UFU explains why it has no stance on EU

UFU president Barclay Bell
UFU president Barclay Bell

The Ulster Farmers Union President Barclay Bell has defended the fact it has not taken a stance on next month’s EU referendum.

Ian Paisley Junior MP had called on the UFU to come off the fence on the Brexit debate.

But the UFU responded that the comments were not justified. Its president Barclay Bell said it had always been clear that this would be a contentious issue, and that people’s views would not be based solely on whether or not the EU delivered for farming.

He said: “This was why we made clear from the outset that we would not be telling members how to vote. We have left that up to them, while saying that we have not seen a compelling argument that farming would fare better outside the EU.

“This issue has been discussed widely within our internal structure and this has been our agreed position from the outset, and it will not change between now and the referendum.”

In response to claims that the majority of farmers favour Brexit, Mr Bell said that like the rest of society farmers were divided in their views.

“Some have already decided how they will vote, but a lot remain undecided. It is not our job as a farm lobby organisation to try to drive those floating voters one way or the other.

“We do not become involved in mainstream politics, and over this issue we are happy to trust our 12,000 plus members to take a view on what they believe will best suit their businesses and their families.”

Mr Bell said members had backed the UFU’s neutral stance and it would be holding a Referendum Forum on June 7, with representatives from Leave and Remain.