Britain’s farmers are being kept in the dark about the future of agriculture if the country were to opt to leave the European Union, a former select committe chairwoman has warned.
Baroness McIntosh, a former MEP and MP for Thirsk and Malton, said the farming community has still not been presented with a ‘plan B’ on life outside the Common Agricultural Policy by the Government or ‘leave’ campaigners, despite negotiations entering such a late stage.
The former chair of the Environmental Select Committee, fears little has been made of the fact that following Brexit, farmers might be faced with the expense of having to renegotiate every single product sold abroad.
She said: “[Farmers] are not going to get the same level of support and we would have to renegotiate every product, whether it’s lamb or beef and so on.
“There could be different tariffs as there would be a negotiation for each product’s access to the single market.”
She said Norway, which is not a full member state of the EU but is part of the European Economic Area for agricultural trade, had felt disadvantaged because they had no say over the rules that applied to them.
Baroness McIntosh said the ‘Plan B’ for farmers on leaving the CAP, which will invest £20bn into British farming until 2020, needs to be urgently made so that those going to the polls later this year can made an informed decision.
She said: “Our farmers are about the most productive and efficient in the EU and what they have consistently asked is for is a level playing field so that all farmers in 28 countries are working from and singing from the same hymn sheet.
“What farmers are agitating for is if they are leaving the EU, what is the Plan B?”
Mr Cameron will head to Brussels this week as he tries to secure a final deal on EU reform before putting a referendum to the country’s voters on whether we should remain as members.
The Prime Minister will meet leaders from across the 28-strong bloc at a European Council summit to thrash out a deal based on proposals put forward earlier this month.
The talks are expected to run into the weekend but, if the package is approved, it will pave the way for a swift referendum.
Mr Cameron is believed to be keen to hold a vote on June 23.
A Cabinet meeting is pencilled in for Tuesday February 23 when the premier will ask senior colleagues to agree the Government position on the reform plans as well as a date for the referendum.
With agriculture quietly permeating every one of the four requests Mr Cameron has put to the European Council, the National Union of Farmers’ representative in Brussels said farmering welfare must be on the agenda as the Prime Minister begins crunch talks with European neighbours on the EU referendum this week.
The NFU’s Brussels office director Adam Bedford said: it is now up to those ‘advocating withdrawal’ to make a compelling case of how agriculture would fare outside the EU.