Blog: Nine questions that need answers in the EU In-Out debate

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Lucia Zitti, NFU staff, economics, blog_275_410With the EU ‘In or Out’ debate in full swing, NFU economist, Lucia Zitti, highlights some of the questions that farmers should now be asking.

She writes:

In or out of Europe? It’s a question which will be asked with increasing frequency. And for farmers, the question has added significance. What are the advantages and disadvantages of our current relationship with the European Union? As the farming industry prepares for a government-led referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, the NFU is addressing the detail behind both sides of the debate.

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While many people have an instinctive response to the question, it is impossible to measure the true impact of being outside of the EU. The NFU has not taken a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ stance on Europe ahead of the conclusion of the UK’s renegotiation of its relationship with Europe.

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The NFU has set out the way in which UK farming’s relationship could be improved and we will continue to promote the interests of British farmers throughout the in-out debate.

So far no-one has explained what the nature of the UK’s relationship with the EU would be if we were to leave. Neither do we know the conditions under which farmers would be expected to operate. A number of trade models with Europe already exist – such as the European Free Trade Agreement and European Economic Area – but none cover the agriculture sector.

In the midst of so many unknowns, the NFU’s team of experts has explored our industry’s current relationship with the EU and the big issues which need answers. Our new report “UK Farming’s Relationship with the EU” is not designed to answer all of those questions, but as the debate evolves in the run up to the referendum, we will push politicians to answer those that are vital to our industry.

The NFU has set out the way in which UK farming’s relationship could be improved and we will continue to promote the interests of British farmers throughout the in-out debate. Help us to press for clarity by asking the questions below to those on both sides.

EU elections ballot box_275_183Questions facing farmers with a ‘NO’ vote:

  • Would we have access to the European market, and under what conditions?
  • What would a future British agricultural policy look like, particularly for direct support?
  • If we continue to have access to the EU’s single market, but take a different approach on support to farmers, how will fair competition for our farmers be ensured?
  • Would Britain be more or less open to imports?
  • What immigration policy would the government pursue and how would it affect our access to labour?

EU elections ballot box_275_183Questions facing farmers with a ‘YES’ vote:

  • What will you do to ensure the European Commission has a strategy to make European agriculture more productive and globally competitive?
  • How would you ensure the CAP remains a common policy and that British farmers have a level playing field to compete upon?
  • How are we going to achieve better regulation?
  • How are we going to ensure that all decisions are based on science?

  • Posted by: David GoddardPosted on: 16/10/2015 12:55:17

    Comment: Difficult one until we get some answers re support policy if we come out of the EU. My view is that we should be able to save £50m a DAY in taxpayers contributions to the EU coffers, so the country will be better off. I still remember how we were stitched up when we joined. The EEC, as it was then, changed the funding rules so the UK was required to pay much more than was originally expected. Maggie recognised this and negotiated lower contributions and a big rebate. But, of course, we got stitched up again and ended up having to pay much of the funding for our own farmers compared to other EEC members who had more funds from the EU's coffers. I've always understood that British farmers are less well funded as a result but equally as bad is that our contributions are used to subsidised other EU farmers to a better level than ours. With only about three net contributors to the EU's coffers, the EU see us as a cash cow.

    Now, IF the UK would use the money it saved (£50m a DAY) to I,prove the support to UK farmers, that would be great. However, UK Governments have NEVER supported their farmers except in times of War or siege and I fear the UK will merely import foreign food if it is cheaper than we can produce it and we will be a lot worse off.

    Against that if we stay in the EU of course, is that funding is being spread further and wider and thinner and I do not know what we will get from the BPS in 5 or 10 years time?

    I suppose out of the EU we would revert to WTO and GATT agreements. I don't think fir ONE minute that we would stop trading with the EU. We import far more from them than they do from us.

    When we went in we lost out a lot when Australia & NZ felt left out in the cold and stopped buying Landrovers etc.

    So we need a lot of answers before we can make an intelligent decision.
  • Posted by: IanPosted on: 08/06/2016 18:29:08

    Comment: Thanks to Wilf and David for such interesting comments. I'm no economist however I can say that I voluntarily pay 23 pence extra per bottle of milk in the hope of preventing Europe from swallowing our farming industry, as it has done with others, including the one I was recently employed in. I worked 15 years for a large logistics company which was taken over by an even larger German one. Whole data-centres with all those good jobs, went to Poland while other top jobs went to Germany along with the profits from delivering our own goods to ourselves here in the UK. Of course, along with those jobs went the salaries which are now being spent in Europe instead of here in the UK, double whammy. I hope the "IN" campaign does not cite the remaining 140 000 (UK) logistics jobs (now German controlled) as being linked to our membership of the EU, because that would surely be inappropriate fear propaganda, by insinuation. Whatever the outcome, I hope we all manage to stay afloat.