Farmers' union backs staying in EU

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Farmer in a tractor Image copyright Getty Images

Farmers’ interests are best served by remaining in the European Union, the National Farmers’ Union says.

The union said on the “balance of existing evidence available” the interests of farmers were best served by staying in Europe.

The position of the union – which has 55,000 members in England and Wales – was announced following a vote by its council.

However, the NFU said it would not be actively campaigning in the referendum.

It said its council members looked at a number of issues, including the impact leaving the EU would have on agricultural trade and the consequences for labour availability.

It has also completed 28 roadshows to debate key farming issues in the referendum with members, and sent two reports to its members,

It said: “The NFU Council resolves that on the balance of existing evidence available to us at present, the interests of farmers are best served by our continuing membership of the European Union.”

The organisation said it was not joining any campaign groups and would not be telling its members how to vote.

‘Overwhelming’ vote

The union has not released how each of its 90 council members voted.

However, Meurig Raymond, president of the NFU, said there had been an “overwhelming” vote in favour of staying in the EU.

“We believe it’s for the betterment of the future of British agriculture,” he said.

“On all the surveys we have done in the NFU, the majority believe that we should stay in.”

He added: “We have had 28 meetings across the country in the last three weeks.

“We have spoken to three or four thousand people. So the delegates here today brought the views from those meetings to our council meeting.”

Prime Minister David Cameron, who is campaigning to remain in the EU, has previously warned that British agriculture would suffer if the UK votes to leave the union.

He said farmers could lose as much as £330m on lamb and beef exports if Britain were to leave.

However, former environment secretary Owen Paterson has said Britain’s farmers would be better off outside the EU.

The Conservative MP said Britain would then be free to set its own subsidies and its own environment policies.

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