In a poll, run by Horticulture Week, the nation’s premier news source for production horticulture, growers were asked ‘Do you think leaving the EU would be beneficial or detrimental to your business?’
Of 50 ornamental growers whose responses were analysed, those that thought leaving would be beneficial numbered 34 per cent, while those that saw Brexit as detrimental to business was at 38 per cent. No difference was at 24 per cent and don’t knows were two per cent.
There was 54 per cent of growers who wanted to stay in the EU and 46 who wanted to leave. More enforceable plant regulations was cited by several growers as a reason to leave.
With British trade body the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) remaining neutral, and the National Farmers Union (which is advising a ‘remain’ vote’) offering little advice to its ornamental members, the views of British flower and shrub growers have been little heard in the debate.
Eustice, a former grower, said: “We would put in place a new free-trade agreement to replace the single market, which would be easier to manage and involve spending the same amount on growing, agriculture and the environment. But we would spend it better and more effectively.”
He added, “We would commit more money to knowledge transfer, promoting competitiveness and science and technology to ensure we could compete with the best in the world. We would also put in place generous provision around work permits, more akin to the SAWS.”
He continued, “There are also regulatory threats and the politicisation around authorisation of pesticides, products and active chemicals. The problem with issues such as glyphosate and genetic modification is they attract very vocal campaigners across the EU.”
The Conservative MP for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle since May 2010 said: “The key thing about horticulture is it’s never been a heavily subsidised industry; it’s very market oriented, stands on its own two feet and doesn’t really get much from the CAP. If we had a new policy that gave us control of the regulatory regime around pesticides and genetic technology it would really help horticulture, while throwing more emphasis on knowledge transfer, science and technology would also help the sector.”
According to the poll, run by Horticulture Week Some 52 per cent of respondents thought there would be fewer plant health issues in this country if Britain left the EU, while 24 per cent said there would be no effect and 20 per cent believed there would be more risks.
Comments received included: “We may find that EU manufacturers may not want to market or approve new products for the UK market. The UK government could force UK growers to reduce peat use further. Plant Breeders Rights may be affected if the UK came out of the various EU breeder protection organisations. EU wide registration of a new plant may be more difficult.”
Opponents said: “I believe it (Brexit) will enable ornamental horticulture to increase prices to sensible levels in relation to product hardiness and quality.”
One grower commented: “Pests and diseases would decrease. Stock would have longer shelf life and there would be hardier plants for matching the soil base. Protection and building of critical agricultural low paid unskilled jobs for UK citizens especially in rural communities. However we need to collaborate more in order to succeed. Working together is the key to UK survival as well as sustainable growth for future generations.”
Some 66 per cent said leaving would have no effect on staff sourcing, but 29 per cent said it would. Half said plant prices would stay the same but 31 per cent thought leaving would raise plant prices. And half thought plant imports would fall and 42 per cent believed they would stay the same. No-one believed imports would rise if Britain left the EU.
But 34 per cent believed Brexit would decrease exports, while 42 per cent thought they would stay the same and just four per cent believed they would rise.
Other comments included: “I see the permanent damage to our exchange rate as having the biggest impact. With the exception of a few UK cutting producers all raw materials are Euro or Dollar priced in their initial state: plastics, substrate, seeds, cuttings, labels. The labour market is short of skilled employees, make transient labour more restricted and many companies will not have the work force required.”
One grower added: “It [Brexit] would promote more young plant growers to supply the UK market.”