'Cider, single Gloucester cheese and old spot sausages under…

Prime Minister David Cameron writes for the Citizen on the European Union referendum and its impact on farming and food producers Gloucestershire food producers.

“The interests of British farmers are best served by our continuing membership of the European Union.”

These are not the words of the Government, nor of the official campaign for a remain vote.

This is the position of the National Farmers’ Union after its members voted overwhelmingly to support Britain staying in the EU.

The referendum on June 23 will be a huge exercise in democracy.

For the first time in more than 40 years, we will have the chance to decide whether to remain part of a reformed European Union or walk away for good.

With many people yet to make their minds up about how to vote, it’s great that respected organisations are getting involved in the debate.

So why, after months of discussion and consultation, has the NFU come to this conclusion?

A simple look at the facts and figures behind Britain’s farming industry tells a compelling story.

The farming sector contributes £9.9billion to the UK economy and employs almost half a million people.

In the South West alone, more than 60,000 are employed in agriculture and more than 28,000 in food manufacturing, with the region having received around £371million in EU Common Agricultural Policy grants in 2014 supporting those jobs.

Between 2010 and 2014, the total income from farming across the South West increased by 49 per cent, to £666million, as farmers – along with all British businesses – reaped the benefits of access to the single European market of 500million people.

If we leave the EU and our farmers have to operate under World Trade Organisation rules, things would be very different.


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They could be faced with annual tariffs of up to 40 per cent and huge additional costs – for example, £240million for beef and £90million for lamb.

Protected status enjoyed across Europe by our unique products, such as Gloucestershire cider, Single Gloucester cheese and traditionally-farmed Gloucester old spot pork, will be lost.

But quitting the EU would not just hit farming. The International Monetary Fund, the Bank of England, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and big employers up and down the land are all agreed the shocks would be widespread.

Treasury analysis shows it could leave British households an average £4,300 worse off because of the overall impact on trade and investment, and tax receipts would be hit by £36billion, the equivalent of an extra eight pence on the basic rate of income tax.

More than three million jobs in the UK are directly linked to our place in Europe, including 250,000 in the South West. How many of these jobs are the leave campaign prepared to lose?

I love Britain, not Brussels. I recognise people’s frustrations with the EU and I believe it has to continue to change. But the best answer to dealing with our irritations about the EU is not to walk away and wreck our own economy, it is to stay and drive the change in our own image.

All the evidence shows we will be stronger, safer and better off by staying in a reformed EU – because British businesses will have full access to the single market, a deal miles better than anything we could negotiate from outside.

Vote Leave say they’ll walk away from the single market and negotiate a new deal, but they can’t explain what it would be and how long it will take.

If we left, the EU would not give us a better deal than they have for themselves.

That means jobs aren’t safe, prices will rise, mortgages will be at risk and funding for your local school or hospital will fall.

It’s not a risk worth taking – and that’s why an increasing number of respected institutions, recognise the brightest future for Britain is to embrace the special status we now have in the EU.

The “best of both worlds” situation that gives us the economic benefits of a trading partnership, but keeps us out of the parts of Europe that don’t work for us.

Voting to stay in a reformed EU is voting to keep our economy strong – but it is also voting never to join the Euro, and never to be part of Eurozone bailouts, a no borders agreement, a European Army or an EU super-state.

Voting to remain is a positive vote for a strong South West and a strong Britain; for a prosperous country which continues to export to the world and stands tall on the world stage. And it is a vote for certainty.

The choice in this referendum is quite simple: economic security as part of a reformed EU, or a leap in the dark.

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