Many Cumbrian farmers could be driven out of business if Britain leaves the EU, according to a newly-released report from one of the country’s most powerful unions.

The report, released this week by the National Farmers’ Union, maps out various different scenarios, in terms of trade policy and levels of direct support provided.

However, the report prepared by researchers a Dutch research institute, argues that the scenario most “in line with the established British government policy” would have “a significant negative impact on farmgate prices for a number of products, but mainly for meat and some dairy products. The result would be less meat and milk production.”

But, says the report, a more protectionist approach would see a boost in farmgate prices as imports became a less attractive proposition, the report by researchers at Wageningen University, concluded.

However, the biggest factor when it comes to farm incomes would be the approach the UK Government took to farm support.

The results varies significantly, depending on the scenario, ensuring the report will give ammunition to both sides of the debates when it comes to winning the farming vote.

The NFU is currently discussing the report with members in a series of 28 meetings across its regions, ahead of a meeting by the NFU Council on April 18 to decide the union’s position on the Referendum. Cumbrian farmers will have a chance to put their views at a meeting in Penrith next Wednesday, April 13.

Kirkoswald dairy farmer, Les Armstrong, says he has yet to see the report, but pointed out ‘dairy farmers in Cumbria are going out of production as we speak’.

“However, whether we stay in or vote to leave depends on the Government’s attitude to food production in the future.”

“It is all down to the nature of trading arrangements the UK puts in place and the level of support it provides,” he added.

Tim Farron, leader of the Lib Dems and South Lakes MP, said the report concludes that the most likely impact of Brexit on both trade policy and the levels of direct support would be to “make many British farms less viable”

He said: “This report shows that the family farm as we know it is under threat if we leave the European Union. Britain has a proud farming heritage and those who are pushing to leave will be putting that at risk.

“In a time where we have to fight for farmers to get a fair deal for milk, and when many farmers are struggling, we should be doing all we can to protect the Great British Farm, not put it under more pressure.”

NFU president Meurig Raymond said: “If Britain is to stay in the EU then David Cameron must be clear. How will the UK’s position within the EU’s single market be made stronger?

“If we leave the EU, what will a British agriculture policy look like and what is the future of support payments? How will British farmers access the European market and will the UK be more open to imports from outside Europe?”