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.