Features

How Brexit would affect British farmers

Yes, they depend on EU subsidies. But the results of leaving the CAP could be surprising

27 February 2016

9:00 AM

27 February 2016

9:00 AM

If the Church of England was once the Tory party at prayer, then the nation’s shotgun-owning farmers were the party’s armed wing. I grew up on a farm in the Yorkshire Dales and must have been about 18 before I met someone who didn’t identify as TBC (True Blue Conservative). Ours was one of the safest Tory seats in the country, with the local MP being Leon Brittan and then William Hague. And Margaret Thatcher was considered a hero in our ‘community’ not because of the Falklands war or her defeat of Arthur Scargill but because she liked to greet the dawn by listening to Farming Today on Radio 4 (true).

But the Brexit debate is leaving our True Blue farmers deeply conflicted. On the one hand, without EU subsidies, many of them would go out of business. On the other, their Tory instincts tell them that subsidies are a socialist idea, the opposite of free trade, and therefore plain wrong. Until now, their approach has been to avoid examining their consciences too closely, because it’s not their fault if their counterparts in other EU countries, especially France, represent such an aggressive and powerful lobby.

And it’s not their fault either that a staggering 40 per cent of the EU budget is spunked away on the Common Agricultural Policy, that ingenious device for reducing Europe’s reliance on imported food and drink by first overproducing — those notorious grain mountains and wine lakes — and then underproducing: the equally notorious ‘set aside’ of land, in which farmers were paid not to farm. David Cameron tried to include reform of the CAP in his ‘new settlement’ the other day, but the other EU leaders just stared at him as if he were mad. Some things are sacrosanct.

It’s not even the farmers’ fault that they need subsidies to survive — it’s the fault of Britain’s supermarkets, which fight for market share by keeping food prices artificially low. How do they manage that? They simply pass on the cost to the farmers. A litre of milk, for example, costs a farmer about 30p to produce, but the supermarkets pay him (it’s usually a him) an average of 23p. This is why the number of dairy farmers has halved in the past decade, from 20,000 to 10,000, and why 2,000 more are expected to go bust this year.

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Unlike France’s militant farmers, British farmers have very little clout. To our politicians, in fact, they are pretty much an irrelevance — after all, 80 per cent of voters live in towns and cities. But no other industry is going to feel the impact of a decision to remain or leave quite as keenly as British agriculture. If we leave, indeed, it will represent the biggest upheaval for farming since the repeal of the corn laws in 1846.

And this matters to all of us because of what is euphemistically called ‘food security’. Now, you might argue that it’s been a long time since our island was nearly starved out by a U-boat blockade, and however unpredictable and bellicose Putin may be, it’s not as if he’s some latterday Hitler annexing his neighbours and testing our resolve by flying his bombers over our airspace. You might even argue that even if Putin did blockade us, we could just dig for victory again. There may be about 20 million more mouths to feed now compared with 1942, but surely we’d manage, and the new ‘Garden Front’ could start with an allotment in Downing Street…

Well, quite. So should we vote ‘remain’ if we want to protect our food security? Not necessarily. Consider the question of whether the EU will punish us for leaving, with tariffs depressing prices for UK farmers. It’s possible, but the EU needs us more than we need them. We have a huge trading deficit with the EU and almost half of it, £32 billion, is with Germany. They are desperate for us to keep buying their cars and white goods, so maybe we shouldn’t panic too much on that score.

And how unknown will the unknown we are leaping into actually be? It is known, for example, that we would finally be allowed to negotiate our own trade agreements with non-EU countries, because Iceland does this already, most successfully. Already 60 per cent of our trade is with countries outside the EU, and British farmers will become more competitive in their dealings with them if they are no longer tied down by EU red tape. But from the farmers’ perspective, these are secondary issues. What matters more to them in the short term is being able to stay in business, and they won’t be able to do that without subsidies. This is where Westminster will have to step in, if it is serious about food security.

The weird thing is, it would make financial sense. Just to continue paying farmers the same subsidy as they are getting now would cost the British taxpayer half as much, because, at present, we pay £6 billion a year into the CAP, but our farmers get only £3 billion back. British farmers are effectively subsidising their competitors: the French, by far the biggest beneficiary of the CAP, receive three times as much.

I know it’s considered bad form to guess what Maggie’s position would be if she were still alive, but I reckon she would like the sound of that.

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Show comments
  • Shorne

    Nigel Farndale is a journalist and author. The NFU points out that across all traded agriculture commodities, with the exception of fish, the UK is a net importer from the EU. The fact that the EU’s trade balance with the rest of the world dwarfs the EU-UK balance suggests that the EU is a much more important partner for the UK than the UK is to the EU.

    • gillardgone

      Not a reason to sell your country and it’s sovereignty to 28 unelected clowns is it, Brexit now.

      • Mary Ann

        The leader of the unelected clowns was elected by the biggest party in the elected European parliament and the rest were chosen by our elected heads of state. You can only fool some of the people some of the time.

        • Conway

          It seems they’ve fooled you if you think that arrangement is in the slightest way democratic.

