Politicians urged to lay out a clear plan for farming in Brexit debate

Ben Underwood

Ben Underwood - Credit: Archant

The lack of a clear idea of what politicians plan to do for farming after Britain decides whether to remain in or leave the European Union (EU) is causing concern and uncertainty in the sector, a report has warned.

CLA president Ross Murray.

CLA president Ross Murray. - Credit: Archant

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which represents 33,000 landowners, farmers and rural businesses across England and Wales, has published a report demanding that decision makers give immediate commitments to farmers and rural businesses whether there is a Brexit or a vote to stay in the EU.

The document, ‘Leave or Remain: The decisions politicians must make to support the rural economy’, comes in the wake of recent statements from Ministers that there is no ‘Plan B’ for farming in the event the UK public votes to leave.

While stopping short of taking sides in the Brexit debate, it points out that in 2014, UK farmers received 54% of their incomes via direct support farm subsidy payments from the EU, and argues that few countries in the developed world have no funded suppport system in place.

A CLA audit found that most red tape which farmers are subjected to under EU regulations would probably be adopted into UK law if we leave the EU and any change would be incremental over the long term. This and the effect on trade and the availability of seasonal farm workers also need to be addressed, the report says.

CLA president Ross Murray warned that any future decision to significantly reduce direct economic support to the rural economy could lead to a reduction in private sector investment, lower tax revenues and loss of jobs.

“The report also stresses the vital role of current EU programmes in making it possible for farmers, land managers and rural businesses to undertake activities that deliver environmental goods and outcomes that we all benefit from. These programmes or equivalent measures, which would benefit from reforms that the CLA has consistently advocated, must continue whether the UK is inside or outside the EU,” he said.

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CLA East regional director Ben Underwood said the impact of any reduction in funding for the rural economy, whichever way the vote goes on June 23, should not be underestimated.

“To campaign or govern without giving answers on how the rural economy will be sustained in the future, whether we leave or remain, undermines confidence and gives concern as to the future security of the rural economy,” he said.

“We have published this report in order to push Ministers to confirm whether they are prepared for all eventualities: if the UK votes to leave, the uncertainties for farming and other rural businesses are immediate and need to be addressed swiftly. If we vote to remain, there are still critical commitments that Ministers will need to make before the next Common Agricultural Policy budget is agreed in 2020.”

He added: “We’re not telling our members how to vote, but we make it very clear that we will be fighting to defend their interests whatever the outcome.

“Whether it is Plan A or Plan B, the CLA will be playing a leading role in helping to secure the future of UK agriculture and the rural economy.”