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Sunday, March 06, 2016

Why staying in the EU is good for farmers

This article in yesterday's Times puts the decision by Welsh Conservative Leader, Andrew R.T. Davies to campaign to leave the European Union into context. For a party which has its eye on mid-Wales as a potential source of seat gains in May, this one decision leaves them with real problems.

The paper reports on a letter from leading farmers and dairies, which suggests that leaving the EU will lead to a reduction in farming subsidies. But it is market-access where the loss will be most keenly felt. They say that Europe’s single market accounts for 73 per cent of Britain’s agri-food exports and gives access to a market more than twice the size of the US:

Outside the EU, Britain could keep all or some of this market, but farmers would have to abide by EU regulations without a say in their formation and pay into the EU budget without receiving payments in return.

“We’d pay, but have no say,” the letter claims. This would depend on the type of deal Britain negotiated after Brexit, however.

The signatories include the managing director of farms such as Naylor Flowers and AC Goatham and Son, the poultry company PD Hook Group, the chairman of English Mustard Growers Ltd and two former presidents of the National Farmers’ Union, including Sir Peter Kendall.

The group says that many of the worst regulations, as well as the “gold-plating” of EU directives that make them more draconian than in other countries, happen in the UK not in Brussels.

They sound the warning on subsidies, amid fears that farms could suffer if they can no longer benefit from the EU’s common agricultural policy.

The letter says: “On direct payments, Leave campaigners have said it is inconceivable that any UK government would drastically cut support. But it is government policy, set by Labour and endorsed by the coalition government in 2011, to abolish direct payments in 2020.

“Leaving the EU would mean reducing our access to our most important market, little or no reduction in regulation, no influence on future rules, the speedy abolition of direct support and an uncertain future for UK agriculture.”

I look forward to the Welsh Conservatives explaining their leader's stance on the doorsteps in Brecon and Radnorshire and Montgomeryshire.
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