FARMING LEADERS are anxious that the full facts around Britain’s membership of the European Union are explored before an in-out referendum promised in the Queen’s Speech this week.
Any exit from the EU would mean British farmers could no longer rely on the lifeblood payments provided by the nation’s membership and would leave Westminster politicians with a decision to make on how it could financially support an industry which provides over 3.5 million jobs and is worth a net £255billion to the economy.
Meurig Raymond, president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said: “We know that there are strong views on both sides and the NFU is keen to play its part in the debate on the facts around EU membership and agriculture.
“We will need more clarity on what life inside and outside the EU will mean for British farmers. Following that, the NFU will be producing detailed analysis of the pros and cons of EU membership, taking into account the terms of the renegotiation process.”
A cautious note was also sounded by the president of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), Henry Robinson.
“With a referendum on membership of the EU now confirmed to take place before the end of 2017, it is vital that the Government demonstrates that all eventualities are being fully planned for,” Mr Robinson said.
“This must include commitments to maintain investment, at the levels currently made by the EU, in agriculture and rural economic development.
“The UK’s membership of the EU impacts directly on hundreds of thousands of rural businesses and millions of jobs and Ministers have a vital role to play in reducing uncertainty that could hamper investment up to and beyond the referendum.”
The Queen’s Speech on Wednesday saw Prime Minister David Cameron’s the new majority Conservative government set out its legislative plans for the year ahead in Parliament.
Some of the Tories other proposals were welcomed by the farming community.
Mr Raymond said: “We welcome stability in the taxation system with the announcement that there will be no increases in income tax or national insurance for the next five years. Combined with the five year tax averaging announcement in the last budget, this will help many farmers to manage their cashflow.
“We are pleased with the focus on job creation and apprenticeships in the Queen’s Speech. The NFU is pleased to be involved in the government’s Apprenticeship Trailblazers initiative to reform apprenticeship standards across agriculture - the number of people starting apprenticeships in agriculture has risen 30 per cent over the past five years.”
Mr Robinson added: “We welcome the programme laid out by the Government and will work with Ministers across Whitehall to ensure that the legislation announced delivers investment, growth and jobs.
“Our focus will be on pressing Ministers to ensure new legislation such as proposed laws on enterprise, housing and planning and taxation work for rural businesses in England and Wales.”