Sunday, May 01, 2016

The EU Referendum 'Farming Vote'

"I'd best start thinking about my EU Referendum vote this week, if I'm going to write a blog post about which I'm going to vote on Friday. I had said on the day the Referendum date was known that I was not going to decide on my vote until after the Welsh Assembly election on May 5th. The Welsh General Election is hugely important to Wales, and it's been over-shadowed by the Referendum. It's my little personal protest. Makes me feel better even if it has no effect whatsoever on anyone else!

Tomorrow morning there's a Assembly Election 'hustings' in Welshpool Livestock Market. Hoping to go down and sit unobtrusively in the back where no-one will notice me listening in. Daresay there'll be a question to the candidates about the referendum. Over the last few weeks, I've been involved in a few discussions about how farmers will vote. As far as I can judge, the farming vote is split down the middle.

This is a bit of a surprise to me. I'd expected the farming vote to be for 'Remain'. At Westminster MPs in the 'Remain' camp tell anyone who will listen that the NFU voted to Remain - as if that's it. Well it's not it. Yes, leaders of the farming unions are for 'Remain', but most farmers I talk to are for 'Leave'. It's like a lot of other sectors. The 'establishment' is for 'Remain' but that counts for much less than it used to. The 'establishment' has become a term of disrespect - and not just in UK. Interestingly, the Farmer's Weekly announced the result of a poll of readers in it's last issue. 58% voted to 'Leave'. I've seen, heard and read nothing which suggests to me that the farming vote is anything but split down the middle.

One reason I had assumed farmers would support 'Remain' was the payment many of us receive under the CAP. I still run my own farm business. But farmers worry about democracy and sovereignty like every other sector (except these would not be the precise words used to express their concerns). I assumed that the perception that French farmers would fight harder for financial support for farmers within the CAP than UK Govts would carry influence (whether true or not). This was certainly how it felt a few years ago, but not sure it's the case now. Another reason why I thought farmers would back 'Remain' was access to EU markets to sell into. Personally, I don't buy this at all. But some do. Anyway, maybe hundreds of Montgomeryshire farmers will come up and tell me what they think over coffee in the canteen tomorrow. But even that's not straightforward. Experience informs me that the 'Remain' side will be happy to tell me, while the 'Leave' side just keep their thoughts to themselves !

UPDATE The Farmers Weekly poll was taken over a recent 10 day period. There were 577 responses - enough for it to be a significant poll. 58% voted to Leave and 31% voted to Remain. As with all polls of this sort, it depends who goes to the trouble of responding, and whether there was some campaigning activity we don't know about. But I do think it's fair to maintain that the 'farming vote' is split down the middle.

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