Plan B needed for farming if we leave the EU, says rural group

CLA East Regional Director Ben Underwood has spoken to the Herts Advertiser about the EU Referendum

CLA East Regional Director Ben Underwood has spoken to the Herts Advertiser about the EU Referendum - Credit: Photo supplied

Rural group the CLA, which represents farmers, landowners and agricultural businesses, has remained neutral in the EU Referendum Remain/Leave debate.

Instead, it has been lobbying Ministers for a ‘Plan B’ for farming, should there be a vote to leave the union in the June 23 referendum.

Ben Underwood, CLA east regional director, said: “To campaign or govern without giving assurances on future direction beyond the result of the vote undermines confidence and gives concern as to the future security of the rural economy.

“The critical question for Ministers is whether they are prepared for all eventualities – we have to have a robust policy to support our rural economy and countryside.”

Asked how either a remain or leave vote would affect the group’s local members, Ben said: “Any future decision to significantly reduce direct economic support to the rural economy could lead to a reduction in private sector investment, lower tax revenues and loss of jobs.”

Ben added: “EU programmes make it possible for farmers, landowners and rural businesses in Herts and across the country to undertake activities that deliver environmental goods and outcomes that we all benefit from.”

He said that, should the UK leave the union, “the first priority would be to try to reduce the uncertainty that would be pervasive.

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“The EU system has had a significant impact on the way people structure their business and it is a source of a lot of the funding that goes in to economic development and infrastructure.”

Ben said that the period leading up to next Thursday’s referendum had “created significant uncertainty for farmers and other landowners.

“The outcome of the vote will have big implications for the way the industry is currently organised.

“The EU is a major market for our products and currently the rules and payments come from Europe. It will be a relief for many when the outcome is clear.”