UK farming 'better off in EU' despite PM's referendum pledge

UNION chiefs have claimed UK farming is ‘better off inside the EU’, despite Prime Minister David Cameron’s pledge to hold a referendum on the country’s role in Europe.

The Prime Minister has said the British people must ‘have their say’ on Europe and pledged an in/out referendum if the Conservatives win the next election

Mr Cameron said ‘disillusionment’ with the EU among the British public was ‘at an all time high’ and it was not right  to ‘simply ask the British people to carry on accepting a European settlement over which they have had little choice’. This would only accelerate calls for the UK to leave, he said.

“That is why I am in favour of a referendum,” Mr Cameron said.

With the prospect of a long debate looming over whether UK farming will be better in or out of Europe, NFU director of policy Martin Haworth said: “In general terms and notwithstanding our frustrations with some EU regulation, I would suggest that UK agriculture would be better off inside the EU.”

He said the UK would jeopardise its export markets to Europe, which in some sectors are ‘incredibly valuable’ if we were outside the EU.

“More than one third of the lamb we produce in the UK is exported to Europe for example. Alternatively, if we negotiated arrangements which allowed us to continue to trade freely we would still have to follow rules which we would play no part in formulating,” he said.

“There could also be a serious risk that we would have to compete against other European farmers who would continue to receive CAP support payments, while UK farmers received none.”

NFU President Peter Kendall said: “Today’s speech is the start of the very long debate about the UK’s relationship with the EU. There is a lot to be reviewed and we have not yet seen the specific areas that government will focus on.

“It is vital that our farmers are treated fairly and equally with their European competitors and so the NFU’s  focus remains on the fight for what is best for British agriculture.”

UK farming is still heavily dependent on CAP subsidies to bolster incomes. In 2011 total income from farming was nearly £5.7 billion but more than half of that, £3.4bn, was money received through the CAP.

The prospect of being free from Brussels regulation is likely to be seen as one of the attractions for UK farmers of leaving the EU.

However, if the UK withdraws from the EU, but wishes to remain within the common market, products would still be subject to the European rules.

Readers' comments (4)

  • Farming is not better in the EU, the CAP money all goes to France and the Eastern countries. WE would save £50 million a day if we left. We need to support British farms not French ones

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  • This is countryman
    Oh dear. We are once again in the area of ‘two fleas arguing over who owns the dog’. If you take careful note, what Cameron says, is that he is going to re-negotiate terms and put those knew terms or out altogether as a choice to the British nation. Everyone - including Cameron – knows that the EU will not accept re-negotiation, therefore there will be no need for a referendum, so there won’t be one. We are not coming out of the EU nor ever will do. Get used to it euro-sceptics.

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  • Concur completely with the last comments

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  • "...if we negotiated arrangements which allowed us to continue to trade freely we would still have to follow rules which we would play no part in formulating,”

    Yes. EVERYTHING we export has to come up to the standards of the receiving nation.

    It works the other way too. It would mean that the UK would not have to take, for example, pork that is not produced to our hygiene and welfare standards. That must be a good thing.

    All those wonderful EU subsidies? It represents some of the 50p in the pound that we get back from Europe.

    Cut out the middleman, save money and still get the subsidy, though not if this Govt has its way.

    Read the UKIP manifesto. It might help you decide.

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