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Undecided on Brexit and UK fishing and farming? Here’s the headlines

Fisherman bringing in a catch wearing Stormline foul weather rain suits

Let’s be honest. You’re already more than familiar with UK farming and the EU referendum debate.

From politicians arguing until they’re blue in the face, to perhaps the most bizarre naval battle the UK has ever seen, this is likely to be remembered as one of the most fiercely contended and controversial issues of our generation.

And that’s before we get into topic of agriculture and farming.

But if you’re still not sure about how you’ll vote (you certainly aren’t alone), then here’s some food for thought on the run up to 23 June.

 

UK farmers are still undecided about what to do

More than 63% of the UK’s agricultural exports go directly to the EU – making it the largest and arguably most important market for our farming industry.

The EU also provides significant subsidies to British farmers, totaling around £2.4bn in 2015 alone.

But that doesn’t make the decision for farmers so clear cut.

According to a BBC study, a significant number of UK farmers are still undecided about how exactly to vote.

Those who believe the EU hinders UK farming, for example, argue we’d be better off in a single market – allowing us to trade internationally, without Brussels’ infamous bureaucracy. And as for those EU subsidies, there’s the suggestion they’d be unnecessary if the EU wasn’t around to drive up market prices in the first place.

 

Undecided UK farmers are more likely to vote ‘Remain’

So what does that mean for people who are undecided?

Well, according to a poll taken just last week, farmers who’re currently sitting on the fence are more likely to vote ‘Remain’ on the big day. Interestingly, this trend towards last-minute decision making seems to be reflected across the UK. It’s been estimated that as many as ⅓ of UK voters will make up their mind in the last week of referendum campaigning.

Economic uncertainty is perhaps the most significant driving force – with Peter Kendall, former NFU president, arguing the referendum has become the ‘biggest experiment of our lives’.

 

The NFU says it’s impossible to determine if Brexit would be good or bad for UK farming

And that seems to be the crux of the issue for many voters.

The NFU has publicly stated that it won’t campaign in the lead up to the EU referendum. Uncertainty – or perhaps a lack of reliable information – means that there’s been no consensus about how either outcome will impact UK farming.

So, it’s little surprise that David Cameron has been making 11th-hour visits to Britain’s farmers to help persuade them to vote ‘Remain’.

UK fishing – Foreign boats catch our fish “then ship it back to us”

This report by The Guardian quotes a number of fishermen and women in Appledore, Devon who want out. One poignant element of this report is the claim that foreign boats, in this case namely Belgian vessels, can come into UK waters, take UK fish and then sell it back to us.

Chief executive of the North Devon Fisherman’s Association, upon looking at a real-time map of vessels in UK waters said:

“Belgian, Belgian, Belgian fishing boat. Belgian, Belgian, Belgian.”

Brexit *could* benefit UK fishing

According to this BBC report, Brexit could mean that the UK would have more control of UK waters. The key thing to note about this report, which cites a House of Commons library paper, it would depend on what the UK Government decided to do post-Brexit – there’s currently no defined outcome.

Another factor worth noting too, is that if Brexit happens and the UK Government decides to allow EU vessels access to UK waters as part of its exit negotiations, we’d need to maintain a very close relationship with the EU for the foreseeable future in order to monitor the negotiated catch limits, so not a lot would change right away.

When Greenland left the European Economic Community in 1982, fishing was a big part of the negotiation. Greenland eventually secured tariff-free to access (one of the proposed benefits of remaining in the EU) to the EEC market, but in return it had to continue to to allow European vessels access to its own waters.

UK farming in the EU referendum

At this stage, it’s extremely difficult to say how the vote will go on 23 June. If you need more information, or would like to learn more about the key issues impacting your industry, we’d recommend having a look at gov.uk.

What’s your take on the EU referendum? How do you think it’ll impact our agricultural industry?

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