Our membership of the European Union brings massive benefits to the Welsh agricultural industry and our farming communities. As a result, our economy benefits by around £5.8billion. Wales receives significant financial support from the EU’s structural funds. The CAP provides the Welsh farming industry with substantial financial resources supporting over 80% of Welsh farmers.
DEFRA’s own figures indicate that around 55% of the UK’s agricultural income comes from CAP. In addition to the direct payments, rural communities across Wales will receive, through the Rural Development Programme, over £900m between 2014 and 2020, with over half of this funding coming from Europe.
Our ability to trade with European markets has led to Britain’s agri-food exports more than doubling over the last ten years. If Welsh farmers found themselves outside the single market then our agricultural exports to Europe would face a tariff of 14% on top of the selling price, with a higher tariff imposed on certain items.
Last year, ‘Hybu Cig Cymru’ received over £3m to promote Welsh lamb and beef to our key markets – France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Ireland. Leaving the EU would result in the UK’s beef and lamb industry incurring additional costs under export rules imposed by the World Trade Organisation.
The advocates of Brexit suggest that the Treasury in London would make up for the loss of funds if the UK left the EU. There is of course no guarantee that this will happen. In fact, politicians, particularly those representing our big cities and urban conurbations are calling for further cuts to agricultural spend that comes from the EU.
For Welsh farming communities in particular, it is vital that we remain part of the EU. Our unrestricted access to a market of 500 million people is key to Welsh business and the prosperity of our agricultural industries. It would be simply madness if we turned our backs on one of our biggest export markets simply to indulge in the politics of Fantasy Island.