EXPERTS recruited by one of the North’s leading agricultural groups has warned that it's hard to see any advantage for British farmers in leaving the EU.

And they predict it would lead to an inevitable period of great uncertainty of at least two years, making medium and long term planning by farmers extremely difficult.

Among the farming community, there are concerns it will be a leap in to the dark and could lead to higher food prices.

Loading article content

The report was commissioned by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, based at Harrogate and written by Prof Wyn Grant of Warwick University and the Farmer Scientist Network.

It’s due to be published on Thursday February 4, but some of its findings have been released by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society. Speaking in advance Prof Grant said most farmers are concerned about the effect of an exit on farm subsidies, without them the future of many farms would be in jeopardy because it could mean the difference between running at a profit or a loss.

“There is a perception in the industry that leaving the EU would reduce the burden of regulation. I do not think there will be a bonfire of regulations as the problem is not just from Brussels but from gold-plating by London. There are legal complexities which have not been considered,” said Prof Grant.

He says powerful and influential lobby groups in Britain would have a louder voice in a smaller arena, and British farmers would not have the advantage of their European counterparts, particularly the French, fighting the farming corner. Britain would also still have to abide by EU regulations if it wanted to continue to export to Europe.

Richard Findlay, an uplands farmer on the North York Moors said 40 per cent of UK lamb is sold to Europe. “In most countries where there is no direct agricultural support, food is more expensive. It's a misconception that it is a farming subsidy, it's not, it subsidises the cost of food on the shelves. Everyone has to eat and prices will go up. Food security should be higher on everyone's agenda,” he added.

Nigel Pulling Chief Executive of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society said leaving Europe would be like a “leap in the dark.”

“While there is some dissatisfaction with Europe there is at least certainty. What this report has highlighted is the complexity of the number of different issues we are facing, but the Government hasn't filled in any of the blanks. A real concern is that in any negotiations, agriculture would suffer against other sectors such as financial services and the pharmaceutical industry which make a greater contribution to the UK's GDP, but what could be more important than the food we eat.”