Farming Minister George Eustice has launched the Farmers For Britain campaign with a claim a UK Government would at least maintain support levels at the current rate, if the UK voted to leave the EU in June.
Farming Minister George Eustice has insisted the Government would maintain – or even increase – the level of support farmers currently receive, if the UK voted to leave the EU.
Mr Eustice made the claim at the launch of the official ‘Farmers for Britain’ campaign in central London on Wednesday at an event attended by supportive farmers and MPs, including former Defra Secretary Owen Paterson and UKIP Agriculture spokesman Stuart Agnew.
“Let us get one thing straight,” Mr Eustice said. “The UK Government will continue to give farmers and the environment as much support – or perhaps even more – as they get now.
"The Prime Minister has made this clear and I agree with him. After all, non-EU countries like Switzerland and Norway actually give more support to their farmers than we do."
This assertion is strongly refuted by the ‘Farmers for In’ campaign, which has argued it is ‘Government policy, set by Labour and endorsed by the coalition in 2011, to abolish direct payments in 2020’.
But Mr Eustice insisted MPs were supportive of moves to maintain support for farmers and would ensure this happened in the event of Brexit.
He dismissed suggestions long-running Treasury antipathy to direct farm payments would make the task impossible, insisting the Treasury would deliver policy determined by MPs, as recent announcements following last week’s budget showed.
Mr Eustice said the Government would be able to maintain the farm support budget, currently bout £3 billion a year, by using some of the £18 billion the UK would get back as a result of leaving the EU.
Pressed on the obvious pressures on UK Government spending, he described the UK CAP budget as ’modest when compared with other spending areas’, such as overseas development, while the NHS routinely overspends by this amount.
He added: "But we could spend our money more effectively if we had control.’
He outlined his broad plans for a UK Agricultural Policy, including retaining an element of area payments, supporting science and technology and Government-backed insurance schemes to mitigate risk.
There would also be an environmental stewardship-type scheme, with an element rewarding farmers for animal welfare-friendly systems, such as free range and enriched environments.
Cross-compliance would be replaced by an accreditation scheme promoting environmentally-friendly farming.
But he added: “A UK agricultural policy will not be dumped on everyone from on high like CAP.”
He revealed he had written to all farming unions and environmental NGOs in the UK to ‘invite their views on what a future farming policy outside of the EU should look like’.
Mr Eustice and his Farmers for Britain allies, who also include Farmers For Action leader David Handley and Michael Seals, chair of the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England, are trying to convince farmers they would be ‘better off if we vote to leave the EU’.
By taking back control from the EU, they say the UK could:
Mr Eustice addressed claims UK made by, among others Prime Minister David Cameron and Defra Secretary Liz Truss, exporters would be disadvantaged by Brexit.
“We will also maintain a free trade agreement. We have an annual trade deficit with the EU in food alone of £10 billion, so they need a free trade deal,” he said.
While the UK would still have to comply with some EU regulation in order to continue trading with the EU, ‘there would be no such thing as EU law’, Mr Eustice said.
Summing up his key motivations for Brexit, he said: 2I believe there is a special value in having the ability to act, to decide and to get things done.
"Where we have control we can bring clarity and consistency. We are more agile. We can act decisively and quickly to deliver change where change is required.
"But where power has been ceded to the EU, we see inertia, inconsistency and indecision."
Former Farming Minister and member of the Farmers for In group Sir Jim Paice, said:
“Farmers for Britain are painting an unbelievably rosy picture of life outside the European Union.
We all know how much more important agriculture is to many other members of the EU and our farmers gain from that. The notion that walking away will give us all the beneficial terms we get now is fanciful.
"It may be that in time we can negotiate continued access, but we will still have to comply with all their regulations and maybe any more they devise.
"The idea that regulations are only because of the EU is absurd. Our lobby groups will still be here and in many cases are stronger domestically and our civil servants are just as inventive as those from Brussels.
"I have little doubt that if we vote to leave the UK the Basic Farm Payment will still be paid for a while, not least because we won’t actually leave overnight. But it won’t last long.
"Those supporting leave say that because of the money saved by not paying the EU, not only would farm payments be protected, but perhaps even more could be paid.
I don’t believe that future governments will indefinitely continue to fund farming subsidies against a raft of other priorities such as the NHS, Education and Security.
"Given that the last three governments have all called for the CAP to be cut or scrapped it is not credible to argue that subsidies will last forever.
“The EU and the CAP are far from perfect but the risk to farming from being outside are immense and a gamble we cannot afford”.
|Dr Mary Abbott||Former editor of Inside Track magazine/ fruit farmer||South West|
|Stuart Agnew MEP||MEP representing the East of England||East|
|Johnnie Arkwright||Hatton Estate owner||West Midlands|
|Colin Barker||Longfield Farm||East|
|Nigel Baxter||Baxter Farming||East Midlands|
|James Boughey||Piddletrenthide Farms||South West|
|Duff Burrell||Ex-chairman National Beef Association||North East|
|Alistair Cargill||Cargill Farms Ltd||East|
|Alan Carter||Woodhill Farm||South West|
|Andrew RT Davies MP||MP for Shipley||West Yorkshire|
|Patrick de Pelet||Lowther Park Farms Limited||South West|
|Charles Dingwall||C & J Dingwall||South East|
|John Dodd||J W & G A Dodd||South West|
|Maurice Durbin||Dairy Farmer, Somerset||South West|
|David Eyles||Retired farmer||South West|
|Charlie Flindt||Farmer and Columnist at Farmers' Weekly||South East|
|Jamie Foster||Agricultural Solicitor||South West|
|Richard Haddock||Brokenbury Quarry||South West|
|David Handley||Chairman - Farmers for Action||South East|
|Matthew Herriott||Agricultural Contractor of The White House Farm||North East|
|Wanda Hill||Quarry Farm||South|
|Mathew House||Mathew House||South West|
|John Howard||Heslaker Farm||North Yorkshire|
|Leslie Kaye||Couchmans Farm||West Midlands|
|Chris Kynaston||Nant Ucha Farm||Wales|
|Elizabeth Lewis||Scientific & Regulatory adviser, Feed Ingredients||Wales|
|Chris Loder||Ryalls Farm||South West|
|John Loftus||Mixed Farmer, Preese Hall||North West|
|Stephen Lomax||Bow Wood Farms LImited||Wales|
|Rupert Lowe||Ravenswell Farmhouse||South West|
|Keith MacMillan||Land Owner||North West|
|John Mason||Mason Farms LLP||South West|
|James Mcilwraith||Solland Stud Farm||South West|
|Alison Monk||Former Economics Lecturer at Harper Adams University||Yorkshire|
|Tim Page||TAC Page & Partners||Wiltshire|
|Robert Pascall||Clock House Farm||South East|
|Malcolm and Judy Pearce||Lady Farm||South West|
|Colin Martin Rayne||J Rayner & Sons Ltd||East|
|Ben Redman||Herd Manager||South East|
|Matt Ridley||Blagdon Hall||North East|
|Andy Saunders||Scotch Coultard||North East|
|Michael Seals||Hall Farm||East Midlands|
|William Henry Slinger||Spring House Farm||North West|
|India Snow||Hill Farm||South West|
|Philip Tong||Ash Tree Farm||East Midlands|
|Gini Trower||Stanstead Bury Farm||East|
|Joe Wheeler||Assistant Herd Manager||West Midlands|
|Tom White||Turville Park Farm||South East|
|Lady Ann and Sir Nicholas Winterton||Whitehall Farm||North West|
|Stephen Withers||Upper Hundalee Farm||Scotland|
|Bill and Eric Wright||Wright's Agriculture Ltd.||East Midlands|