News: June 2016

Date posted: 08/06/16

In or out? North East farmers debate EU referendum

Almost 100 farmers and landowners from across the North East gathered at The Alnwick Playhouse on Friday (3 June) to hear high profile campaigners debate the EU referendum and its potential impact on UK agriculture.

The event, which was hosted by Savills and the Northern Farmers & Landowners Group (NFLG) was chaired by Lord Curry of Kirkharle.

In the pro-Brexit camp was local MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan; and Duff Burrell from Farmers for Britain. Arguing the case for remaining with the European Union was Paul Brannen MEP, a member of the EU Agriculture and Rural Development Committee; and Simon Bainbridge, a founding member of campaign group ‘Farmers for IN’. Professor David Harvey from the Centre for Rural Economy at Newcastle University provided factual input based upon his long term study of the subject.

Michael Orde, head of Savills Corbridge, comments: “It was clear before the debate started that the audience arrived with considerable anticipation; guests were not disappointed as the panel answered questions clearly on important rural issues such as subsidies, trading relationships and regulation as well as the reality of our relationships with our European neighbours.

“In contrast to much of the public debate we have witnessed, both sides put their points across with respect and only occasional fire, making for a fascinating and insightful afternoon. Hopefully the debate will have helped our clients in making their choice in this very important referendum.”

Angus Collingwood-Cameron of the Northern Farmers and Landowners Group, adds: “We were delighted to welcome so many NFLG Members and Savills clients to the North East Rural Economy debate, which reflected not only the level of interest in the EU referendum, but also the high calibre of the panellists. The plan was that the panellists would deal with factual issues which are so often missing from the general debate, therefore really helping the audience to decide”.

With only a few weeks remaining until the referendum on Thursday 23 June, Savills carried out a pre and post-debate audience poll to gain an insight into the voting preferences of those in attendance. The vote before the debate began revealed that 44% were minded to vote to stay in, whilst 29% intended to vote to leave the EU and 28% were still undecided. When the poll was repeated after hearing the speakers, 56% voted to stay in the EU with 17% opting to leave, whilst 19% of voters were yet to make a decision and 8% abstained from the post-debate vote.

Orde adds: “The intention of the debate was to provide a balanced representation of the cases to remain in or leave the European Union. The change in votes from pre to post debate appears to demonstrate that it influenced at least some of those present.”

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