Former union chiefs join agriculture's '˜in' crowd

Three former NFU Scotland presidents were among 42 leading figures from the UK's farming industry to publicly express their support for remaining within the European Union.

Former English NFU president Sir Peter Kendall. Picture: Stephen Kelly/PA Wire

As “Farmers for In” got off the ground, the group claimed that leaving the EU would mean farmers would have to abide by its regulations without a say in their formation and, like other non-EU countries, still have to pay into its budget without receiving payments in return.

“We’d pay, but have no say,” said the group, which is led by former English NFU president Sir Peter Kendall.

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Well-known faces from north of the Border who have given their backing include George Lyon, Nigel Miller, Sir Ian Grant and former NFUS vice-president Peter Chapman.

Lyon, who has also served as a member of the European Parliament, said he knew how much stronger and better off the UK’s farming industry was as a result of membership of the EU.

“The Common Agricultural Policy is far from perfect, but at least it gives us a level playing field on farm support, safety nets at times of crisis, access to markets and the same rules on the basic payment scheme and marketing.”

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Lyon said that membership of the EU ensured that farmers in Scotland and across the UK were not disadvantaged against the vast number of heavily supported and protected agriculture sectors around the world.

“It is my firm opinion that we must not put all of this and more at risk by walking away from Europe.”

He added that Britain’s farmers enjoyed free access to the single market of 500 million customers, and Europe accounted for 73 per cent of Britain’s agri-food exports.

“The Leave campaigns talk about trying to negotiate a free trade deal similar to the Swiss model. But that would not cover all products and would not give the same unrestricted access as provided by the Single Market.”

He said where duty-free access was granted, UK farmers would still be required to meet EU standards and regulations.

“In other words, the regulatory bonfire we’ve been promised by the Leave campaigns just wouldn’t happen. In any case, some of the worst regulations, as well as the ‘gold-plating’ of EU directives, happen in the UK, not Brussels.”