Written by: Keith Tully
Published: 16th June 2016
More than 25 per cent of British farmers remain undecided about whether or not the UK leaving the European Union would be good for their businesses and for the country’s agricultural industry as a whole.
Arable farmers from around the country have gathered in Cambridgeshire this week to attend an industry event called Cereals and many are apparently still uncertain of how to cast their vote at the upcoming referendum on the UK’s EU membership.
The latest figures are based on a survey of British agricultural producers by the National Farm Research Unit, with the same study finding that only 38 per cent of UK farmers are convinced that remaining as part of the EU would be best for their industry.
In excess of 2,300 farmers were polled by researchers about their views on Europe, with 38 per cent apparently indicating that they feel frustrated by established dynamics between the UK and the EU.
On the whole, operators of larger farms were more likely to be in favour of Britain remaining as part of the EU, while those in charge of smaller farming businesses were generally more inclined to feel the UK ought to leave the union.
David Campbell Bannerman, a Conservative member of the European parliament, told attendees at the recent event in Cambridgeshire that new deals would be agreed to ensure that British farmers could continue trading with Europe in the event of the UK leaving the EU.
But the president of the National Farmers Union Meurig Raymond was considerably less optimistic about the prospects for farmers and their businesses if the British public voted in favour of Brexit.
He said that hopes of a clean break from the union were unrealistic and suggested that trading with Europe would become significantly more difficult for farmers nationwide if the UK were to leave the EU.
“We can’t negotiate with other countries,” Raymond said. “We would be thrown to a free market and would be so uncompetitive it would destroy UK farming.”
Former Defra minister Jim Paice urged British farmers not to be persuaded by claims of the potential positive benefits of a British exit from the EU and to consider the prospective ramifications carefully and with a view to the longer term.
“There’s a lot wrong with Europe, but we won’t put it right from the outside,” he said. “We need to be part of the debate.”