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EU Referendum: Government must ensure UK farmers remain competitive in Europe

With the outcome of Thursday still impossible to predict, NFU president Meurig Raymond says the UK Government has a big role to play in fighting for farmers, whichever way the British public votes.

Meurig Raymond
Meurig Raymond

Whether we are in or out come Friday morning, the UK Government must do all it can to ensure UK farmers remain competitive in Europe, NFU president Meurig Raymond has told the union’s ruling body.

 

If the vote is to remain, the Government must show stronger leadership in Europe. If it is to leave, it must ensure farmers are not disadvantaged against their EU counterparts, Mr Raymond told the NFU council in Warwickshire on Tuesday.

 

The council will hold a special meeting in London next Friday, July 1 to discuss the repercussions, of the vote, however it goes, for the NFU, farming and for the industry’s relationships across Europe.

 

“We can deliver some very strong messages whether we are in or whether we are out,” Mr Raymond said.

 

Some big decisions and announcements affecting farming are due in the next few weeks at EU level and in the UK, as the period of pre-Referendum ‘purdah’ is lifted.

 

These include a decision on badger cull roll out in England, with about eight areas understood to be awaiting an answer, a decision on the NFU’s neonicotinoid emergency use application and the publication of the Government’s long-term food and environment plans.

 

At EU level, the glyphosate saga will be resolved by the end of June, while the NFU is also expecting announcements on CAP simplification, while further down the road, if we remain in the EU, discussions on the next reform will begin.

 

 

Message to Government

 

Mr Raymond said: “There will be a big role for ourselves after the referendum vote on Thursday.

 

“We don’t know whether history will be made. But my message to the Government would be, if we stay in then they have got to be very much part of that group and show some leadership in Europe rather than sniping from the sidelines, as they have in the last few years.

 

“I believe the Prime Minister should build strong relationships to get some change and get some reform to ensure we have science-led decision-making rather than the emotion we have seen in the last couple of years.

 

“If we are out the NFU will play a big part in trying to create a profitable and prosperous UK farming sector.

 

“Our self-sufficiency in food has dropped to 62 per cent and we know from our consumer survey British consumers want to buy more British food.

 

“The Government will need to recognise the importance of food and farming if we come out of Europe and ensure UK farmer is not disadvantaged to make sure our self-sufficiency does not fall any further.

 

“The important message to Government if we come out Europe is they must be a strong advocate of UK food and farming.”

 

NFU position

 

In April, the NFU council overwhelmingly backed remaining in the EU, agreeing to adopt a statement declaring ’on the balance of existing evidence available to us at present, the interests of farmers are best served by our continuing membership of the European Union’.

 

Mr Raymond said the union was legally required to come up with a clear position on the Brexit debate in order to provide further information to members.

 

He said: "The big, big issue was market access. Nobody knows what the conditions of trade would be to the EU market of 500 million people."

 

NFU council views

NFU council views

Stuart Roberts, Hertfordshire - Remain

 

"I have been a firm Remain supporter throughout and that hasn’t changed.

 

"The main reason I am for Remain is predominantly trade and access to the EU market.

 

"But the second reason is the numbers from the other side do not add up in any way shape or form, for example, the £350 million-a-week they say we would be saving, which has been spent at least three times over anyway.

 

"Whatever the result, it gives us an opportunity to reassess our relationship with the EU - let’s try and use that.

 

"If we remain let's get better at being European and influencing Europe in a way we have not been very good at in the past."

 

Robin Milton, Devon - Leave

 

"I have mixed views. The question I would ask is, if we were outside, would we want to go in at the moment? I am not sure we would.

 

"I think opinion is split all the way through the farming industry – people have mixed opinions.

 

"For those of us that have been there a long time, there is stability in staying in - the CAP money would take me through to retirement. It could be quite comfortable.

 

"But an awful lot of the younger people are turning to me and saying, unless there are some changes where are the opportunities for them?

 

"Change might lead to some different ways of thinking and some new opportunities.

 

"Even if we stay in, hopefully it will provoke some changes."

 

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