FARMING leaders have broken their silence on the Brexit debate to try and persuade the agricultural community that an EU exit would prove to be a “nightmare”.
‘Farmers For In’ say there is nothing to back up “hopelessly divided” Leave campaigners’ claims that farmers would retain free access to the European single market nor that it would spur a regulatory “bonfire”.
Led by former NFU president Sir Peter Kendall, the group claims leaving the EU would see direct support payments end, yet Michael Seals, farming spokesman of the Vote Leave group urged farmers not to be taken in by such “fear arguments”.
Industry names from Yorkshire have signed an open letter pleading with farmers to vote to stay in the EU by Sir Peter’s group.
Their letter highlights how the European market accounts for 73 per cent of the UK’s agri-food exports, adding: “Outside the EU we could keep all or some of this market, but we would have to abide by EU regulations without a say in their formation and pay into the EU budget without receiving EU payments in return.
“The regulatory bonfire we’ve been promised by the Leave campaigns just wouldn’t happen.”
The group believes support payments would disappear, saying it is government policy to abolish direct payments in 2020. Its letter ends: “Leaving the EU is a risk we cannot afford to take. It would mean reducing our access to our most important market, little or no reduction in regulation, no influence on future rules, the speedy abolition of direct support and an uncertain future for UK agriculture. A nightmare scenario, and one we must resist.”
Signatory and East Yorkshire vegetable grower Guy Poskitt said: “Direct payments are important to allow us to compete against other subsidised nations. If we come out, as soon as we have a government that is under pressure it will be an easy target.”
Sir Peter added: “I won’t pretend the EU is perfect but I’m convinced that as farmers we’re stronger, safer and better off inside.”
Farming Minister George Eustice who wants to a Brexit, reacted saying an exit would allow Defra to “design and implement policies that really help British farming”.
Mr Eustice added: “Without a shadow of a doubt, British farmers would continue to receive the financial support that they do now because we will stop sending £350m a week to the EU.”