Farmers’ leader seeks government subsidy ‘equal to support given by European Union’

Pro-Brexit farming minister George Eustice insisted during the campaign that a “Brexit dividend” meant the Government could and would do so, reports The Telegraph.

Meurig Raymond, president of the National Farmers’ Union, called for a new “British agricultural policy” with “guarantees that the support given to our farmers is equal to that given to farmers in the EU, who will still be our principal competitors”.

UK farmers receive between £2.4bn and £3bn in subsidies from the EU each year, while the average income of a farmer was just over £20,000 in 2014. Farmers also want to see the bureaucracy of the CAP, which was widely criticised by eurosceptics, replaced with a simpler scheme tailored to Britain’s needs, and assurances that they will still be able to access seasonal labour.

“Outside the EU, we will need a student agricultural workers’ scheme which is open to students from around the world,” Mr Raymond said. The NFU has called an extraordinary council meeting on July 1 to consider its demands, but Mr Raymond said they would include getting “the best possible access to markets in the rest of Europe”.

New trade deals may need to be struck with countries in the rest of the world but must not result in the UK having to allow imports “which are produced to lower standards”, he said. Over the weekend, former Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Owen Paterson, a leading Brexit supporter, told the BBC’s Farming Today that leaving the EU presented a great opportunity to boost British farming.

“This is tremendous for farming and for our countryside,” he said. “This gives us the freedom to repatriate policy. Our self-sufficiency in food is down to 59pc, I am told. We need to grow more food.” Mr Paterson also called on farmers to use the summer to help ministers to draw up “a new forward-looking policy to grow more food and boost the rural economy”.

Meanwhile, others in the NFU leadership have also urged farmers to grasp the opportunities posed by Brexit. Minette Batters, the union’s deputy president, told the Mail on Sunday: “It’s time to dig for Britain… we will no longer have to allow foreign firms to compete for public service contracts so British farmers and firms can supply food to prisons, schools, hospitals, armed services and Whitehall canteens.”