Farm subsidies post Brexit

What would happen in the event of Brexit depends on who is on the media at that particular time, and I confess to being almost as fed up listening to the remain side telling us how awful things would be in the event of Brexit as I am listening to the relentless optimism of the Brexiteers telling us how wonderful everything will be without the EU shackling us.

Me, I like dealing in facts.  I even like dealing in statistics, and I have a fair idea how I think the politics of Brexit would play out.  I don’t think it would be anything like as dire as the Remain campaign will have you believe, but nor do I believe that the Brexit campaign’s optimism of independence and easily negotiating good trade deals is realistic.

A recurring theme in the media is farmers.  The standard Leave campaign position is that the UK Government will be able to provide its own scheme since we won’t be giving money to the EU.  Even though the Government has said it won’t do any such thing, it is possible that post-Brexit, the Government will be persuaded to provide such a scheme rather than just turning the money saved into reducing the deficit.  Unlikely on the whole, but far from incredible.

Such a UK-funded scheme would be administered by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) for England, with Barnett consequentials for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  And herein lies the rub.

This table presents the actual figures for October 2013-September 2014, the last year for which full data is available:

England £2,241,209,250.48
Scotland £627,941,548.84
Wales £344,336,731.93
Northern Ireland £349,759,080.76
TOTAL £3,563,246,612.01

So what would that look like if the UK Government were to fully fund DEFRA for actual payments for that year, with Barnett consequentials for the devolved administrations?  Here we are, using the formula as it was for the years 2011-2016:

Barnett formula Barnett consequentialsDifference% change
England100.00% £2,241,209,250.48 £-0
Scotland10.03% £224,793,287.82 £(403,148,261.02)-64.20%
Wales5.79% £129,766,015.60 £(214,570,716.33)-62.31%
Northern Ireland3.45% £77,321,719.14 £(272,437,361.62)-77.89%
TOTAL £2,673,090,273.05 £(890,156,338.96)-24.98%

The amount of money made available by the Treasury for 2013-14 for farm subsidies under the Barnett consequentials (which of course can be used by the Executive for any devolved purpose it wishes) would have been less than a quarter of that actually paid by the EU.  To be able to pay farmers the same amount as the EU would have required the Executive to find a further £272 million from its own resources.

Suppose the full £3.5 billion were to be divided up according to the Barnett Formula.

Barnett formula ActualDifference% change
England100.00% £2,987,546,417.38 £746,337,166.9033.30%
Scotland10.03% £299,650,905.66 £(328,290,643.18)-52.28%
Wales5.79% £172,978,937.57 £(171,357,794.36)-49.76%
Northern Ireland3.45% £103,070,351.40 £(246,688,729.36)-70.53%
TOTAL119.27% £3,563,246,612.01 £(0.00)0.00%

The amount of money made available by the Treasury for 2013-14 for farm subsidies in Northern Ireland would still be less than 30% of what is currently paid.

That figure gets worse.  I haven’t been able to get figures for the replacement Basic Payment Scheme for 2014-15 yet, but from April 2016 to March 2021, the Barnett formula will change to 9.85% for Scotland, 5.69% for Wales, and 3.39% for Northern Ireland – so we would get less for any increase in spending in England.

In the event of Brexit, and regardless of whether farm subsidies are replaced, it is hard to see farmers being anything other than worse off.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “The UK government wants a thriving economy in Northern Ireland.”

    How does setting aside a substantial amount of money in hand outs to “people who just own land” ( numerious people with farm numbers collect subsidies on land but do not see the land from year to year) in any way encourage an economy? The subsidy system is as often as not simply adding to the income of people working in other occupations who, coming from a country background, have simply bought farm land that until recently they rented out conacre, and the subsidies fudged. At least most must now persuade relatives still living locally to keep an eye on a few sheep to qualify. None of this reghenerates our agricultural sector or in any way encourages a “thriving ecomomy” in the countryside. If there are to be subsidies they need to be carefully checked, rather than simply acting as a bleed off of funding.

  • Skibo

    I started 13 years ago. Only small with two calves but slowly building up. Trying to not put too much money in as there are very little returns. If you didn’t love it, you wouldn’t be at it.

  • Gingray

    Nope – they are happy enough. There are 0 votes in it for any of the parties, hence the legacy of failure. It would cost more to create a thriving economy, and hurt England (less white, english speaking, well educated folk moving to support the English economy).

    Cheaper by far to keep it as it is.

  • Gingray

    UKNI 🙂

    I can see it catching 🙂

  • Gingray

    You refuse to recognise that people in the 6 counties of Northern Ireland are not in the north of Ireland? Even tho many of them are recognised as Irish? Compete in sports on an all Ireland basis?

  • On the fence!

