Coffee House

British farming cannot turn its back on the EU

30 July 2014

11:22 AM

30 July 2014

11:22 AM

Much has been made of the political debate at the 2014 CLA Game Fair at Blenheim Palace. The attendance of the new Environment Secretary Liz Truss, Ukip leader Nigel Farage and former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson (less than a week after the government reshuffle) has given rise to a general debate about where the rural constituency, or countryside vote, currently sits on the political map.

The CLA is studiously apolitical. It is a membership organisation with more than 33,000 members who together own and manage more than half the rural land in England and Wales and represent over 300 types of rural businesses. Our priority is to represent our members’ views and concerns to all political parties at regional, national and European Union level. We simply want to see a political agenda from all sides with the countryside at its heart.

That is why also attending the CLA Game Fair were Shadow Environment Minsters Huw Irranca-Davies and Angela Smith, Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Marks, and Conservative Environment Minister George Eustice. All came to debate rural policy and engage with CLA members and industry. Their contributions to the President’s Debate on what each party would do for the countryside if returned to power in 2015 were well received.


Of course, the prospect of a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union made the second of the CLA Game Fair theatre debates, on whether our membership of the EU is a good thing, very popular, with audiences spilling out of the back of the theatre. Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) Chairman Ian Coghill and CLA Deputy President Ross Murray locked horns with Ukip Leader Nigel Farage and Telegraph columnist Robin Page on this fiery topic.

It is my view that Britain simply cannot afford to turn its back on the money that farmers and landowners receive from the EU. The figures speak for themselves. In England alone, with the value of farming at some £7.25bn the total support from CAP in 2012 was just over £2bn or 27 per cent. To those, like Nigel, who say Britain could be like Norway or Switzerland, I would suggest they look at the comparison with agricultural subsidy in those countries, which are much higher at 60 percent in Norway and more than 50 percent in Switzerland. Would a UK government independent of the EU ever support farming to the same extent? I doubt it very much.

Furthermore, as The Spectator’s Camilla Swift noted, Ross Murray argued that EU exports on which British farmers rely would be cut to shreds if Britain left the EU. Last year 105,331 tonnes of British beef went abroad, of which only 4,574 tonnes was to non EU states. 60 percent went to Holland and Ireland. This reliance on exports to the EU means that British farmers would still have to comply with EU trading regulations but would be without a voice on any future decisions made on restrictions. What British agriculture does is world class, essential and competes with any of its neighbours on quality. Britain should be at the table shaping the decisions which will affect its farmers and exports.

If Britain left the EU, farmers would be at the mercy of the supermarkets who will always buy on price. It is about thinking with the head not the heart. The agri-food sector contributes £97.1bn to the UK economy each year, and supports the jobs of more than 3.6 million people. Ukip’s rural plans are unrealistic and un-costed.

Henry Robinson is President of the CLA

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Show comments
  • Raddiy

    This view has been the prevailing view from the very beginning. Bu**er the greater good, as long as the vested interests who benefit financially are protected.

    Where where you Mr Robinson when our fishing industry was destroyed on the altar of EU harmonisation. Where have you been whilst our industrial base has been disadvantaged with EU Green lunacy and carbon floor taxation. Where have you been whilst your fellow less advantaged citizens have seen their incomes and jobs disappear through wage depression from unlimited low skilled EU immigration.

    We of course know where you have been, you have been raking in the farming subsidies to ensure our food is more expensive than it needs to be. You have been covering and despoiling your land with wind turbines, and solar panel farms to get your grasping claws into another pot of public subsidy, and of course we should not forget that the farming industry is the prime cause of, and the principle benefactor of mass immigration from the EU, allowing you to continue to pay low wages, whilst letting the tax payer make up the wages of your exploiited workers with tax credits.

    You are probably right Mr Robinson, British farming cannot turn its back on the EU, it has been it’s milch cow for the farming industry for 40 years. The reality is that the British public can and will turn their back on the EU, as an expensive club we can no longer afford to remain a member of, just to keep a few thousand landowners with a money for old rope lifestyle.

  • wycombewanderer

    “This reliance on exports to the EU means that British farmers would
    still have to comply with EU trading regulations but would be without a
    voice on any future decisions made on restrictions. What British
    agriculture does is world class, essential and competes with any of its
    neighbours on quality. Britain should be at the table shaping the
    decisions which will affect its farmers and exports.”

    France defied the lifting of the ban on exports of British beef for years.

    That voice wasn’t very loud was it?

