An anti-Brexit farmers’ group, Farmers for In, has been launched, which argues that access to the EU’s market and its agricultural subsidies is vital to the health of UK agriculture.
Members include the chief executive of Paine and Partners’ portfolio company Spearhead International, Tom Green. The group launched itself in a letter to The Times, which said it was likely a UK outside the EU would drastically cut support for farmers and “is a risk we cannot afford to take”.
UK Farming minister George Eustice is in favour of a British exit from the EU, saying that a UK support package could be arranged while freeing farmers from EU regulatory burdens.
Former Minister for Agriculture and Food Jim Paice disagreed: “Farmers have had the certainty of the CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] behind them and whilst it has many faults, it is helping them through the current crisis of falling prices.” He added: “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. […] 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.”
Farm subsidies are likely to be 38 percent of the EU budget for 2014-2020, which works out at about 50 billion euros a year. Investors take mixed views on subsidies, sometimes seeing them as a risk or a sign of underlying weakness, but EU producers can rely heavily on subsidies to keep incomes up and prices competitive.
The leader of the campaign, former National Farmers Union president Sir Peter Kendall, added: “[…] 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. Being part of the world’s biggest trading block is crucial to the future of our farming and food industry.”
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