CONFOR has published a discussion paper on the key issues the forestry sector needs to consider ahead of the EU referendum in June.
The paper, written by Guy Watt of John Clegg Consulting, will form the basis for discussion at the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Forestry at Westminster next Tuesday [19 April]. It examines six main areas where decisions made at European level have direct or indirect impacts on the forestry and timber industry. They are:
- Direct Financial Support from the EU
- Regulations, Red Tape & Bureaucracy
- Plant Health
- Labour Market & Controlling UK Borders
- The Economy
The paper includes details of the amount of grant support from Europe for woodland owners in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern between 2014 and 2020, as well as income from the EU for Forest Research and other grant support.
On regulation, red tape and bureaucracy, Guy Watt cautions against a simplistic approach:
"For those who owned woods or practised forestry 30 or more years ago, the challenge now of trying to get things done, or claiming grants, can seem a nightmare. The prospect of leaving the EU and getting rid of it all sounds something like paradise. Something that seems so good should perhaps be looked at a little more closely."
The author questions whether the UK "gold plates" EU directives and wonders if that practice would be given up easily if the UK voted to leave.
Stuart Goodall, Chief Executive of Confor, said:
"This short paper sets down the issues in a dispassionate and straightforward way. We know that our members have a range of views on whether the UK should remain part of, or leave, the European Union - and we also know that some of them think there is not enough information available to make a clear decision. That's why we commissioned this discussion paper, which will hopefully provide some helpful background and assist them in making an informed decision."
The Confor poll on the EU referendum is very close, with 52 per cent currently in favour of remaining a member of the European Union and 48 per cent saying they would prefer to leave.
Almost one-third (31 per cent) of those who have cast a vote said they felt they did not have enough information - and even the discussion paper's author concluded that "there are some facts for people to use, but there are also plenty of unknowns".
The discussion paper has been distributed ahead of the APPGF meeting at Westminster on Tuesday, 19 April. MPs on both sides of the argument will debate the benefits of remaining or leaving the EU for the forestry and timber sector.
To access Guy Watt's discussion paper, Seeing the EU through the trees, click here.
To vote in Confor's EU poll, click here.