The CLA has published a new report outlining the areas it believes Ministers need to plan for to ensure farmers and the wider rural economy are not disadvantaged by a vote to leave the EU.
The Country Land and Business Association has called on Ministers to plan properly for Brexit to ensure rural jobs and investment are not put risk by a vote to leave the UK.
The association has published a new report today calling on Ministers to be ready, in the event of Brexit, to give immediate commitments to farmers and rural business on the key issues vital to the continued health of the rural economy.
The new report reflects concern within the farming community at statements from Ministers that there is no ‘Plan B’ for farming in development for the event the UK votes to leave.
CLA President Ross Murray said: “Whatever your views on the future of the UK’s relationship with the EU, it is clear that the rural economy has been shaped by agricultural and environmental policies drawn up at EU level since we joined.
“Through the single market, Europe is an important market for our products, the EU manages vital direct land management payments to farmers, and workers from the EU are critical to our agricultural labour force.
“For more than 40 years the EU has provided the regulatory framework that governs the environment, trading relationships and the way businesses operate, and is the basis of significant investment decisions.
“If the UK votes to leave, there are immediate commitments that will need to be made by Government to ensure the continued health of farming and the wider rural economy.
“The Government may not wish to reveal its plans before polling day, but it is critical to know that the right plans are being formed. Failure to plan for Brexit will put rural jobs and investment in the rural economy at serious risk and we cannot leave plans that are this important to chance.”
Challenged in an interview this week on whether the Government’s refusal to come up with a ‘Plan B’ was a policy intended to spread a ‘fear of the unknown’ among farmers, Defra Secretary Liz Truss said leaving the EU would inevitably create uncertainty.
Mrs Truss said any Plan B the Government presented at this stage would largely amount to ‘speculation’, partly because the new arrangements would have to be re-negotiated with the remaining member states.
“There is going to be uncertainty when you have to negotiate with 27 other countries. That is why it is a leap in the dark,” she said.
She said she preferred to focus on the positive aspects of remaining part of the EU, led by access to the single market.
Farming Minister George Eustice, who is campaigning to leave the EU, has come up his outline for a Plan B for farm support post-Brexit, based on a £2 billion farm support package.
The CLA report does not advocate a position on whether the UK should leave or remain in the EU, but sets out the issues Ministers need to give clarity on and the timeframes in which decisions must be made, whatever the outcome of the EU Referendum.
Trade – securing access to EU markets for UK agricultural products.
Ross Murray said: “If the UK votes to leave, Ministers must start negotiations immediately to secure tariff free access to the EU for UK agricultural and other products. This is vital trade for sustaining our rural economy.”
Direct payments – allocating a national budget which ensures the payments that enable land managers to care for the environment.
Ross Murray said: “Farmers have budgeted for their businesses to receive land management payments through to the end of 2020. If the UK votes to leave, Ministers will need to confirm they will develop a ‘UK Agricultural Policy’ that ensures the necessary investment in farming and land management continues outside the Common Agricultural Policy, up to 2020 and beyond.
“Currently almost £4bn a year is invested via the EU into supporting sustainable agriculture, environmental management and the wider rural economy.
"New research in the CLA report shows that the economic multiplier benefit for the UK economy is £10billion, and that it sustains over 370,000 jobs – equivalent to around 10 percent of the total rural workforce.
"That investment must continue whether we are in or out of the EU.”
Labour – a mechanism for farmers and other rural businesses to continue to access the workforce they need.
Ross Murray said: “Workers from the EU play a vital role in the rural economy. If the UK votes to leave, there must be a plan in place that gives agriculture in particular access to the labour it needs.”