DAVID Cameron has renewed his calls to the countryside to back remain at the EU referendum to avoid the impact of crisis’ like mad cow disease.
Setting out a series of potential “disasters” for those working in the agricultural sector if Britain leaves the EU, Mr Cameron drew on an evocative medley of major incidents from the past twenty years including the French beef ban and bird flu.
Speaking exclusively to Yorkshire Post readers at an event in central Leeds, he said: “There are three massive threats to British agriculture on leaving.”
Disaster number one:
“At the moment you have unlimited access to a market of 500m consumers. When it comes to our exports over 90% of our beef goes to Europe, 90% of our lamb goes to Europe so giving up that access I think would be a very, very bad step. There is no country in the world outside the EU that has a trade deal with the EU that gives them unrestricted access. None. The leave campaign talk about a Canada style free trade year deal, Canada has restrictions ...by the way, seven years of being negotiated and it hasn’t come in....[and] even when it does come in, there will be restrictions on beef, restrictions on lamb, restrictions on pork. So that is disaster number one for farming - not having access to the market of 500m people.”
Disaster number two:
“You know as a farmer what agricultural support there is going to be between now and 2020. It’s been negotiated - it has been decided. That support is very important if you want to keeping Britain farming, and I want to keep Britain farming. I love our countryside.”
Disaster number three:
“This is less predictable but in a way more severe. If you have a health problem in agriculture or in any other problem in agriculture you know you can get back access to the European market. You don’t know if you are on the outside whether you can.
“We all remember beef on the bone. The French banned our beef, we took them the European Court and we opened up the market and we have been selling British beef to France for the past twenty years.
“The Americans put a ban on, and how much beef do we sell to America today? Twenty years on from that? Zero. None. Not a tiny bit of beef, nor any lamb by the way.
“Any problem you get in agriculture like avian flu...what happened when we had avian flu? The Thais and the Chinese said ‘right that’s it’, no more British poultry and we are still trying to get back into the market. “In Europe because we are a member of the single market we are able to keep that access.”
Peter Trickett, arable farmer and NFU North East crops board member, said: “I’m in favour of staying anyway but I thought he gave good answers. Everyone says he’s been negative campaigning, but there was very little negative campaigning.
Richard Bramley, arable farmer and NFU North East Environment Chairman Bramley, said: “I would agree. I wasn’t unconvinced before, but I am more convinced now.”
Tom Bayston, arable farmer with on-farm diversification, said: “He has cemented the decision. On the health issues - he made an interesting point there. It is much easier to get back into the market.”