          • Mary Ann

            So how do you think the Commissioners should be elected, of course if Cameron had kept his party in the most popular group he could have vetoed Junker, but you have to be in it, to have your say. We don’t have any say in what happens in the US but it still affects us, if we are not careful we will not have any say in what happens in the EU either.

    • Mary Ann

      And to get enough food to feed ourselves the only sensible place to buy it is the EU, simply because they are closest to us.

    • Matt Hobbs

      We used to produce much more but due to EU wide /level playing field policies, we have had to have milk quotas and arable set aside etc, you have to remember that the whole concept of the CAP is for total EU food production control, there is still scope for us to produce much more in the future, but for farmers to seriously reinvest in production they need to know what the politicians are going to do to give some security, given the long production cycles, its not like making nuts and bolts.

  • http://helenjcksn.blogspot.co.uk/ Helen Jackson

    I may be wrong, but I’ve seen no official sources which suggest that the UK contributes to a hypothecated pot labelled ‘CAP’, rather the UK contributes to the EU budget overall. Therefore there is no guaranteed £6 billion sum coming farmers’ way in the event of Brexit, it would be dependent on subsequent political decisions. There needs to be some serious quality of thought from the Brexit camp about the future of farming support. The farming minister George Eustice backs setting up a replacement UK scheme to replace CAP payments, but it would be useful to know if he would get the backing of pro-Brexit cabinet colleagues on this. This is too important an issue for the country’s land management and food security for only the farming minister to be thinking about it.

    • Monima O’Connor

      it’s part of the money we pay into the EU Helen. 50% of it I believe goes to the CAP and keep the French farmers from blocking our ports if they don’t get their way.

      • http://helenjcksn.blogspot.co.uk/ Helen Jackson

        I think the figure’s more like 40%. Quite, but the point is one can’t imply that there is a ring-fenced amount of money which the UK contributes to CAP payments and therefore which British farmers will automatically get in the event of Brexit. Actually no-one knows what would happen to farm support, and probably wouldn’t know for months afterwards. Farmers should continue to put pressure on politicians to ensure they and the civil service are thinking through the practicalities and options.

      • Monima O’Connor

        Of course it would be and so would the Brexit ministers be in favour. Did you not hear Owen Patterson the other day on Newsnight ? This joyful anticipation of having our country back lock stock and barrel for the first time in decades so we can replenish parts of the economy which have been drowned by our submersion into the EU, e.g. Fisheries and Agriculture. Surely it is a bit premature in the process for guaranteed numbers to be flying around, but if George Eustace says there will be a replacement scheme to replace CAP payments, there will be.

      • Conway

        Don’t forget burning our lamb alive if they get upset as well.

  • Dutchnick

    Look at New Zealand which chopped subsidies almost over night, they have sorted it all out and have a farming sector that grown. When I drive through Belgium I see acres of sugar beet grow with huge subsidies whilst cane sugar from our good and loyal friends in the Caribbean is restricted by quotas from selling us what is a superior product. The Common Fish Elimination Policy has cost billions and not done much for us. The old farm support system was really quite clever and worked.

  • fenlandfox

    Simple fact is farmers will receive no subsidies if we left,there’s no way a politician could defend it while cutting services.
    People no doubt will say ‘let them survive the free market then’ but this is a fallacy itself as farming the world over is subsidised and there is no level playing field as most countries believe food security to be vital and support their farmers accordingly.our fat bellys have made us very complacent about our food supply.

    • LG

      Agricultural land prices are more reflective of inheritance tax breaks than agricultural production capacity. Why do you think land prices are up to £20,000 per acre, when the price of wheat is around £100/tonne? Any farmer with a couple of hundred acres could retire anytime to the Bahamas. I know one farmer who sold up, but kept the rights to subsidies and bought up some more. He gets over £1m per year. No farming involved, just collecting the subsidies.

  • Atticus

    Farming subsidies were introduced following the Second World War. They existed in the UK before the CAP, and there is every reason to assume that they will continue following our exit from the EU, for why would a Conservative Government seek to alienate its traditional support base?

    • fenlandfox

      Not enough votes in agriculture to matter.

      • Yorkieeye

        Plenty of votes in eating though

    • John Carins

      I would like to think that you are right. However, it seems that the NFU and farmers in general need some assurances.

  • Budd Margolis

    What I fear is that the tsunami of unproven propaganda will scare people into voting to remain in an organization which is not serving Britain well and is dominated by interests that do not benefit Britain. Learning what the reality will be putside of Europe, which was supposed to be just a trade agreement organization, takes some education and few have time or inclinaiton but this is an important decision. Leave EU and the UK (with or without Scotland) will emerge as a powerhouse economy again. Farm subsidies will be rapidly, smoothly and efficiently replaced by British subsidies and there will be more funds available since we will no longer be sending funds to the EU. WTO, NATO gaurantee trade will continue and security is assured. Soveign rule by the British is not a racist concept.

