OUR ISSUE WITH THE EU
1. We want to see an increase in Food Production. The CAP makes this more difficult.
Fundamental to the survival of the United Kingdom’s rural economy is an increase in food production, and this is hindered by our membership of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
It is, understandably, a difficult enterprise to agree on regulations that apply to 28 member states. As a result of this, UK farmers are often forced to compromise.
2. The CAP fails to recognise and support the unique needs of UK farmers.
The CAP fails to recognise the differences and unique needs of the agricultural industries in each of its member states. The ‘one-size-fits-all’ policy does not work for the UK’s farmers and is failing certain sectors, particularly the Dairy industry, in a big way. Only outside the EU can the government tailor subsidies to support farmers in a truly efficient and effective way.
George Eustice, Minister of State for Farming said: ‘I see exceptional talent and technical expertise within DEFRA but it is constrained and hindered by the EU. Rather than being free to construct new ideas and fresh ways of doing things, our policy officials spend their days fretting about whether they are complying with this or that regulation. If we have the courage to take back control, we would be free to think again and could achieve so much more for farmers and our environment.’
5. The CAP does not offer UK farmers or taxpayers a fair return in comparison to other EU nations.
Because of its high GDP the UK taxpayer pays in far more money to the CAP than our farmers receive in support. Area payments per hectare are also lower in the UK than the EU average.
In 2014 the UK contributed £4.6 billion and yet received only £2.9 billion of that back, meaning a net loss of £1.7 billion pounds. Other EU members states, including Poland, Greece and Spain, are net gainers from the CAP. This means that large sums of UK taxpayers’ money is spent subsidising the agricultural industries in other member states rather than supporting our own farmers.
6. We want to help protect the environment. We spend a lot of money on EU membership that goes to flood defences abroad, but what about the UK?
Every year, millions of pounds of our EU membership fees are spent on flood defences in other countries, whilst defences in the UK have proven to not be adequate.
Owen Paterson, former Conservative Environment Secretary, has said that 'If we leave the EU we’ll be able to start spending that money on flood defences here, rather than sending it abroad.'
3. The popular 'remain' argument that UK farmers will lose EU trade does not stand up to scrutiny.
The UK's trade in agriculture (and other industries) is hugely important to the European Union. For example, the UK imports 2.5 times as much beef from the EU as we export to them so it is in their best interests to secure a free trade deal with the UK. Without this they will be jeopardising their own export markets.
George Eustice, Minister of State for Farming said: 'Last year (2015), we exported £7.5bn worth of food to the EU but we imported food worth £18bn. We have an annual trade deficit with the EU in food alone of £10bn so they need a free trade deal as much, or perhaps even more than we do.'
4. We want to see a reduction in red-tape so that farmers can focus on what’s really important for their businesses.
Increasingly it has become much harder for farmers to comply with the requirements of the CAP. The level of red-tape involved in farming under the CAP restricts innovation, growth and development in the industry.
Norfolk farmer and MEP Stuart Agnew said: ‘It is more and more difficult for farmers to get the money from the system. They have to fill in forms and they have to pay consultants to fill the forms in. They also have to do something called cross compliance, whereby random farms are inspected. It’s very stressful. If they make a mistake it’s a mistake, if a farmer makes a mistake it’s fraud.’
7. There is no guarantee of current funding levels if the UK remains a member of the EU and we have no idea what the CAP will look like beyond 2020.
There is no guarantee that funding will be maintained at the current level under the CAP and the prospect of the EU expanding to include new member states is extremely worrying. If, for example, Turkey were to join the EU its high area of agricultural land and low GDP would mean that the CAP budget was stretched much thinner and UK farmers would see subsidies reduced.
We also have no control over what new regulations are introduced and, if recent reforms are anything to go by, they will involve yet more red-tape and ill thought out initiatives like the Three Crop Rule.