe in Britain, even if we leave. Because there's plenty of demand for the labour.
Boris Johnson: Well...
Presenter: And is that OK?
Boris Johnson: I think it would be up to the government of the day, and if the rural industry was saying, Look, come on, we're desperate, we can't get the crops out of the field, then of course that's an argument that people will listen to. But the great thing is, that will have gone through a democratic process of consent from the British people.
Presenter: So we've heard from both sides on issues that will impact the future of the British countryside. But that's not the end of the debate. Next week, we'll look at two more issues of huge importance that stir up extremely strong emotions. So, what do the Prime Minister and Boris Johnson think about the future of our fisheries and environment?