Farming With No Borders: Why a UK Farmer Will Vote to Stay in the EU


History shows the unique nature of the UK as an island, separated from mainland Europe by a mere 22 miles, that has kept the same borders and was last invaded in 1066.  Supporting a vision of a free Europe twice in the 20th century and openly embracing the countries that once lived behind an Iron Curtain.

If the UK chooses to quit the EU in a June 23 vote, it effectively turns its back on history, its European family and its future in Europe.

A simple decision to be made that will last a lifetime and affect several generations, some argue with their heart, some with their head. It has the ability to divide families and political parties.

I’m voting to stay in. I’ll cast my vote as a farmer who grows cereals and vegetables and raises grazing beef cattle in Yorkshire. My livelihood and the livelihood of my employees depend on our ability to participate in the world’s largest free-trading zone and within a system of sensible regulations.  Having travelled widely and worked in the EU I know at first hand it may not be perfect but it works remarkably well.

However well intentioned, Brexit will result in the marginalization of the UK as we move from within the EU to the outside and alone.

Let me give you a simple trading example.  Spain is the biggest customer of exported UK wheat and trading is simple: same rules, regulation and trade zones.  No tariffs, quotas or customs, trade is competitive but straight forward and importantly, we have a relationship that is built on being a fellow EU member state.

Everything changes if we leave the EU. Suddenly we’ll face new obstacles to commerce. We will have to demonstrate regulatory compliance; custom borders will return. We will have to re-negotiate every single trading arrangement that we sensibly left to highly competent EU negotiators. Perhaps we’ll face tariffs. Quotas could lock us out. The relationship with our near neighbours will change. The sad fact is that Brexit will force us to pay more simply to participate in ordinary commerce, putting us at a competitive disadvantage against our former EU partners as well as with countries around the world.

Trade would still go on, but it would become more difficult. We shouldn’t take for granted the fact that in the whole history of the UK, trade never has been easier than it is right now.  Being part of the EU has a value and the UK can simply concentrate on the promoting the best of British produce.

People often complain about the regulations that come out of Brussels, and I’ve certainly taken issue with them on occasion. Yet the truth is that 98 percent of the policies written by EU officials are perfectly fine, sensibly aligning 28 member states efficiently. We don’t hear much about the sensible ones because they aren’t newsworthy. The crazy bits that generate headlines produce opportunities for outrage, but the UK is perfectly capable of creating our own daft rules. It makes sense to stay in the EU and work within the system, rather than building our own bureaucracies to duplicate what the EU already does for us now.

If we leave the world’s largest free-trade zone, we’ll have to renegotiate all of our commercial relationships. While many nations will be happy to strike deals with us, others will see us merely as a country of 64 million people—a good amount, but dwarfed by the combined strength of Germany, France, and the rest of the EU.

Last month, President Obama warned us of exactly this problem: “The UK is going to be in the back of the queue.”

This is true in more ways than one. Not only will we be smaller in size, but we’ll also be smaller in diplomatic capacity. Our civil service has lost the expertise to negotiate favorable trade deals. Although we’d regain it in time, we’d have to start from nothing and endure a period of profound vulnerability.

We’d also find ourselves left out of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks, now going on with the United States and promising to improve our trade ties with a huge sector of the global economy.

If we voted to leave, Scotland almost certainly would demand another vote to leave the UK, wanting to rejoin the EU.  With a global background of economic pressure, this is the last distraction the UK needs.

The EU is far from perfect.  I would prefer that it was simply an economic union but it’s difficult not to see it’s evolvement to 28 members as anything but a resounding success. It has brought peace, stability and growth to a continent that still remembers at first hand two world wars.

It has produced affordable, safe food for all its citizens. It has much to do and I vote wanting to keep the UK within the EU and at the heart of the reform process rather than gazing across 22 miles of sea, missing my friends.  Europe to me is simply, “farming with no borders’, with a common bond of farming for the future.

Paul M. Temple

Paul M. Temple

Paul Temple volunteers as a board member for the Global Farmer Network and farms in the north of England in the United Kingdom. The farm practices conservation agriculture on a mixed beef and arable family farm. Paul grows wheat for seed, barley, oilseed rape, vining peas and beans. They've recently added grass leys back into the arable rotation. On the beef side they utilise a wide range of environmental grasses with suckler cattle, rearing calves that are either fattened or sold as stores. Additionally, the farm is in a high level environmental scheme with educational access.

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