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 www.strongerin.co.uk/farmers_for_in.
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.”
Notes to editors
For interview requests please contact Tom.Harverson@StrongerIn.co.uk
How being in Europe supports British farming
- The EU will invest almost £22 billion in CAP funding in the UK between 2014 and 2020
- CAP rural development funding since 2007 has helped to provide vocational training for over 100,000 people and access to improved rural services for millions, and brought over 10 million hectares into agri-environment schemes to enhance biodiversity, protect water and improve soil quality
- In an October 2015 report, the specialist independent analysts Agra Europe found that only the top 10% of UK farmers could cope if the UK left the EU. The report stated: “The industry is currently dependent on EU subsidies for survival in its present form. The majority of farmers in the country would not be viable without these subsidies.”
Increased trade supports jobs
- With the UK in the EU, its farmers enjoy unrestricted access to the single market of 500 million customers. UK food and agricultural exports to the EU are worth around £11.4 billion a year. The EU takes 60% of UK food and agricultural exports.
- Analysis by the independent Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) shows that over 76,000 jobs in British agriculture are linked to trade with the EU
Protecting British goods
- 64 British products are protected under EU quality schemes on product names. Products recognised under the schemes enjoy legal protection throughout the EU against imitation or name misuse, giving consumers confidence and enabling producers to charge more for a quality product.
- The British products protected under the schemes so far include the Cornish pasty, West County Farmhouse Cheddar, Cornish Clotted Cheese, Scottish farmed and wild salmon, Welsh lamb, Jersey royal potatoes and the Melton Mowbray pork pie.
Leaving could put this at risk
- Some leave campaigners support the UK moving to trade under WTO terms, which would mean the EU would apply new tariffs on UK-EU trade. Tariffs could be as high as 42% for dairy products.
- ‘Leave’ campaigners cannot guarantee that funding for UK farming would continue.
- ‘Leave’ campaigners cannot say what ‘out’ looks like and would put our access to the EU’s free trade single market at risk, which would hit trade, jobs and low prices.
Full text of the letter:
Leaving the EU is too great a risk for UK farmers.
Those campaigning for Britain to leave put forward a case that outside the EU, UK farmers would retain free access to the European market at the same time as ditching regulations, continuing to receive support payments and benefiting from free movement to plug the shortage of workers for seasonal jobs.
This might sound like an attractive prospect, until you realise that the Leave campaigns have nothing to back up their claims.
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.
The Leave campaigns talk about trying to negotiate a free trade deal similar to the Swiss model. But that would not cover all products and would not give the same unrestricted access as provided by the Single Market. Where we did get duty-free access we would still be required to meet EU standards and regulations.
In other words, the regulatory bonfire we’ve been promised by the Leave campaigns just wouldn’t happen. In any case, some of the worst regulations, as well as the ‘gold-plating’ of EU directives, happen in the UK, not Brussels.
On direct payments, Leave campaigners have said it is inconceivable any UK government would drastically cut support. But it is government policy, set by Labour and endorsed by the Coalition in 2011, to abolish direct payments in 2020.
What sort of new national farm policy would we end up with outside the EU? The leave camp is hopelessly divided; some want a more protectionist approach whilst others envisage removing all protection and importing food from wherever it is cheapest.
Leaving the EU is a risk we cannot afford to take. It would mean reducing our access to our most important market, little or no reduction in regulation, no influence on future rules, the speedy abolition of direct support and an uncertain future for UK agriculture.
A nightmare scenario, and one we must resist.
· Sir Peter Kendall, former President, NFU
· Lord Plumb DL, former President, NFU, former President, European Parliament
· John Shropshire OBE, Chairman, G’s Fresh, European farmer and grower
· Rt. Hon. Sir Jim Paice, Farmer, former Minister for Agriculture and Food
· Glyn Roberts, President, Farmers’ Union of Wales
· Nigel Miller, former President, NFU Scotland, Farmer, Scottish Borders
· George Lyon, former President, NFU Scotland, former MEP, former Chief Whip and Deputy Finance Minister, Scottish Government
· Jilly Greed, co-founder, Ladies in Beef
· Adam Quinney, former Vice President, NFU, Beef and Sheep farmer, Warwickshire
· Sir Ian Grant, former President, NFU Scotland, former Chairman, The Crown Estate, former Deputy Chairman, NFU Mutual
· Rosey Dunn, North Carlton Farm, Chair, NFU North East Regional Board
· Di Wastenage, South West Dairy Farmer and Farmers Weekly Farmer of the Year 2015
· Harry Cotterell OBE, former President, Country Land and Business Association and farmer
· Caroline Knox, NFU County Chair, Isle of Wight
· Peter Chapman, former Vice President, NFU Scotland, former Councillor, Aberdeenshire
· Ross Goatham, NFU Chairman, Swale, Owner, AC Goatham and Son, Kent
· Simon Bainbridge, Owner, Bainbridge Farms, Northumberland
· Guy Poskitt, NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board Chair, Yorkshire farmer, Farmers Weekly Farmer of Year 2012
· Andrew Blenkiron, NFU Chairman, East Cambs and West Suffolk, Estate Manager, East Anglia
· David Richardson OBE, Norfolk farmer, Columnist, Farmers Weekly
· Adrian Ivory, Farmers Weekly Young Farmer and Farmer of the Year 2008
· Greg Bliss, former Chairman, Tenant Farmers Association, Cambridgeshire farmer
· Matthew Naylor, Managing Director, Naylor Flowers Ltd.
· David Christensen, Oxfordshire dairy farmer and member of the Board of Representatives, Arla Foods
· James Hook, Managing Director, P.D. Hook Group, Oxfordshire
· Aled Griffiths, J A & O Griffiths & Sons, Shropshire
· Ian Pigott, Chairman, Farming and Countryside Education (FACE), Hertfordshire arable farmer
· Duncan Worth, CEO, AH Worth & Company Ltd, Chairman, QV Foods Ltd.
· Tom Green, Chief Executive, Spearhead International Ltd.
· Michael Sly, Chairman, English Mustard Growers Ltd.
· Sarah Dawson, former Chairman, NFU National Horticulture & Potato Board, Lincolnshire Vegetable Grower
· Ed Salt, Managing Director, Delamere Dairy, Cheshire
· Charlie Fillingham, Managing Director, Strutt & Parker Farms Ltd
· Stuart Roberts, former Chair, AHDB Beef and Lamb, Farmer, Hertfordshire
· Gwyn Jones, Chairman, European Platform for Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture
· Carol Ford, Commercial Director, AC Goatham & Son
· Stephen James, President, NFU Cymru (SIGNED IN A PERSONAL CAPACITY)
· Minette Batters, Wiltshire farmer (SIGNED IN A PERSONAL CAPACITY)
· Mary Quicke MBE, Managing Director, Quickes Traditional Ltd, Devon (SIGNED IN A PERSONAL CAPACITY)
· Richard Butler, R.J. Butler and Son, Wiltshire (SIGNED IN A PERSONAL CAPACITY)
· Richard Lister, Arable and pig farmer, Yorkshire (SIGNED IN A PERSONAL CAPACITY)
· Richard Beldam, Arable farmer, Gloucestershire (SIGNED IN A PERSONAL CAPACITY)