  • Stuart Mackey

    Author might wish to point out that the UK is a net contributor to EU funds before claiming to be apolitical. The author also undermines any claim to impartiality by failing to point ou that the US trades with the EU without feeling the need to join the EU.

    Perhaps the author, if he’s so fervent in his belief that the UK should influence the rules of markets, and in the interests if intellectual consistancy, propose the UK join the US as a state of that nation as well as being in the EU.

    But, as ever, the focus on trade and money is nothing more than a distraction from the fact of the united kingdom’s abject surrender of freedom and sovereignty .

  • Conway

    In England alone, with the value of farming at some £7.25bn the total
    support from CAP in 2012 was just over £2bn or 27 per cent.
    ” That’s our (taxpayers’) money you’re talking about. Like the government, the EU doesn’t have any money of its own. We could, if we didn’t pay tribute to the EU to subsidise inefficient French farmers and non-existent olive groves, spend the money on our farmers ourselves.

  • chudsmania

    Yawn. ‘It is my view that Britain simply cannot afford to turn its back on the money that farmers and landowners receive from the EU’ . I’m sure we could easily afford to give the farmers the same as they are getting from the EU now after a Brexit. At present they are just getting a fraction of what we put into the EU anyway. One wonders what homework Henry did before writing this . None i expect , just a load of europhile nonesense from a europhile hack.

  • alabenn

    Last year 105,331 tonnes of British beef went abroad. are you really suggesting that these people would stop eating this beef if we left the EU, you are EU subsidy junkies who are frightened having to go cold turkey.
    Get yourself out and actually earn the money your farms bring in, no better than the benefit fiddlers on Benefits Street only you go to Monaco instead of the Costa`s.

  • flaxdoctor

    Not even half an argument. So we’re net exporters of beef (and lamb)? Our agricultural trade balance, however, is hugely negative as a whole – we import vast amounts of pretty much everything else, most notably fruit and vegetables. And given this, why would it be in the EU’s interest to cease trading with us? (Clue: we can buy fruit and vegetables from other places in the world)

  • goneunderground

    There are many holes in your argument but just for one…I understand Britain is a net importer of food which surely gives British farmers a ready made market at home. Simply channel some of the money saved from our EU sub into our own industry and we can all enjoy the world class produce grown at home (with a possible benefit of having less Romanian horse in our minced ‘beef’).

  • David J Timson

    I’m sure the money for the famers is wonderful for the farmers…but that money doesn’t just appear from nowhere. Someone else earned that money first, it was taken in taxation and then given to the farmers. Even the EU cannot just magic money out of thin air (a fact lost on most MEPs etc).
    There is, of course, a case to be made for subsidising farming (although I do wonder how many CLA members would make the parallel argument for, say, coal mining). There’s an argument to be made for many things, after all.
    However, shouldn’t that argument be made to those who pay the tax (and, indeed, those who think they might prefer the tax spent on something else) and the *consent* of the taxpayers obtained (or more realistically the consent of their elected representatives in Parliament*). This is not a particularly novel idea: I believe that it is called democracy.
    This article seems to be saying that the UK taxpayer is too mean or stupid to subsidise farming/land-owning if s/he was given a choice – so best not to give him/her a choice at all. Instead let the Euro-elite take people’s money, spend it on stuff that they’ve not been asked about and let the “little people” get on with watching Big Brother (or whatever).
    No taxation without representation!
    *That’s the real one at Westminster not that plastic one in Brussels.

  • Aberrant_Apostrophe

    “If Britain left the EU, farmers would be at the mercy of the supermarkets who will always buy on price.”

    Er, where exactly were the EU when hundreds of dairy farmers were driven out of business by the supermarkets cartel?

    • flaxdoctor

      Hundreds? Make that thousands.

  • Smithersjones2013

    Based on this piece of pathetic sheep-like bleating all I can suggest is the CLA shouldn’t appoint the village idiot its president next time.

    Are Britain’s farmers that uncompetitive and that lacking is business acumen that they cannot compete and survive in this world without sucking the teat of the Brussels Oligarchs?

    If they are that bad at what they do perhaps exposing them would be doing the country a favour!

    It sounds to me as if Robinson is one of those fat lazy troughing Brussels parasites that thinks the British Taxpayer owes him a living!