    • Mary Ann

      You mean propaganda like Farage’s 27 million unemployed in Europe wanting your job, or how about, Every refugee in Europe will, as soon as he gets his EU citizenship, jack in his job, sell his house take his children out of school and come to Britain to claim benefits.

      • Andrew Cole

        The problem being that you like all the proEU side change what he says to suit your agenda.

        He doesn’t say that all these people will come to Britain. He says they can. HE doesn’t say that half a billion people will come to Britain he says that it opens the door to half a billion people.

        You cannot pick apart arguments by changing what was said.

        27 million people wanting your job. Is that a lie? Would it be a lie if he said 2million unemployed in Britain wanting your job? No. They are unemployed and would love your job just as our unemployed would.

        opening the door to 500 million people. Is that a lie? No because if they so chose they could come here. He isn’t saying they will, just that the reality is any of those 500 million could choose to come here if they want to.

        He hasn’t said every refuguee in Europe will come here either. What he has said is that all these people will be able to come here if the so choose.

        The reality is that what Farage says on this is correct but you choose to misrepresent it as him saying everybody will come to Britain. He is just saying that there is the potential to and judging by the last estimation of how many would come over being so drastically wrong then who should we trust to estimate how many will come next time another band of countries joins the EU?

        Report the facts not what you want to portray him as saying or meaning.

        • commenteer

          It’s a waste of time to argue with ‘Mary Ann’. Either it’s genuinely a very stupid woman, or it’s someone having fun pretending to be one.

          • Andrew Cole

            I don’t think she is stupid or not, just representative of what the leave side is facing to win this referendum, which is a vast amount of people that believe what they are told by the ‘unbiased’ side of the media. The ones that most people have unfettered access to like the telly media and she uses the same arguments as they do.

            If someone says being in the EU means 500 million people can come and work here, they immediately replace the word can with will. It is selective hearing which I suppose can be said of both sides.

  • Davedeparis

    The UK is better off without any agricultural subsidies at all . NZ cut all theirs in the 80’s and its farmers are much better off for having done so.

  • Steed

    False argument. The CAP subsidies we pay is simply our monies returned to us. In the case of Brexit in the short term we simply carry on with the subsidies and then adjust according to our needs. The money will still be there – why the panic?

  • jeremy Morfey

    When I was a child, some basic food was artificially cheap compared to the continent because the subsidies were to the shopkeeper to keep prices low for British householders, rather than to the farmer, who could claim higher prices for their produce in the market, confident that the taxpayer would make up the difference to keep local produce competitive with that imported. Any unfairness by the supermarkets to their suppliers was simply met by threatening to withdraw the subsidies until they put things right. Joining the EU put a stop to this system, and it was the farmers who were subsidised, and the supermarkets could offer the farmers whatever prices they could beat them down to. Luxury items, not considered British staples, were considerably more expensive and sold in delicatessens.

    After Brexit, could we not revisit the old system?

  • sidor

    How funny. Brussels bought the British farmers for the money that Britain pays to EU.

    These idiotic discussions should be stopped. There is no economic reason for Britain to be in EU: it is not an economic organisation. Its purpose is purely political. Those who don’t realise it – idiots.

    • Mary Ann

      Ah, you know in reality you can’t win the economic argument so you pretend it doesn’t exist, nobody has yet explained to me how Britain can get better trade deals than the biggest trading block in the world, it’s a bit like saying that the local corner shop can get better deals than Tesco.

      • sidor

        EU isn’t “the biggest trading block in the world” at the moment: the Chinese economy is bigger. And EU will shrink considerably after Brexit. As far as agriculture is concerned, there is nothing EU offers to Britain that cannot be bought otherwise and cheaper. Except possibly the French cheese and beaujolais. Which they will sell anyway.

      • Andrew Cole

        The local corner shop is not the 5th biggest grocery retailer in the UK market.

        Tesco is not a merger of 27 separate grocers all looking out for themselves.

        Stupid Analogy.

      • Ivor MacAdam

        Mary Ann, try to think about the rest of the world, including the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China) as a sort of “trading block” and you will get the picture.

        • Frankfurt 13

          Mary Ann, try to think.

      • ctintheusa

        Actually, our local village store invariably did have equal or better prices than Tescos. They were well patronized and only closed when the occupants needed to retire. No one would purchase the store because it was being valued so high due to interest from property developers and is now a bijou little collection of flats, with road side parking which gums up the village center. Very sad. The elderly of the village now struggle to get their groceries and have to take a bus to the ubiquitous big box store.

    • drumroll please

      …as opposed to what other empires, old sport?

      • sidor

        Other empires don’t pretend to be “economic unions”.

  • sir_graphus

    We could create a new govt dept, staffed by returning EU civil servants. This dept would receive net funds that used to go to the EU, and to begin with they would distribute the funds to where they used to go. Thus no-one loses out in year 1.
    As time progresses, this department would be phased out (yes, I know, I’ve never heard of a govt dept even reduce its remit; steady expansion is the norm, see Parkinson’s law); we would gradually return those funds to the central govt and existing departments, who would distribute the funds, according to UK govt priorities, rather than EU priorities.

