The impact of Brexit on agriculture and the rural economy


12 May 2016

By Keri Constantatou

On Wednesday, the Essex Agricultural Society hosted an important rural question time at Writtle College on the facts behind the ‘Brexit’ debate and the impact on agriculture and the rural economy.

The high profile panel included former NFU President Sir Peter Kendall; former Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Sir Jim Paice; CLA East Regional Director Ben Underwood, and the UKIP Leader of Norfolk County Council Richard Coke.

The event was ably chaired by NFU Vice-Chairman and Essex farmer, Guy Smith.

The timely debate came in the wake of demands by farmers for more information about how agriculture would be affected if the UK stays in, or leaves, the EU. George Eustice, the Minster of State for Farming, Food and the Marine Environment, revealed earlier this year the Government had no ‘plan B’ for the farming industry if the UK voted to leave the EU.

In particular, there remain questions about how far single farm payments, which account for roughly 56% of total income for farmers, would be replaced by funding from the UK Treasury. Secondly, there is uncertainty about what impact Brexit would have on farming regulation, as well as tariff and trade policy on agricultural products. Finally, there is uncertainty about the effect a Brexit would have on the thousands of EU farmhands employed on British farms. The question time panel dealt with each of these issues during the course of a lively and informative debate.

Regardless of the outcome of the referendum on 23rd June, one thing our farming and rural business clients can depend on is the continued support of Gepp & Sons, providing specialist and practical advice on a wide range of legal issues.

CLA East Regional Director Ben Underwood said: “To campaign or govern without giving answers on how the rural economy will be sustained in the future, whether we leave or remain, undermines confidence and gives concern as to the future security of the rural economy.

“The CLA wants Ministers to confirm whether they are prepared for all eventualities following the EU Referendum: if the UK votes to leave, the uncertainties for farming and other rural businesses are immediate and need to be addressed swiftly; if we vote to remain, there are still critical commitments that Ministers will need to make before the next Common Agricultural Policy budget is agreed in 2020.

“We’re not telling our members how to vote, but we make it very clear that we will be fighting to defend their interests whatever the outcome. Whether it is Plan A or Plan B, the CLA will be playing a leading role in helping to secure the future of UK agriculture and the rural economy.”

Gepp & Sons have possibly the most experienced and established Rural Services Legal Team in the region. If you have any legal questions relating to farming and businesses in the rural community please contact Edward Worthy on either 01245 493939 or

The above is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.