  • Faceless Bureaucrat

    What is it about the leadership of Membership Organisations that makes them ignore their Members as soon as they get into their comfy new jobs?
    Is the CLA really saying that British Farmers are so utterly useless (and the CLA are so weak) that if the UK left the EU (and its market-corrupting handouts) the British Farming Industry would collapse? The UK has been over-dependant on Food Imports for far too long – let British Farmers feed Britain.
    I seem to recall not so long ago the EU banned all our Beef Exports into the EU – would anyone really want to rely on the EU as a ‘secure market’ in the future? That’s before we start on the British Fishing Industry (what’s left of it, thanks again to the EU).
    I fear the CLA is following the CBI and becoming little more than an pro-EU mouthpiece…

    • The Masked Marvel

      Even if the scaremongering about destroying the export market to the EU was half true, this is all the more reason to revive the connection between restaurants and markets and local producers. It’s not just for Michelin-star restaurants and weekend markets for the rich. The CLA ought to be screaming for it.

    • Suzy61

      There is nothing left of our Fishing Industry, as you say, thanks to the EU (and our own weasel politicians). The only people who benefit from the monstrous EU are politicians, bureaucrats and farmers – be they English, French or whatever. I don’t recall any support for our fishermen from the farming ‘community’….maybe they were too busy filling out their EU subsidy applications?

  • The Bellman

    I can see how this arrangement might suit CLA members and EU federalists, but I’m struggling to see why bribing us with our own money is of great benefit to the rest of the country.

  • HookesLaw

    ‘subsidies’ ‘exports on which British farmers rely would be cut to shreds if Britain left the EU.’
    And did Saint Nigel give you an answer to this?

    The point about having to comply with EU rules even if we are not in it is one which is studiously ignored by Saint Nigel and his evangelical cohorts.

    • Diggery Whiggery

      No it’s not, we’d have to obey their rules for exports to the EU, just as we have to when we export to the US, Japan etc. The difference is that the 70% of the businesses in this country that don’t export will not be weighed down by EU legislation that seeks export costs ad protect big business. This means they’ll have the opportunity to grow rather than being killed at birth and their presence will keep the big boys under pressure.

  • Diggery Whiggery

    There are plenty of farmers who recognize that subsidies have debilitated the whole of agriculture and that while some sort of system of gradually diminishing support would have to be put in place to soften the blow of any eventual EU exit, the overall long term effect of cutting EU ‘support’ would be positive.

    This article is based on money rather than economics.

  • Ray Veysey

    simple sales logic, 100,000 tons of beef to the EU cannot be replaced overnight regardless of how spiteful the EU wants to be, how many other countries (not using growth hormones or antibiotics) can supply that quantity or quality. Common sense will rule we buy more from them than they do from us (overall, it’s not all about farmers) trade will continue more or less the same.

    • HookesLaw

      How long do you think it takes to breed a cow?
      How thick does a kipper have to be?
      The poor EU citizens will be deprived of Aberdeen Angus, they will survive.

      • Aberrant_Apostrophe

        Yes, those poor EU citizens, having to make do with skanky French lamb, ropey Greek goats and Romanian horse…

      • the viceroy’s gin

        Well since you seem to be an expert, how long does it take you to breed a cow, lad?

    • Suzy61

      Overall, it’s not all about farmers…hits the nail on the head.

  • Alexsandr

    outside the EU british farmers selling to the UK market, surely the biggest part of their output, would be to UK markets, so EU regs would not apply, just UK ones. Only those farmers wishing to export would comply with EU regs.
    conversley, EU farmers wishing to sell into the UK would have to prove their products conformed to UK regs. Thats a good thing -we saw recently the EU regulation was woefully inadequate during the horse meat scandal.
    but there again why should agriculture need massive subsidy anyway? OK some farming on poorer land might need subsidy, hill farmers for example, because not farming places like the Lake District would change the landscape.

    • Ray Veysey

      UKIP has said it will continue to support farming so your hill farmers etc are safe.

    • Aberrant_Apostrophe

      It’s just more scare tactics by the Europhiles. The points you raise are conveniently ignored by Mr Robinson. Also, the point he makes about not having any say in forming EU regulations is becoming increasingly irrelevant, with 28 member states and particularly the introduction of QMV this November. There is also the small matter of the EU restricting what other countries the UK can export to, so leaving it would free up other markets – potentially far larger than the EU.

  • Alex

    The EU takes £x from UK taxpayers, spends half of it on paper-pushers, and gives £0.5x to UK farmers. UK farmers quite like the arrangement. That is no reason why UK taxpayers should put up with it.

    • rtj1211

      They actually the money to the landowners, not the farmers, unless the farmers are also the landowners.

      It’s an upper class rip off to be honest.

      • BarkingAtTreehuggers

        Oh the blessings of manorial (=feudal) rights in Britain …
        Of course that is another reason why to leave the EU.
        The logic is frankly dumbfounding.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          …and if there’s one thing you and your army of sockpuppets have mastered, it’s being found dumb.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        It’s a typical EUSSR rip-off, lad, the type you socialist Lib Dumbs support.