    • gillardgone

      We could call the department, farmers Independence Day, freedom from the EU ,and global warming cobblers, dept.

    • Ivor MacAdam

      We need a derogation department. Now! But a proper Brexit would be much better.

    • Soarintothesky

      15% tarrifs against British goods and discrimination against our service exports might make quite a lot of people lose out. Frankfurt would love the City out of the EU. Yes. They would still buy oil What’s that worth now? Bet the Welsh budget would shrink. Your civil servants would block all capital projects like rail electrification.

  • njt55

    “spunked away” what a curious turn of phrase

    • gillardgone

      Mis sprint ,
      he was talking balls a farmers saying.

  • Tom M

    “……but the EU needs us more than we need them…….” I hear this a lot and don’t dispute it. But it’s probably worth noting that we would need a Government and cvil service capable of wringing a good deal for the UK on that basis from the rump EU. That’s where I start to get wobbly.

    • Mary Ann

      Leave the EU and we will have no say in what the biggest trading block in the world does, of course if we had had more courage in the past we would probably be running it by now.

      • Conway

        We have no say in what the EU does now. We’ve tried to run it for decades – every time we’ve tried to bend it to our way of thinking, we’ve been defeated. Time to give up doing the same thing and hoping for a different result and try something different – being free and independent and able to make our own rules.

        • Ivor MacAdam

          Agreed, Mr. Conway. Trying to negotiate with the European UNION is like banging your head on a wall. When you stop, it stops hurting.

          • disruptivethoughts

            It seems unlikely that you have any experience of negotiating with the EU on which to base your opinion, and nor do I, admittedly. One of the problems in this big debate is sorting fact from fiction, and it is indeed very difficult to know how effective Britain actually is at negotiation over the long term. I don’t just mean the big summits either.

          • Tom M

            I’ve read Christopher Booker’s book The Great Deception. The history of the EU and In respect of what you ask it doesn’t make good reading at all.
            Starting with Heath, who wanted in whatever the cost, when Brussels cobbled together a common fisheries policy at the speed of light expressly to take our fish away, through numerous attempts at giving something in expectation of an advantageous return right up till today with Cameron and his ‘negotiation”.

            With one exception it has never worked. The only UK PM to get something out of the EU was Margaret Thatcher only for it to be given back by Blair for……..you’ve guessed, on the promise they would “look” at the CAP. They didn’t.
            The EU was (and still is) a French-German construct seen by the French after a humiliating war as a way of recovering it’s former glory whilst Germny was on it’s knees (although that dream is steadily diminishing with the steady rise of Germany).
            They did not want another European heavyweight (we could have been described as such at the time) at the table.
            The UK is tolerated because of what it has to offer as the fifth largest world economy and a net contributer to the EU.

        • disruptivethoughts

          If ‘defeat’ means ‘not following our orders’ then I suppose you might be right, but under those circumstances almost everything in this imperfect world would have to be regarded as a ‘defeat’ in one way or another. Is there no room for a British-led compromise from time to time?

      • Ivor MacAdam

        … a trading block which is constantly declining. And if it is so brilliant, why does that little item, the Rest Of The World, not have simililar set-ups?

        • Soarintothesky

          “a trading block which is constantly declining.” Perhaps you haven’t noticed. The price of oil has fallen dramatically. The effect on the suppliers is immediate. The effect on the users takes a little more time. Another 18 months and the EU will be the motor of the world economy. Japan will be doing a bit better too.

      • ButcombeMan

        “We”-You live in France, that most subsidized agri country

      • Andrew Cole

        We currently have 1 out of 28 say whereas Germany gets 27 out of 28 due to the fear from all the other countries.

    • Linda Cousins

      We will think hard on who can and will work for the uk, and its people,Cameron cannot be trusted.

  • gillardgone

    So they’re better off votein for Brexit then no contest.

  • Mary Ann

    Haven’t heard of grain, butter, wine mountains for donkeys years.

    • Andrew Cole

      You don’t watch the UK news then. They take that day out to the grain store to stand on top of the hill of grain very year when the news is slow.

    • disruptivethoughts

      That’s because they realised, after a number of perfectly-avoidable accidents, that grain, butter and wine are totally unsuitable materials for the construction of mountains.

  • Terry Field

    The efficiency of British agriculture when compared to Europe is not what it was. British agriculture has significant problems and will find life outside the EU far more difficult than the sweaty little nationalists say.

  • davidshort10

    Can’t agree with anything written by someone called Nigel.

  • NormanWells

    You guys still running those Massey Harris Super 27s? I have one for parts if you need.

    • Roger Hudson

      I still see a lot of IMT tractors in Bosnia , lovely Furgusons made locally.

