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British farmers get a good deal from the EU

British farmers get a good deal from the EU
3 min read

Former MEP, dairy farmer & EFRA Select Committee Chair Neil Parish MP is clear: farmers should not throw away the deal they get from the EU and he notes 93% of UK beef exports last year were to other EU countries.

As Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, I believe remaining in the EU is the best option for our farmers and our food & drink industry. As part of the Single Market, British farmers have tariff-free access to over 500 million customers in the EU. No other sort of relationship compares. Neither Norway’s membership of the EEA, nor Canada’s Free Trade deal with the EU, gives farmers in those countries completely free access to the European market for agricultural goods. World Trade Organisation rules would still apply tariffs to some British agri-food goods, like dairy products.

This really matters for British farmers and food manufacturers. EU member states account for 7/8 of the UK’s top agricultural export markets. In 2015, 93% of all British beef exports went to the EU – a trade worth £320 million. It would be incredibly risky for Britain to leave the Single Market, leaving British farmers without guaranteed free access to their biggest export markets.

There’s also the financial support given to British farmers through the CAP. Direct CAP payments to Britain’s farmers average nearly £3 billion every year from 2014-2020. These payments account for 50% of British farm incomes and are guaranteed through the EU. How could we be sure that any British Government would meet these payment levels if we were to leave?

The truth is that we can’t. In times of austerity, with an NHS, schools and armed forces all hungry for more cash, British agriculture would get pushed to the back of the queue. As the Treasury analysis on Brexit admits, there would be “major uncertainty about the future levels of agricultural subsidies” under any future government. Indeed, DEFRA has seen significant budget cuts in each of the last three spending settlements.

Having been an MEP in Brussels and having chaired the Agricultural Committee, I know the EU isn’t perfect. But I also know from my time as a dairy farmer the good that it does for our agricultural sectors. EU external tariffs provide a degree of protection for British farmers from global competition. For example, the EU’s dairy producers benefit from an average applied tariffs of 42.1%. Our dairy farmers would have been even worse hit if it wasn’t for this EU protection.

That’s why I believe farmers should take the good deal they have on the table from EU membership. The EU provides guaranteed market access, support payments and stability for our farmers. It’s not a deal we should throw away lightly.

Neil Parish is Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee. He is the Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton

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