The absence of a ‘plan B’ for farm subsidies is “irresponsible”, and the Government must clearly explain what Britain’s agricultural policy would be in the event of a UK exit from the European Union, farm union chiefs said.
Minette Batters, deputy president of the NFU, said the EU referendum is “probably the most significant challenge we will face in our farming lifetimes”, when she spoke to farmers at the union’s Northern Beef and Lamb Conference this week.
She said the NFU was demanding that government draws up a clear policy to inform people’s decision come the in-out vote, which could take place as soon as June, according to Adam Bedford, director of the British Agriculture Bureau, who also spoke at the meeting.
Ms Batters said: “As UK farmers, the absolute critical point is this: will we have access top the 500 million consumers within the European Union?
“There are farmers who say to me, and they say it regularly too, we want to come out of the EU because we are fed up with all the rules and regulations. The reality is, if we want to keep trading with those 500m consumers, then we will have the same rules in order to trade.
“Legislation is just one area of uncertainty. What about trade, labour, the UK agricultural market?”
NFU president Meurig Raymond, speaking at a panel discussion at the House of Lords, said: “It is irresponsible not to have a Plan B; members want to know what policies will be put in place to ensure a secure future.
“Farmers would accept a reduction in farm subsidies, as long as it was across the board. The question of fairness is crucial.”