Below is a collection of resources and opinions that have been forwarded to The Landworkers’ Alliance in the lead up to the referendum, in no particular order. We would love to hear responses, debate, comment and opinion, as well as links to other resources you might have found. Please post them to our forum.
Matt Lobley, Associate Professor in Rural Resource Management at the University of Exeter, shares his thoughts on the EU Referendum.
The views expressed here are his own.
Simon Fairlie – Dairy Farmer, scythe seller and editor of The Land magazine:
My opinion is that:
(a) the EU and the UK government are both dominated by corporate interests and neo-liberal pro-growth capitalists so there is not a lot to choose between them;
(b) despite its bureaucracy, the EU is marginally more democratic than the UK government since it has proportional representation. (Thus the only person who I have ever voted for who actually got elected was a (green) MEP.
(c) if we do exit then the political argy-bargy that will be generated in the process of working out what we do next will dominate the media and be a diversion from more important matters;
(d) if we exit then we will have to put up with the triumphalism of the eurosceptics who are mostly right wing jingoists; whereas if they lose the referendum that will shut them up for a few years.
(e) If we exit we will probably align ourselves even more closely with the US.
(f) If we exit the price of scythes will probably go up.
For all these reasons, and a few others, I would prefer to stay in.
Whether it’s the straight banana Euromyth, the high price of healthy food or rising suicide rates among farmers – the ‘in’ or ‘out’ debate touches on controversial issues relating to the future of food. We are hosting a public jury which will put the issues ‘on trial’ during a one day event that will also be webcast live, bringing new voices to the referendum campaign. Eight expert witnesses including Joan Walley (ex-MP and former chair of the Environmental Audit Committee of the House of Commons), Prof. Tim Lang (City University) and Guy Watson (Riverford).
Jyoti Fernandes – Five Penny Farm and the European Coordination of La Via Campesina
The EU common market has done untold destruction of traditional food cultures by encouraging food to be grown in places with a “natural” advantage to be shipped in to other places and removing protectionist barriers so that cheaper imported food products can undermine the prices that farmers receive for their produce in their regions. It is because of the common market that Dutch milk can be imported undermining the price that British Dairy farmers can produce milk for or French apples can be sold cheaper than English apples in Somerset. Because we are a part of the common market we can’t put tariffs on imported European goods to protect prices for our farmers.
The inequitable and per hectare subsidy system is also responsible for spiralling land prices and creating an un-level playing field for small farmers. It is not very likely that the UK government will continue with the current subsidy regime. Which could be a positive thing, but it is unlikely under this government that a reconfigured subsidy regime will be more supportive of small and family farms when their main strategy is sustainable intensification. If the EU subsidies are cut there will be a dramatic shake-up of farming with thousands dependent on subsidy going out of business because EU member states are currently not allowed to regulate a price that covers the cost of production.This would be terrible for struggling family farms, but would potentially have a positive impact by bringing down land prices and cutting inequitable support to larger industrial farms. It is unlikely that our fanatically neo liberal government would choose to regulate for fair prices, but out of the EU they in theory, could.
However, the EU has a positive effect on encouraging higher animal welfare standards, workers rights, and environmental protection. Membership in the EU has also allowed the LWA to work in partnership with to directly into into European Union policy which is on the whole far more in line with our values. Through the European Coordination of Via Campesina we hold seats on all of the European Union Civil Dialogue groups, while as of yet, we have not been invited to participate regularly in DEFRA decision making. I certainly had fun at the last Civil Dialogue Group meeting on pigs pushing the microphone button and ranting about feeding waste food to pigs- a proposal which got several positive responses from countries where the practice is not so far removed from their peasant agricultural traditions.
The main issue really is that if we leave it to the conservative government to decide what our food policy should look like we will end up with something far worse than what food policy looks like under the EU. The Conservative government is committed to going more neoliberal and dropping any of the environmental measures that they claim hold back our competitiveness. They will definitely fight against the ban on neo-nicitinoids and gycophosphates imposed by the EU and most certainly allow in GM. They would have pigs farrowing in crates again and mega dairies galore. I think we have a much stronger chance of fighting for a better food and farming system working with our partners on a European level.
Excellent paper by Prof. Tim Lang of City University: Food, the UK and the EU: Brexit or Bremain?
This briefing paper explores the food terrain exposed by the wider “Brexit versus Bremain” Referendum question to be decided by the voting UK public on June 23. It is written to raise issues; to invite academics and civil society working on food matters to consider how their work fits this momentous issue; and to aid informed decisions. The paper follows from debates and concerns expressed at the 6th City Food Symposium on UK food and Brexit held on December 14, 2015.
Ed Hamer – farmer, journalist & recent political lobbying work on behalf of LWA
- If the UK was to leave the EU the direction of UK food and farming policy would be dictated by whichever government was in power at any given time. Recent policy work by the LWA has highlighted that, due to recent budget cuts, Ministers have much less advice from civil servants and much greater power to direct policy based on their own personal opinions. Due to the polarised nature of modern politics this would inevitably create an unstable and volatile national food and farming policy – dictated by individuals with little or no first hand farming experience.
- Although sometimes onerous and bureaucratic, the involvement of the European Commission in UK farming policy currently provides a degree of stability and moderation.
- UK membership of the EU currently protects the UK farming industry from a greater pace of intensification than would otherwise be seen under the current Conservative government.
- I believe that on balance UK membership of the European Union provides a policy framework that is more supportive of the livelihoods of ecological farmers.
Every household in the UK has received a leaflet from the government outlining the reasons why it thinks people should vote to remain in the EU on June 23rd.
We’ve combed through the 16-page booklet and found numerous checkable claims among the government’s arguments on a range of topics, from jobs to immigration to criminal justice. See the results here.
Whichever side you end up on, get the facts.
Here are Guy Watson’s (Riverford) reasons for staying in the EU: