Farming jury still out on Brexit following mixed results in NFU-commissioned study

An NFU report on the implications of a possible Brexit has painted a mixed picture of the consequenc

An NFU report on the implications of a possible Brexit has painted a mixed picture of the consequences.

A report commissioned by farmers’ leaders into the possible effects of a Brexit has painted a mixed picture.

The study, by agricultural research institute the LEI at Wageningen University, found that UK farm incomes could plummet, or potentially improve, depending on the scenario and the sector. The worst effects of a Brexit are predicted to be felt by livestock farmers.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) asked the institute to consider the impact of a number of possible trade and farm support scenarios that could happen in the event of the country voting to leave the European Union.

The results are due to be presented at 28 NFU member meetings across England in the next fortnight, including one at Trinity Park, Ipswich, tomorrow night.

NFU director general Martin Haworth, said the feedback it had from members was more information was needed in order to fully understand what might happen to UK farming if the UK votes to leave the EU.

“Ultimately, economic models make predictions based on what may happen under a range of assumptions. The modelling work is limited to what can be quantified. For example, it doesn’t consider what the impact would be if the UK government decided to cut the level of regulation faced by our industry. Nor, to take another example, what would happen to the demand for British produce if some food manufacturers decided to relocate in order to remain in the single market,” he explained.

“Some of the scenarios appear to suggest that there could be serious risks to farm income from leaving the EU, while the results of others suggest there could be a more favourable outcome. It comes down to a matter of judgement as to which of the scenarios appears the most likely. This in turn will depend on the policy position adopted by the UK Government. In the past our government has been a strong advocate of open and free trade. It has called for tariff protection across all farm sectors to be reduced and it has called for the abolition of direct support payments made through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

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“The real questions to be asked and considered ahead of the referendum are political rather than economic. What would the UK Government’s position be on international trade and its impact on the consumer price of food? How would it ensure British farmers are treated fairly?”

The NFU Council is due to meet in mid-April to discuss whether the NFU will take a side in the debate.