  • gunnerbear

    Why subsidise UK farmers at all – NZ famers get no subsidy and compete globally….or is it that some Outers want to make sure their ‘landed chums’ keep getting UK taxpayers cash……? Why not give farmers a ‘touch of the discipline’ of the markets – the big efficient units crack on….the inefficient….well…

    • antoncheckout

      NZ farmers haven’t been corrupted by a surrealistic Wonderland agri-shambles for the last 40 years.
      Farndale appears to be suggesting a national subsidy – as he says – ‘in the short term’, in order to keep the farmers in business and soften the otherwise lethal blow of a sudden, immediate withdrawal of CAP subsidies. (Creative destruction isn’t such a great idea when our food security is at stake.)
      His suggestion makes sense to me. What the government must do is pro-actively persuade farmers to think and act creatively, so the subsidy can be removed bit by bit without armageddon taking place.
      I can’t see MAFF doing this, as hopeless as they currently are, so the agri-Ministry will need radical reform first.

      • gunnerbear

        Why would food security be put at risk – big or small efficient units survive, the rest go out of business or change what they do……you know exactly as the miners (energy security) and steelworkers (material for Mod supply chain) were told.

      • LG

        When a farmer goes bust, another farmer takes over the land. It still gets farmed. Land values may go down but that’s about all.

  • Conway

    … however unpredictable and bellicose Putin may be, it’s not as if he’s some latterday Hitler annexing his neighbours and testing our resolve by flying his bombers over our airspace.” No, he may be testing our responses by flying close, but the ones who are trying to annex their neighbours are the EU.

    • Soarintothesky

      The EU has no army. Joiners volunteer.

  • Roger Hudson

    The large agri-businesses have done well from the CAP, small farmers have largely gone bust.
    Britain should take back control of farming and fishing.
    Today i saw a story about an old cottage soon to be surrounded by a 700 house estate, all good agricultural land destroyed to make bad houses ( garages you can’t park even a mini in).
    Farm farmland, build on ‘brown field sites’.

    • Mary Ann

      NIMBY

      • Blindsideflanker

        Trouble is with uncontrolled mass immigration it is no longer ‘my’ back yard, its in ‘everybody’s’ back yard , and a lot of the back yards and being turned into favellas.

        • JabbaTheCat

          This is a typical view inside a favela, I’m curious where in the UK we have same or similar?
          http://tinyurl.com/zayk3yw

        • Fritz123

          Why do you blame the EU for this?

          • Chas Grant

            Schengen.

          • Damaris Tighe

            The answer to your question, how many IP accounts does flipkipper have? – 20 at least. I’m unable to comment on the thread you posted on.

          • Chas Grant

            Do you know any of flipper’s other usernames? His tone seems awfully familiar.

          • Damaris Tighe

            These are the ones I can remember. There are many more but not so active at the moment.
            EUROJESUS
            UnionJihack
            Trini’s Dad
            irina palm
            Swarm of Drones
            eat your greens
            Planet Vague
            Damien Hurts (pretends to be anti-EU)
            Purple … (can’t remember the rest)

          • Chas Grant

            It all makes sense now.

          • Damaris Tighe

            Damien Hurts used to end each post with the statement ‘Exit the EU whatever the cost’, which when you think about it is absurd. But he must have had a good laugh at genuine Spectator posters’ expense because several always upvoted him. He was mocking them.

          • Damaris Tighe

            Some more:-

            Isaiah
            Spastisticus Outisticus (pretends to be for Leave, whereas EUROJESUS is for Remain)
            UnionJihack has come out for Leave – it’s totally bogus
            and
            a name in Greek I can’t reproduce

          • Chas Grant

            It all makes sense now.

          • Fritz123

            But the dear and noble UK did agree to everything.

          • Chas Grant

            Well, never mind, with a bit of luck it’ll come to an end in the near future and you can sod off back to Germany, Fritzie.

          • Fritz123

            The UK did agree. And they knew what they did, period.

          • Chas Grant

            Well, never mind, with a bit of luck it’ll come to an end in the near future and you can sod off back to Germany, Fritzie.

          • LG

            We’re not in the Schengen area.

      • ButcombeMan

        Nice remark Mary Ann from your corner of rural France, without the housing pressures.

    • Rob Paton

      Un-capped subsidy allows exponential growth of larger agri-business (isn’t British Sugar the largest single recipient?), such businesses can pay over the odds for land and speculate on it gaining development value, land prices increase, smaller farmers can’t get on the ladder or expand their businesses. Clever ways of getting round the new “active farmer” test means a lot of subsidy is being paid to people or organisations who do not earn more than 60% of their income directly from agriculture – isn’t that wrong? Might screw up economic growth figures if a new UK subsidy were to be capped though, and we couldn’t have that could we?! Leave the EU and use the opinion of the 80% of the population in urban areas to drive through a subsidy cap and use farm subsidy to support farmers.

      • 4194

        Small scale farming tends to be associated with expensive food, surely? That’s been the case in England since the beginning of the industrial revolution, when most people worked the land. Today capital investment has reduced it to about 1%. Better paid work for agricultural workers was found in other sectors. Subsidies often being used to keep unviable farming localities operating. Some of this transition is currently taking place in some parts of EU.

