Farmers to lose up to 29,000 after Brexit, NFU study finds

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Westcountry farmers could lose up to £29,000 a year if Britain leaves the European Union, a new study has found.

Research by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) claims that replacing the EU with Canadian-style free trade agreements could push up prices by as much as 8% and cut incomes by £19,000 a year.

The NFU study also found that the alternative World Trade Organisation model could hike costs by 5% and send average incomes plummeting by £14,000, if voters choose to leave at the referendum in June.

A third option of trade liberalisation could see farm incomes fall on average by £29,000, the report says.

Fourth generation Devon farmer Jilly Greed, a champion for the national group Ladies in Beef, said the industry would be hit by a “tsunami” of cheap imports following Brexit.

“In new trade negotiations one of the first industries to be sacrificed would be farming,” she added.

“EU agreements are based on a level playing field but other countries don’t have the same high standards of animal welfare.

“I don’t think people contemplating voting to leave have thought through the consequences, including for the protection and preservation of the countryside.

“I can’t see how farmers will survive on Dartmoor, Exmoor and Bodmin moor.”

The research said two post-Brexit trade scenarios would have an “anti-trade bias”.

It concluded that “the combination of a more liberal trade policy and a reduction or elimination of direct support would make many British farms less viable”.

Former NFU president Sir Peter Kendall said it was further proof farmers are better off remaining in Europe.

He said: “The report’s conclusion highlights the most likely outcome for British agriculture if we leave the EU and it makes for depressing reading, with many farms facing a severe loss of income.

“This is exactly why Britain and our farmers will be better off if we remain in Europe – with full access to the single market giving us the best free trade deal of all,” he added.

“Leaving risks higher prices for families to put food on the table, lower incomes for hardworking farmers, and years of uncertainty creating a damaging economic shock.”

Farming minister George Eustice has led calls to ditch EU membership.

The Cornwall MP insists financial support for the sector would be maintained and a favourable trade deal could be negotiated quickly.

Mr Eustice launched the official industry “Out” campaign, setting out the “plan B” for farming in the event of Brexit, stressing that funding could even increase.

He has highlighted non-EU countries such as Switzerland and Norway which he said give more support to our farmers than in Britain.

Responding to the report, he added: “Economic exercises of this sort always say more about the assumptions of the model than real life and not all of the assumptions are plausible.

“The report also ignores the fact that we would have lower burdens of regulation and better, more effective policy design if we took back control. “However, what the report does show is that on the most likely option, which is that the UK would conclude a free trade agreement and continue to support farming financially, farm incomes actually improve.”

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