UK feed and farm trade groups come out against Brexit

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags International trade Eu

The Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC), the trade group representing the feed, crop protection, grain and oilseed sectors in the UK, said Brexit would not be in the best interest of its members.

“While outside AIC’s remit to tell anyone how to cast their referendum vote on 23 June, it is part of our brief to evaluate and analyze the available information and predictions relating to both options - in as much as they affect the UK agricultural supply industry

“On balance, and after rigorous assessment, our professional opinion is that despite the ongoing need to reform EU policies – particularly in the areas of sustainable agriculture, science and the introduction of new technologies, the short, medium and long-term interests of the AIC Membership in the agricultural supply industry would be better served by remaining within the EU,”​ noted the lobby group.

The AIC’s members generate around £6.5bn ($9.46bn) turnover annually.

Farmers' union no longer on the fence 

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has forsaken neutrality on the issue of the EU referendum. It also said, on the balance of existing evidence, it would be better for farmers if the UK did not exit the EU. 

The UK government has negotiated concessions from fellow EU members with regard to a number of concerns it has raised. As a result of this agreement, it has decided to put the question of continued membership of the EU to UK voters on 23 June 2016.

The official 10-week campaign for the EU referendum got underway on 15 April. 

“Whether the vote is to stay or to leave, the NFU will always lobby to obtain the best possible deal for British farmers,”​ said the NFU’s Council in a resolution last week. 

Brexit gloves Gutzemberg istock
UK voters go to the polls on 23 June ©

“The NFU’s position is based solely on an evaluation of the agricultural merits of the case and the NFU is fully aware there are many wider issues at stake.

“The NFU will not be actively campaigning in the referendum; it will not be joining with any campaign groups and it will not, in any circumstances, advise its members how to vote,”​ added the executive.

The union has held 28 roadshows to enable its members to debate the core issues the impact of leaving the EU would have on farming in the UK.

It had commissioned agricultural research institute - the LEI at Wageningen University​ to consider the impact of a number of possible trade and farm support scenarios that would be open to the UK Government in the event of the country voting to leave the EU.

NFU director general, Martin Haworth, said at the time of the publication: "Feedback from our members has been clear; further information is needed to consider more fully the potential implications for British agriculture if the UK votes to leave the EU. As a result, the NFU commissioned Wageningen University to carry out an impact assessment on behalf of members.”

The report assessed the impact of three trade set-ups:

•             A free trade agreement between the UK and the EU
•             The World Trade Organization (WTO) default position
•             UK trade liberalization

Impact on Irish economy

Speaking at an event organized by the Irish Feed and Grain Association in January this year, Ruud Tijssens, president of the European Feed Manufacturers’ Federation (FEFAC), said Brexit would be Ireland’s biggest foreign policy challenge.

He said Ireland’s economy has shown remarkable recovery in the past year, and that resurgence could be jeopardized if the UK, Ireland largest trading partner, left the EU.

Brexit could mean a dip in the value of Ireland’s agri-food exports from anywhere between €150m and €800m on an annual basis, wrote Teagasc economist, Trevor Donnellan in a report this month​ on the implications of Brexit for Ireland.

But he noted it wasn’t possible to perform a rigorous economic modelling assessment of the implications of Brexit at this time, because the terms as such are unknown.

If the UK votes in favor of leaving the EU, Brexit could take place at some point in the period from mid-2018 at the very earliest, found the review. However, it might be mutually beneficial to both the UK and EU to delay it further to allow suitable post Brexit arrangements to be negotiated and put in place, noted the Teagasc team.

It is not inconceivable that Brexit could take a decade to come about, according to the report.

The UK, wrote Donnellan, second only to Germany in the EU in terms of its population and the size of its economy, has a very large trade deficit in agri-food products – totaling €21bn in 2014.

Policymakers’ stance at variance

The UK’s junior minister for food, farming and the marine environment, George Eustice, unveiled his Brexit farming plan at the NFU conference in Birmingham in February, following his announcement that would be campaigning for the UK to leave the EU.

He said farmers would continue to receive the same subsidies for farming and environmental measures from an independent UK they are now paid under the EU’s agriculture policy.

However, Eustice’s stance is in direct conflict with UK environment secretary, Liz Truss, who supports the campaign to stay in the EU, saying a Brexit would be a leap in the dark that could risk agricultural exports in a period of severe challenges for farming with price volatility and global market insecurity. 

Meanwhile, in an opinion piece in The Telegraph on Saturday, US President, Barack Obama​, urged UK voters to reject a Brexit.  He warned it could take up to 10 years for the UK, if it exited the EU, to secure a trade deal with the US.

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