After the debate between Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones and UKIP leader Nigel Farage, organised by the Institute for Welsh Affairs, the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has described the prospect of a Brexit as a dangerous step into the unknown .
Speaking shortly after attending the debate, recently appointed FUW Managing Director Alan Davies, said: “The frustrations of others are shared by Welsh farmers in terms of the EU’s many shortcomings, but the FUW’s long established view is that a Brexit would have dire economic consequences for Wales and the UK, with our rural communities hit the worst.”
According to a recent report by Agra-Europe entitled ‘Preparing for Brexit’, Wales benefits financially more than any other region of Britain, receiving an average of around £185 per capita each year.
“In 2001 the foot and mouth disease outbreak meant we were not able to export our main agricultural products to the rest of the EU. Welsh farmers lost around £100 million in today’s terms, and the already low incomes of our hill farmers who make up the majority of our industry fell to an average of £1,700 per annum.
“The impact was basically the same as being outside the EU and having an import quota of zero; so from the point of view of our access to the 500 million or so EU consumers who are on our doorstep we need to know what our likely export quota for Welsh lamb, Welsh cheese or Welsh beef would be after a Brexit? What would the import tariffs for our products be? What would replace the current support in place for agriculture and our rural communities through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)?
“There are so many unanswered questions that any vote in the near future would be a dangerous step in the dark.”
Mr Davies said, Welsh agriculture and rural communities would be severely undermined by many of the policies on agriculture advocated by successive UK Governments, including those aimed at undermining the CAP, and that this underpinned the FUW’s concerns over the future of Wales outside the EU.
“Only last week Secretary of State Liz Truss confirmed there is currently no ‘plan B’ for agriculture should the electorate decide we should leave the EU, yet an in-out referendum may be just months away.”
Last month the FUW’s Welsh Assembly election manifesto called for a detailed financial analysis of the likely impact of a Brexit on Wales and its rural communities, and Mr Davies said such work must be prioritised so people know exactly what they are voting for.
“Unless we see some contingency planning, outlining the possibilities, some people will be voting for a dangerous step into the unknown, which we believe will be catastrophic for Wales and the UK.
“The FUW has been a strong voice for farmers in Wales in relation to Europe and has been at the forefront of the debate since the very beginning. We will continue our fight for Welsh farmers at all levels.”