        • Shorne

          YouGov’s latest poll for The Sun finds an eight point lead for those who want Britain to remain in the European Union, the largest lead recorded since YouGov first asked the question in September 2010. 44% would now vote to stay in the Union, while 36% would vote to leave.

          Now don’t forget to call me ‘lad’ and ‘socialist’ when you respond or I’ll be so disappointed.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            Is that why UKIP blasted you EUSSR lovers last May, lad? You know, in the only poll that matters?

            Perhaps you should get your mind off transient YouGov propaganda, lad. They’re the same muppets who failed to pick up on last May’s blasting.

            And your transient YouGov “poll” doesn’t change the fact this nonsense is still an EUSSR rip-off.

            But since you claim to worship YouGov “polls”, here’s one of theirs you may want to have a look at. Looks like things aren’t going your EUSSR loving way, lad:


            • Shorne

              As I recall 9% of the population voted for UKIP, ‘blasted’ –
              yeah right.
              I agree with you (!) to some extent about YouGov so that’s why I subscribe to Lord Ashcroft’s polls he has UKIP down 3 points as of Monday. I am always amused by your blustering, over-the-top language though so do keep it
              up.When I used to supervise young offenders I sometimes used to call them ‘lad’ I thought it gave me an air of inherent superiority and Worldly wisdom, until
              someone pointed out it made me sound like an idiot.

              Can I just point out that I am very far from an unequivocal supporter of the EU, there is a lot that needs changing, I saw day-to-day evidence of that when I worked in a prison in fact I have probably seen more of the ‘front line’ negative effects of immigration than you have. However that does not make me like UKIP which is a reactionary organisation striving for a return to a World which never actually existed and which associates with some vile organisations in Europe and thus provides a conduit for some of the worst elements in the UK.
              I think they may well win if they stand in South Thanet at least , that’s where I was dealing with offenders and you could smell the xenophobia (to put it politely) in the air

              • the viceroy’s gin

                As I recall, UKIP blasted everybody else in that election, lad, no matter your crude spin attempts, thus also putting the lie to your crude attempts to spin the public’s opinion on the EUSSR. As I say, laddie, the only poll that matters is the one that matters .

                You should likely take the shill Ashcroft out of your rotation as well, lad. You obviously don’t know much about statistics, but in the recent by elections, this shill attempted to sway the election by jiggering the turnout model, in a completely ahistoric way. He’s a shill. As mentioned, the only poll that is trustworthy will take place next May.

                I’m amused that you always whine about the character of my posts, and yet you keep coming back for more. Keep reading, lad. And yes, I would have gauged you as a screw, no doubt. You have that (lack of) mentality that such requires.

                You can point out whatever you like, lad. Most of it is whiny and fact free, and desperate spin. Most of you socialist EUSSR luvvies do that. But have at it, lad .

          • the viceroy’s gin

            You apparently are trying to reply to my post, but it’s being censored. Probably just as well, you really don’t have much useful to say, lad .

  • Michael Mckeown

    “It is my view that Britain simply cannot afford to turn its back on the money that farmers and landowners receive from the EU”

    Obviously oblivious to what being a net contributor means, for those also challenged by the term it means the UK pays in to the EU more than it gets back meaning exiting the EU leaves more money for farming not less.

  • Eyesee

    Please bear in mind the money given in CAP is a small part of the money extorted from the UK by the EU in the first place. A proper, sovereign British government could cut out this ridiculous, pompous, expensive middle man and pay farmers a support direct. Or reduce our taxes and don’t support farmers at all, just pay higher prices for food to farmers, when we buy it. (This clearly wouldn’t work as ‘cheap’ – subsidised – food would flood in the the Marxist empire of the EU). There is absolutely no way we have to continue to be as stupid as the EU. We could do what proper Britons have done in the past and save Europe from tyrants – if necessary, alone. Not by war this time, but by ideas. And what primary school child (well, a decentlt educated one, not a New Labour prole) couldn’t come up with better ideas than EU technocrats?

    • rtj1211

      As you clearly attended the finest primary school in the land, perhaps you would submit yours for competition??

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …one thing’s for certain, we best not submit your boy Clegg’s, or any other Lib Dumb’s.

  • Ron

    Or stop sending 50 million a day to the EU and getting 5 million back

  • Bill Kenny

    Oh dear, oh dear from farmers to rent seekers its almost as if the repeal of the corn laws never occurred.