        • Rob Paton

          So I get more money for the lamb and beef I produce than the man who has 1500ewes down the road do I?! If that were the case, no one would bother with expanding! Mechanisation has reduced the percentage of the population employed in Agriculture to below 1%, coupled with (as above) exponential growth of farms above a certain size. I choose to live on £10k per year, with subsidy of £2k. I say the fairest approach is to level the playing field, take away all subsidies and let unviable farms make way for someone else to have a go. Trouble is, that won’t happen – they will sell up for development!

    • LG

      It was always the UK that objected to a subsidy cap – because the UK (England) had larger farm sizes and therefore any subsidy cut would affect the UK more than France.
      As far as building on land, what has that got to do with the EU? And do you think there’s enough brownfield land in the areas where houses are needed?

  • Tamerlane

    The New Zealand experience proved farming flourishes without subsidises, there’s a period of readjustment followed by a farming boom. Besides, I don’t see farmers having too much truck with an organisation that so systemically exploited the BSE crisis to steal their business for continental farmers and shut them down.

  • John Smith

    If you require a subsidy to ‘exist’ perhaps you should be using your capital and talents to do something else
    Zombie farmers do not help anyone

    • disruptivethoughts

      The question is, in our evidently highly-urban society, who would grow all the food if we don’t get our remaining farmers to to it? If farming doesn’t pay then presumably, with subsidies gone, there would be a wave of farming business failures and a major fall in production. As we have done in so many areas where domestic production has apparently become uneconomic, we would have to import more.

      Looking at security, the problem is that we can live for several weeks without a consistent supply of steel girders but several weeks without food would represent a major national emergency.

      Alternatively, we could subsidise our own farmers even more generously, rather like the Swiss do, and yet still the same or maybe more at the till.

      A better solution than throwing domestic farming into further crisis through the end of subsidy brought about by a Brexit, would be to reform CAP so that it actually focusses on European food security and not just keeping the French happy. Their farmers already have some of the best produce in the world and should be able to stand on their own two feet in the market on equal terms with their European peers. In the long term, the perverting effects of subsidy must be ended everywhere and the policy reverted to its original purpose.

      We will not achieve the reform of anything, including the over-generous subsidy of French farmers, if we are no longer in the club.

      • RobertRetyred

        We complained about CAP in our first year of membership, and continued offering improvements, then Blair gave away a chunk of our EU rebate in order to get CAP reformed. And what is the result? We are still forgoing our chunk of rebate and CAP is still the same!
        Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that keeping on doing the same thing and getting the same unpleasant result is a sign of stupidity.
        Better off out!! It will be best for all concerned.

        • disruptivethoughts

          I remain to be convinced, by a long shot, that your conclusion is not an unnecessary and completely unknown risk, with consequences of a scale and timescale that cannot be known. There are plenty of counterarguments to my view, such a speculation about how things might be better, but they are not compelling because things might equally not be better.

      • John Smith

        We should be acting on the world market
        We should also be doing more with third world farmers, than the stupid and selective so called FairTrade
        We need Freetrade

        The market is a much better arbiter of what to produce & by who, than the EU
        They are useless at picking winners

        All Farmers do is chase the subsidies and moan like ‘ell if the price drops
        Nothing to do with what consumers want

        • LG

          Completely agree. Farmers would be far more entrepreneurial and innovative if they didn’t have the attitude that the world owes them a living.

          • John Smith

            The taxpayer appears to owe them a living

      • LG

        You seem confused.

        “the perverting effects of subsidy must be ended everywhere”
        and:
        “we could subsidise our own farmers even more generously”.

        Maybe make your mind up?

        • disruptivethoughts

          We could subsidise our own farmers even more generously than CAP, as the Swiss do, but I do not advocate this because I consider it better to aim for an end to all subsidy.

          ‘We could’ is simply a statement of the possible, not support for pursuing such an action.

  • JJH

    How about fishing too? Nobody has mentioned this yet; do we get our fish stocks back? It would make a helluva dent in Europe’s fishing fleet…

    • Hamburger

      There are no fish left.

      • GoJebus

        Michael Gove would pass as a cod.

      • Aberrant_Apostrophe

        That’s because the Spanish have hoovered them all up and thrown the ones they don’t want back – dead.

        • LG

          Our own fishermen are just as rapacious.

  • 4194

    The UK national debt is huge, and therefore after a Brexit any subsidies decided by the UK government would likely vary depending on the sectors favoured by the political party in power, and therefore unstable like the constantly changing policies imposed on the NHS. Likely some aspects of UK farming would be phased out.
    The fishing industry might also fall into this category, regulated and incentivised like north Sea oil, and available to current foreign fleets with catches landed where markets dictate, otherwise the UK fleet would have to be reinvested somehow to little advantage.

  • http://www.nytimesfashions.com/ Mian Yousaf

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  • Mark Donaldson

    Brexit alarmists and warming alarmists are both out to scare farmers and us all!

  • Sanctimony

    The most significant part of Mr Farndale’s article is:

    “The weird thing is, it would make financial sense. Just to continue
    paying farmers the same subsidy as they are getting now would cost the
    British taxpayer half as much, because, at present, we pay £6 billion a
    year into the CAP, but our farmers get only £3 billion back
    . British
    farmers are effectively subsidising their competitors: the French, by
    far the biggest beneficiary of the CAP, receive three times as much.”