    Unfortunately the EU have rendered that final statement obsolete. There are plenty of “farmers” out there at present having a very cushy time off SFP/BFP. Some of them have little interest in practical farming, nor do they need to any longer once the EU decided to pay people based on land owned and historic entitlements. There are still some people trying to farm well and running good outfits, but that’s more about a personal choice of how to do things rather than economic necessity. There are people (myself included) that do “love it”, but they’re having to compete with those who are there because of a huge SFP/BFP payment every December and that is harming the industry

    For myself, been at this carry on for over forty years now. Firstly as a part time labourer, then full time labourer, and managed to buy my own place over twenty years ago. So I’ve seen a lot of changes and had plenty of torture too!, but was lucky enough to be farming when it was an industry to be proud of. I honestly believe we need to leave the EU to have any hope of it being such again.

  • NMS

    There is a further problem, particularly for dairy farmers. 588M litres of raw milk were imported into Ireland from NI in 2015. All of this milk would be liable to Customs Duty on the departure of the UK. This would further reduce the price and massively increase administration & checks on such milk. I can’t see anyone getting ready to build processing plants in NI to take it.

  • Angry Mob

    No, I recognise that and their right to be Irish under the GFA.

    My gripe is the use of ‘North of Ireland’ which would include counties like Donegal, Monaghan, Cavan etc when you actually mean Northern Ireland.

  • Skibo

    The historic payments system is slowly being phased out and I think will be level by 2021/2. There will be further changes in the future when the EU will level the payment across all countries. That will tell a tale.
    Most farmers I know would rather be paid a fair price for their toil and tell whoever to dump the SFP.
    Problem is could Joe public afford to pay what it would take to produce food safely and allow farmers to earn a decent wage.
    How on earth could a farmer buy land at present prices and work it to make profit and pay off the land in 20 years time?
    Problem with price of land at the moment is developers buying up land and locking it up in the hope that at some time in the future they can build on it, that and guys who have made money, investing it in land rather than pay tax on the interest.

  • Skibo

    GR, just use north east of Ireland!

  • Angry Mob

    Cavan, Monaghan & Louth etc?

  • Gingray

    Do you understand what people mean when they say north of Ireland? I do. I understand why they use it to.

    I understand why people here claim to be British, while not living in Britain.

    We all have things that annoy us – my own is referring to this place as the province or Ulster, but hey ho.

  • Skibo

    Not North East on my map but then Derry, Fermanagh and Armagh may not fall into that description either. You are probably trying to get GR to say Northern Ireland just to prove a point. A bit childish and immature. A curse on both your houses!

  • Roger

    GB-ENG England country

    GB-NIR Northern Ireland province

    GB-SCT Scotland country

    GB-WLS Wales country

    Those are the existing UK ISO codes for those places. I think UKNI is catchier than GB-NIR. But I would be happy to use the existing ISO codes instead.

    Incidentally, these are existing Ireland ISO codes:

    IE-C Connaught province

    IE-L Leinster province

    IE-M Munster province

    IE-U Ulster province

  • Gingray

    Thankfully in the real world we don’t identify ourselves by international acronyms.

    Imagine the conversations.

    ‘Hi I am from GB-SCT Scotland Country.’

    ‘Oh cool. I am from IE-L Leinster province. Can we be friends?’

    Do you get money for trying to promote these terms that no sane person would use?

  • On the fence!

    Those days are long gone, plenty of ridiculously priced development land has been auctioned off at agricultural prices with the taxpa……….., sorry, I mean the banks taking the hit for the money lost.

    What if the price of agricultural land were to take a beating, surely that would be of benefit to plenty of the excellent small scale producers who have no chance of increasing scale in the current situation. I’d certainly welcome it!

    Finally, if most farmers would genuinely love to dump the SFP, what the hell are they wanting to stay in the EU for?

    Sure they’re just giving it a vote of confidence!

  • Angry Mob

    Yes I am aware what it can mean but why be ambiguous?

    Being British and living in Northern Ireland is not a contradiction. The British Isles consist of the island of Ireland. Britain doesn’t really mean anything as there is no island called Britain, only Great Britain.

    I also dislike the use of Ulster to refer to Northern Ireland, or the South to refer to Ireland given that parts of ‘the South’ are further north than the ‘North of Ireland’.

  • Angry Mob

    Given that you have already joined in the fun and games maybe you’re the pot calling the kettle black?

    Cavan, Monaghan & Louth are in the NE of Ireland, but on the Island of Ireland then arguably not.

    Not so much to the point of saying NI but rather the point of ambiguous terms to reference it.

  • John Collins

    The behaviour of some of those mandarins during the last Foot and Mouth Crisis, when after an outbreak of the disease in mainland Britain, they refused to make the case for a derogation for Northern Ireland, even though no outbreak had taken place in NI at that stage; showed us all we need to know about their concern for Northern Irish Farmers.

