Farming union members resign over pro-EU backing

A declaration by the country's farming union that farmers' best interests are served by Britain remaining in the European Union has prompted a number of resignations.

Minette Batters, deputy president of the National Farmers' Union. Picture: Simon Hulme

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU), which has around 55,000 members in England and Wales, has confirmed that “some” of its members had quit as a result of yesterday’s pro-EU announcement.

The admission came from the union’s deputy president Minette Batters during a meeting of NFU Council this afternoon.

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The union’s position has sparked strong reaction from both sides of the Brexit debate.

Conservative MEP for Yorkshire and The Humber, Amjad Bashir, today described the announcement as “illogical and unhelpful”.

The politician said: “The interests of farmers will be better served by Britain getting out of the EU so we can keep our own money and decide ourselves how best to support our own farmers and our own countryside.

“As it is, we send Brussels billions of pounds and then keep our fingers crossed a fraction of it comes back. The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is notoriously inefficient and wasteful. It punishes our farmers for their efficiency and makes them jump through ever-smaller hoops to get the money due to them.”

London Mayor Boris Johnson, another Vote Leave campaigner, told The Yorkshire Post on a visit to Leeds on Saturday that British agriculture would receive the same financial support outside of the EU as it does from the CAP.

But Peter Kendall, who spent eight years as NFU president until he stepped down in 2014, supported the union’s position.

Mr Kendall, who was influential in launching the ‘Farmers For In’ campaign last month, said: “Britain’s membership of the EU is essential for the farming and food industry so it is hugely significant that the NFU has confirmed that it believes UK agriculture will have a more secure future within the EU.”

He added: “Being part of the single market - our home market of 500m consumers - is crucial to the long-term prosperity of farming in this country.

“Leaving the EU would make trading farm products significantly harder, financial support uncertain and leave farmers facing years of uncertainty. That is too much of a gamble and one our industry cannot afford to take.”