    To my sense of logic that means our farmers would be far better off with Brexit…

    • http://owsblog.blogspot.com Span Ows

      …and we are not self sufficient so almost everything we produce could be sold in the UK anyway. Just need to sort a realistic price for the end products.

      • Sanctimony

        I agree… and hopefully someone will shame the thieving supermarkets etc into paying a realistic price for our farm products… regardless of whatever transpires our government should be protecting our own farmers and fishermen…. not the unscrupulous French farmers who should be funded from within their own country….

      • Aberrant_Apostrophe

        And we can pay African and other Third World farmers a fair price, and not impose swingeing import tariffs, like the EU currently does. Trade not Aid, as they say…

  • The PrangWizard of England

    There is too much talk about ‘EU money’; the Main Stream Media never explains the truth about the funding arrangements. It hasn’t got any, it only has what is given to it. After it allocates whatever it does to us, to farmers and others, it keeps back £10 billion as a subsidy from us. This is our net contribution, so we have paid in more than this overall. We are being impoverished by the EU, we do not benefit.

    So by leaving the EU, not only could we continue to pay subsidies to farmers because they are only getting money that we have paid over in the first place, but we get to keep the £10 billion on top.

    • Bertie

      Indeed. Gross payment is circa £19bn per year. Rebate, and some return money returned(but we are told how to spend it) sees NET Annual Contribution of c £10-11bn.

      This is set to rise, obviously. And is outside of any GDP related additional request for yet more money, or the odd fine for accounting infringements(even though the EU’s accounts have, hypocritically, never been signed off on,ever.)

      What’s the EU? It’s a socialist wealth transfer is what it is from rich Western Europe to poor Eastern Europe, not for hard work, but just because they have far less. The EU is a socialists paradise – central planning, central taxation being mooted etc etc

      No thanks.I joind for a trade union,not a political union, which is why I’ll be voting #leave

  • Sanctimony

    I spend months every year in the French Alps where I see “farmers” with 5 hectares of hill scrub driving around in John Deere tractors costing not far short of € 100,000… it’s all about maintaining tradition, you see… when not ambling about on their 10 acres on their tractors they can be seen in the local market town bars with their Audis and BMWs parked outside….

    • http://rantingoldgit.blogspot.co.uk/ Arthur Sparknottle

      The French have created a farming protection racket which we pay for and they and the Spanish have created a piratical fishing policy for which we contribute most of the fishing grounds – these now having been scraped virtually empty of fish, our fishing boats are being de-commissioned and broken up so that these thieves and villains are free to extract the last creatures swimming around our shores. We MUST leave this corrupt and villainous organisation before the scabious wretches take more of our fish, more of our money and occupy more and more of our houses and jobs through unlimited and largely unwanted migration.

  • Fritz123

    “We have a huge trading deficit with the EU and almost half of it, £32 billion, is with Germany.” The reason?

  • WarriorPrincess111111

    The farmers would be better off! Each farmer receives about £5000 per year, providing they maintain the legislation applied by the EU – this is peanuts to a trading farmer! When the UK comes out of the EU, it will be possible to apply stricter rules to the overseas owned Supermarket Chains who are killing UK farming off, without have to penalise the shoppers. The farmers would make far more money than these grants allow without having the EU constraints placed upon them.

    • LG

      “Each farmer receives about £5,000”?

      I know quite a few farmers and none of them receive less than £100k pa.

      • http://rantingoldgit.blogspot.co.uk/ Arthur Sparknottle

        It depends on the land area under their control although it is more complex than a simple equation about land area.

  • WarriorPrincess111111

    The farmers would be better off! Each farmer receives about £5000 per year, providing they maintain the legislation applied by the EU – this is peanuts to a trading farmer! When the UK comes out of the EU, it will be possible to apply stricter rules to the overseas owned Supermarket Chains who are killing UK farming off, without have to penalise the shoppers. The farmers would make far more money than these grants allow without having the EU constraints placed upon them.

  • plainsdrifter

    It is disgusting that we pay so little for our food, anyway. Put the price of booze up by 10p and no one cares. Do the same to a loaf of bread and there’d be a revolution.

    • http://rantingoldgit.blogspot.co.uk/ Arthur Sparknottle

      Well, you can easily live without booze and would probably be better for it, but basic staple foods are another matter. There is also the argument that it is the poor who spend most of their money on food and staples like bread are more important to them than caviare or pate de fois gras.

      Don’t get the idea that I am against booze. I brew my own craft beer from crushed malted barley, hops and yeast and enjoy both the process of making and drinking it, but I am under no illusion that it is an essential of life. By the way it costs about £0.60 a litre for 7% ABV American Pale Ale and about £0.45 for 7% India Pale Ale. The American is more costly because it uses a large amount of expensive American grown hops.

  • LG

    Not having to pay the farmers, the richest benefit claimants in the UK, would be a strong argument for Out. However, there are stronger reasons for staying In.