  • John Collins

    I refer to my post above dealing with how the D of Ag in GB refused to make a case for keeping the sale of NI agriculture produce open, during the last F and M Crisis, even though there was then no outbreak of the disease in evidence in Northern Ireland at that time.

  • Gingray

    God, I have not heard them called the British Isles in a while. Mostly Britain and Ireland to be honest (like the rugby team?).

    For many people in Northern Ireland, myself included, this is Ireland. The island. The place. United already on so many levels, while recognising that political union is not for a large number of people in the north.

    So I respect their views, and that of the majority, without it diluting my own. Similarily when a UI comes about, I hope the views of those British in Ireland are equally respected and accommodated.

  • Skibo

    I heard my mum say the very same thing before lifting the wooden spoon!
    Louth for one is definitely not north east, if anything, maybe east. As there are two whole counties between Cavan and Monaghan and the north east coast, it is difficult to include them also. Perhaps we should use the north east of Ulster. Would that make it accurate enough for you?
    Bit pedantic if you ask me. You can call it NI, he can call it the North of Ireland, you both know what the other means.

  • Angry Mob

    Louth is definitely NE, of Ireland. When you include NI then no, it isn’t.

    NE of Ulster would only really be Co Antrim.

    My point was that North of Ireland is ambiguous, NI isn’t.

  • Skibo

    North of Ireland is only ambiguous for those who do not want to see. How do you walk anywhere without tripping? You cannot see past the end of your nose!
    Like I said before You are just trying to get someone to say Northern Ireland, well they don’t have to. Accept it and move on.
    As for your statement on Louth, I see where you are coming from. Only problem is Ireland is the island of Ireland. Just accept someone has the right to hold a position different from your own.

  • Roger

    They are codes so you don’t have to include “Scotland Country” or “Leinster Province”. “[W]e don’t identify ourselves by international acronyms”….what’s UK then? Well, I’d say it is a national and international acronym for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. NI is very often used on this site too. I regularly see ROI too, which I really do’t like! IRL is proper.

  • Gingray

    Roger, I know you realise that the ISO standards are international and not a shortened form of something that exists.

    Perhaps you just need to accept that a large part of the UK do not even consider themselves British, and if they do, it plays a secondary role to their primary nationality.

    Surveys consistently show that only in England is the question even in doubt, with roughly a 50/50 split. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland do not reach 50% – even in the 2011 census only 48% of the people in the North indicated that any part of their identity was British.

    Time to move with the times and accept that using UK or GB as an attachment to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland just has no popular support.

  • Angry Mob

    I would’ve replied sooner but I was on business to the north of Ireland last night.

    No one has to but but given it’s a politically loaded statement it has very little purpose than than than to mark the territory as such. We can all use any terms we wish but should we? Should I in future say I live in the Western British Isles, just to make some petty point? It wouldn’t be any more wrong than is to use it than “North of Ireland” to refer to NI but I’m sure certain people would find it offensive.

    As discussed I respect the right of anyone in NI to call himself Irish (or British or both as I consider myself) as set out in the GFA, but one of the other key elements of the GFA was that Ireland relinquished its claim on Northern Ireland. You may not like the fact that NI exists, but it does and it’s only proper to use its name in reference to it.

    Ireland is a country and it is the name of this island. The actual name Ireland can also be quite difficult as to discern what the speaker means as it can be either.

    I feel we have deviated a lot from the more important issue here however, brexit.

  • Roger

    “Time to move with the times and accept that using UK or GB as an attachment to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland just has no popular support.”

    Hold on now, I recall something about a referendum in Scotland 2 years ago? There was a referendum in Northern Ireland a wee while back too. I think the UK is so widely accepted in Wales that it’s never even got to a vote… We are of course talking about a state that is over 300 years old.

  • Gingray

    Tsk Roger, the Mughal Empire was also over 300 years old. Its gone now. Very little lasts forever.

    Whether of not they remain within the UK or not, the majority of people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland do not consider themselves British.

    I get why you would like to force an acronym that you are very fond of upon them, but the reality is that its just not wanted.

    Time to move on!

  • Skibo

    I agree, we have deviated a heck of a lot. Just noticed I say a lot, a lot!
    Anyway, is it an issue what we call this space we all call home or is the problem that we want to dictate to others what they call it?
    Reminds me of the parable of trying to take the splinter out of your neighbours eye while ignoring the one in your own.
    We are in a peace process, it is continuing. The reason for the process is neither side won. We have to accept either side has their beliefs and rights but with rights comes responsibilities.
    I find that Unionism think that equality is everyone is equally British but can consider themselves Irish but in the end they are British citizens under British rule.
    They seem to have no ability to look at the past, the present or the future through the eyes of a Republican and until that time comes, they will never really understand the problem.