Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Friday 9 December 2016

EU vows to help farmers with 'Brexit aftershocks'

Sarah Collins

Published 02/11/2016 | 10:00

Agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan
Agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan

The EU will be "as flexible as possible" in helping farmers deal with Brexit aftershocks, though no new money is currently available.

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Agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan said he would reassess the situation once a formal Brexit request is triggered by British PM Theresa May next year.

But he will be hamstrung by a budget battle between MEPs, who want a €5bn increase in next year's budget and EU finance ministers, who want to cut it by €1bn.

EU rules allow for emergency funding for "market disturbances due to significant price falls or rises".

Struggling

The Commission says governments can consider state aid for struggling farmers, with EU approval needed only if it goes above the 'de minimis' cap of €15,000, rolled over three years.

"We will be as flexible as possible with the Member States that are worst affected by Brexit, in terms of state aids and in terms of de minimis ceilings that can be utilised to ensure that businesses can continue as much as possible to be able to survive in this very major storm that they have now embarked upon because of the decision of the British people," Mr Hogan said.

He pointed to a €150m fund announced in Budget 2017 for low-cost loans to farmers, which includes €11m made available by the EU.

"I see that loan facility as hugely important in mitigating some of the short-term damage in relation to Brexit, but of course we will continue in the negotiations that will happen in the event that Mrs May triggers the Article 50 to see what further measures that the member states can make," Mr Hogan said.

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He added that Brexit would have a "huge impact on our employment and on our trade" in Ireland.

Around 50pc of Irish agri-food exports go to the UK, while the sector accounts for over 12pc of Ireland's total exports and almost 9pc of total employment.

Ireland's mushroom growers have been particularly hard hit by the UK's June vote to leave the EU. A Commission spokesperson said the issue was "in the first instance, a matter for the Irish Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine".

Mr Hogan is now on a 10-day trade mission to Indonesia and Vietnam to promote EU agri-food exports, where he will be accompanied by Irish delegates from the Ornua and Arrabawn co-operatives.

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