  • Discuscutter

    Unless the large shops pay a realistic price for produce then the British farmer is finished in or out of cap.

    • red2black

      The big supermarkets seem to have been allowed to hold farmers to ransom over what they pay for milk and whatever (?) else. I’m a townie and not up on life in the sticks, but animal welfare must be a concern in such circumstances.

  • Bob339

    Farmers bleat like sheep but you never see one on a bike.

  • John P Hughes

    As already noted below, the most useful part of Nigel Farndale’s article is this:
    “To continue paying farmers the same subsidy as they are getting now would cost the British taxpayer half as much, because, at present, we pay £6 billion a year into the CAP, but our farmers get only £3 billion back.”
    If it is as simple as that, what is the problem for the Leave campaign groups to set out a policy for farming in Britain where the same overall amount of subsidy is paid but it comes from the Exchequer, and no contribution is made to CAP?
    Farmers generally support staying in the EU because they know that the money comes to them, and because the farming lobby is more powerful in Europe as a whole than in the UK – and thus more effective in Brussels than at Westminster and in Whitehall.
    We need to hear from the best recent Agriculture Minister, Owen Paterson, who supports Brexit, on how Britain should fund and support farming outside the EU. So far we have the current Junior Minister at Defra, George Eustice, putting the farming case for leaving, opposing his Secretary of State, Elizabeth Truss. But Eustice isn’t a leading politician so isn’t (yet) getting the hearing he deserves.

    • Augustus

      Other non-EU countries like Switzerland and Norway support their farmers with government support. Naturally the UK would do the same. And Brexit would free UK farmers from countless EU laws that govern the CAP, not to even mention the environment and the banning of yield-boosting technologies.

  • Dacorum

    It is good to see after Brexit that we would be £3 billion better off by paying our farmers exactly the same subsidies that they receive at present.

    Another major advantage of Brexit is that we will regain control of fishing in our vast territorial waters and that we would then be able to bring in sensible conservation policies that would give our fishermen a decent living. Iceland and Norway do far better because they control their own territorial fishing limits and so will we after Brexit. The Brexit campaign should be pushing the advantages to our fishing ports from Brexit.

    • barrry baptist

      have you seen norway and icelands taxes .they are four times ours.we do not earn enough.

      • Dacorum

        Where were you educated? Were you never taught that sentences begin with capital letters and the countries begin with capital letters? And you are clearly ignorant about the correct use of the apostrophe and the question mark as you haven’t used them!

        Not only that, you didn’t post anything that had any connection with my post!
        My post was about how, after Brexit, we would be £3 billion better off by paying our farmers exactly the same subsidies that they receive at present. And the fact that Norway and Iceland have control over their fishing limits has no impact on their tax rates. Do you not think we should have control over fishing in our territorial waters and that we should enforce our own conservation policies and reserve fishing to British fishing boats and, if not, why not?

        • barrry baptist

          oh dear,a tantrum. you have obvious mental issues,all piss and blunder,because someone corrects you,and does not agree with your victorian values. mental issues.

          • Dacorum

            I hit a nerve, didn’t I?
            You don’t like being taken to task, do you?
            Not only can’t you write grammatically correct English, you can’t even express a coherent argument!

          • barrry baptist

            insults and a tantrum.

          • Dacorum

            Gosh, it took you 18 days to write insults and a tantrum!

          • barrry baptist

            as i said as it is.

          • Dacorum

            “as i said as it is”.

            Unbelievable! You’re still writing drivel that doesn’t makes any grammatical sense.
            Goodbye

          • barrry baptist

            tantrum again. oh dear.

          • Dacorum

            You still have nothing worthwhile to say.
            Goodbye

          • barrry baptist

            oh dear. stamping feet now.

        • barrry baptist

          oh dear. insults.

          • Dacorum

            Gosh, it took you 18 days to write “oh dear insults”.
            You haven’t the wit or the intellect to write a substantive reply answering the questions I posed.
            Goodbye.

  • ctintheusa

    Subsidies to farmers are only part of the problem. Underpaying farmers for their produce when lining the pockets of the large supermarket chains is another issue – redistributing wealth to the management and shareholders. It’s time that the country went back to supporting local agriculture and local shops and keeping the local economy buoyant. Perhaps that way, there would be less spontaneous purchasing of unnecessary rubbish too.

    • barrry baptist

      perhaps if we got decent wages to afford that,its strictly for the upper classes,most have to go to liddle and aldi to survive.

  • Darach Conneely

    How could a #Brexit Government give £3 billion CAP money it saved to farmers? They’ve already promised all £17.8 billion a year we supposedly spent on the EU will go to the NHS (the #Brexit Battle Bus’s figure of £350 million a week). This £17.8 billion for the NHS somehow still includes giving the £4.9 billion rebate we alrady get back buy obviously won’t get any more, and £5.8 billion (including CAP) in EU spending in the UK we will also lose. Somehow #Brexit has promised the NHS 2½ time more than we actually spend, including the £3 billion in CAP we won’t get, how are they to give the same non existent subsidy to the farmers as well?

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