Cameron woos Welsh farmers: it’s all about the exports


This from Today’s Farmers Weekly:

EU exit could cost UK’s livestock farmers £330m, says PM

Livestock farmers would be forced to pay an extra £330m a year to export their goods abroad in the event of an exit from the EU, the prime minister has claimed. David Cameron ramped up his efforts to persuade people to vote to stay in the EU by warning farmers they would “suffer enormously” from an exit. He visited a farm in north Wales on Friday (11 March) as part of his tour around the country to convince eurosceptics to vote “In” on 23 June. Mr Cameron said more than 90% of UK lamb and beef exports – worth about £605m in total value – were traded in the EU. The farming sector contributes £9.9bn to the UK economy and employs almost half a million people.

“British farmers and food producers rely on the single market”
David Cameron

But he warned that leaving the single market and relying on World Trade Organisation rules would result in extra costs of exporting British beef of £240m/year. An extra £90m would also be added to the cost of British beef exports, the prime minister claimed.

“British farmers and food producers rely on the single market,” said Mr Cameron.

“It gives them access to 500 million consumers, to whom they can sell their goods on an open, unrestricted basis. No tariffs, no barriers, no bogus health and safety rules designed to keep our products out.”

However, UKIP agriculture spokesman Stuart Agnew accused Mr Cameron of scaremongering and overseeing “Project Fear”.

He said: “It’s important to be clear here on a few things. The French export £650m of wine to the UK and they import £170m of lamb from the UK each year. Who is going to rock the boat on that deal? Staying in the EU means we are subject to Mercosur countries ultimately, where beef is likely to be the sacrificial lamb. UK and Irish beef will be desperately hit. Suckler beef will really be a museum beef it Mercosur comes to fruition.”

Eurosceptic former Defra secretary Owen Paterson has told farmers they would be better off outside the EU. Mr Paterson said a UK government outside the EU would save money and be able to allocate more generous farm payments than under the common agricultural policy (CAP).

“Agriculture and food production is hampered by our membership of the common agricultural policy”
Owen Paterson, former Defra minister

“I believe that the United Kingdom has a great future beyond the political arrangements of the European Union,” Mr Paterson told the Oxford Farming Conference in January. Agriculture and food production is hampered by our membership of the common agricultural policy. CAP negotiations between 28 countries inevitably mean that we have to accept compromises, these are at best deeply unsatisfactory and at worst actively damaging to UK farmers.”

Outside the EU, the UK would be able to develop its own bilateral trade agreements, increase farm output and work with like-minded countries to combat plant disease and animal disease, Mr Paterson added.

Farm minister George Eustice has also come out in favour of an EU exit, putting him at odds with Defra secretary Liz Truss who is calling on the UK to stay in Europe. Mr Eustice said there would be an £18bn/year “Brexit dividend” in savings if the UK left the EU. He added: “Could we find the money to spend £2bn on farming and the environment? Of course we could. Would we? Without the shadow of a doubt.”

Farmers Guardian were also there and Cameron said to them

“If Britain votes to leave we would have to put in place an agricultural support system. I am very pro-countryside and pro-farming and, as Prime Minister, I would make sure that happens. But I would say to farmers you are giving up the certainty of what we have now with the uncertainty of the future.”

He then couldn’t resist making a snide remark about Labour’s Defra Shadow secretary of state Kerry McCarthy, who has been reviled in the farming press for being a vegan.

“If you look at what Jeremy Corbyn offers with a vegan agriculture spokesman, are you really certain, if the alternatives get in, you are going to have the sort of support in the countryside we have today?”


The Prime Minister clearly thinks that the farming sector is a very important one to persuade of the EU’s benefits to them – and once again, it’s all about exports. It’s notable that the Prime Minister sought to persuade sheep farmers in North Wales that the benefit of staying in the EU was their export market. The reality is that sheep farming in North Wales would not exist without the generous support they receive from the Common Agricultural Policy  – paid for by you and me, the taxpayers. There wouldn’t be any exports without the CAP, whether we were in the single market or not. This is not really what sheep farmers want to hear, that they are the most heavily subsidised industry in the UK – to such an extent they should really be regarded as being in the public sector.

It would undoubtedly be cheaper for us all if we nationalised the entire UK sheep farming industry.

It’s also worth putting these figures about the agriculture sector in some context. The charity sector in the UK had an economic value calculated at £12.1Bn in 2012/13, compared with £8.3Bn for Agriculture in the same year – it’s around 50% larger. In the same year the charity sector employed 821000 people and supported nearly 14 million regular volunteers. So the charity sector is 50% larger than Agriculture, and employs 40% more people.

Has anyone seen David Cameron talking to charity employees about the benefits of staying in the EU?

Hardly; instead Cameron’s cabinet office and place men at the Charity Commission are busy making up new rules to stop charities from campaigning for or against the EU. That’s in addition to stopping charities saying anything at all to politicians or civil servants, if they are in receipt of state funding.

About Miles King

UK conservation professional, writing about nature, politics, life. All views are my own and not my employers. I don't write on behalf of anybody else.
This entry was posted in agriculture, Charities campaigning, EU referendum, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Cameron woos Welsh farmers: it’s all about the exports

  1. Just a couple of quick points Miles:

    Agriculture has been supported by the taxpayer since the beginning of the Second World War, when UK imports of food amounted to 60% of total consumption. In order to improve food security, government support for farmers has continued every year since then. The EU CAP simply replaced one support system for another, so the suggestion that sheep farmers owe everything to the EU CAP is a nonsense.

    Nationalisation of supply systems invariably mean huge inefficiency, waste and shortages. That is why the Communist Bloc collapsed in 1989. So your idea of nationalising sheep farming is a absolutely barking.

    Your comparison of agriculture with the charity sector is a bit off-piste for me as I don’t really see the connection. You might just as well compare agriculture with financial services and get an even bigger disparity. Just to put things into perspective, agriculture was the largest contributor to England’s GDP until 1760, when it was overtaken by manufacturing (principally ceramics). The fact is that our economy has become increasingly complex and diversified, whilst food has declined in cost (to everyone’s benefit) and so it’s share of GDP has also declined in importance.

    Cameron has no real need to include public love-ins with the charity sector, because most of the big ones are all on-message anyway. Their enormous subsidies from the EU have ensured that they won’t say a word in favour of Brexit.

    Hope that helps….:)

  2. Nimby says:

    They are trying to gag charities who campaign and lobby and as mentioned the quasi quangos who receive crumbs for gardening projects are not going to rock the proverbial are they? Just as there’s a gift aid option on forms, why not include something about the donation going to a specific project, then that income can be used to campaign it’s not ‘state funding’?

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could dump politics and stick to evidence based facts? Let’s just try to find good honest facts, not selective narrative to help people assess the mess and try to come to some sort of reasoned conclusion? Sadly I suspect that the majority of both the 650 and 850 will have an axe to grind ….

  3. Pingback: Is exporting death good for the economy? | a new nature blog

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