It is difficult to see an exit from the EU as beneficial for UK food and farming, a Yorkshire Agricultural Society (YAS) event was told.
However, it is hard to fully evaluate the impact on farming without details from Government on what Britain may look like outside the EU.
These were some of themes heard at the preview of a report by the Farmer Scientist Network, part of the YAS.
’The implications of ’Brexit’ for UK Agriculture’ was released last Thursday and at the preview, Prof Wyn Grant from the University of Warwick, who led the report, said in a UK outside the EU, Pillar One farm subsidies may be under threat.
“This is a concern considering the farm business income figures we have just had,” he said.
“For many farms those direct payments are the difference between running at a profit or a loss. I think it would be a particular issue for hill farmers.”
Prof Grant said Pillar Two payments were likely to be less vulnerable because some of these were tied into longer contractual arrangements.
The briefing heard one of the perceived advantages of the EU would be less regulatory burden for farmers, but Prof Grant suggested part of this issue was the way EU regulations were implemented at a domestic level.
And the UK’s ability to trade and negotiate with the EU and other countries if it left the union would be of crucial importance to UK agriculture.
“The UK would have to engage in renegotiations,” Prof Grant said.
“We want to be competitive but that would be affected if we did not have the same level of subsidy.”
Bill Cowling, a Yorkshire livestock and arable farmer, former show director of the Great Yorkshire Show and member of the Farmer Scientist Network, said there was ‘fear of the unknown’ in the farming community about a potential UK exit from the EU.
“Talking to farmers what comes across is they are fed up to the back teeth with EU regulation. Some of that is our own, but they are frightened to death that if the CAP stops and there is nothing else to take its place.”
Prime Minister David Cameron this week claimed a draft deal on his demands to reform the UK’s relationship with the EU would deliver the ’substantial change’ he wants to see ahead the EU Referendum.
Mr Cameron will seek agreement with other EU leaders on the deal, which includes a four-year ban on in-work benefits for migrant workers, at an EU summit on February 18 and 19.
If successful, he is expected to hold the referendum on whether Britain should remain in the EU in June.