UFU to host Brexit debate for local farmers

Owen Paterson will be urging farmers to vote to leave the EU

FARMERS in the north have the chance tonight to express their own views on the EU Referendum when the Ulster Farmers' Union hosts a major debate at the Eikon complex at Balmoral Park, starting at 8pm.

Former NFU President Sir Peter Kendall will join former DEFRA minister Owen Paterson to articulate their respective Remain and Leave arguments for Northern Ireland agriculture.

The UFU committed several months ago that it would hold an open debate to help better inform local farmers and address the concerns farmers and the wider rural community have about the future for the Northern Ireland agri-food industry.

But UFU president Barclay Bell has stressed that the organisation made a policy decision that it will not take part in panel discussions or interviews on the Brexit issue - nor is it advising its members how to vote.

“We have said that in the absence of a compelling reason to leave, we see remaining as the safer option – but from the outset we have said our 12,000 plus members and their families will make up their own minds how to vote," he said.

"This debate is wider than agriculture and it is our aim, with two weeks to go before the vote, to create an opportunity for people to have their questions answered, before they finally decide how they cast their vote in what will almost certainly be a once in a generation referendum opportunity.”

Sir Peter Kendall, who is in the Remain camp, is involved in the Farmers Stronger in Britain group, which is part of the Official Stronger in campaign for the UK to remain an EU member.

The speaker for the Leave campaign, Owen Paterson, is a long-time critic of the EU.

“We have not taken part in the selecting of the two speakers. We are facilitating an industry debate, and have asked both of the official campaigning groups to nominate speakers,” Barclay Bell added.


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