Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Hogan vows to 'argue for money' to support farmers after Brexit

Phil Hogan
Phil Hogan

EU agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan will "argue for the money" to support farmers post-Brexit, but asked EU governments to step in to help cover the bloc's budget gap.

Brexit will leave a €10-12bn a year hole in the EU's finances, with the bloc's budget chief predicting cuts across the board.

It's not yet clear by how much the budget will shrink, as the UK has still to negotiate a divorce bill with the EU.

"I'm sure, in the absence of new resources from member states, or from new sources of taxation, that we're going to have cuts in expenditure in all programmes -including agriculture," Mr Hogan told the Farming Independent.

"The ball is in the court of the member states to decide whether they want to maintain the budget of the EU, whether they want to cut expenditure, or they want to fund new programmes," he said.

Mr Hogan made the comments a few days before the Commission launched a reflection paper on the future of EU finances, which mooted the possibility of a "radical redesign" of EU spending including "reduced direct payments" to farmers.

The paper says that in some cases, direct payments "tend to increase land prices" and "are still largely determined by historic entitlements and concentrated on large farms".

Farmers get €41bn a year in direct payments (out of a total annual CAP budget of €58bn, one of the EU's largest budget items). Ireland gets around €1.5bn.

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Agriculture will see its funding cut in four four out of five different scenarios it outlined on possible future EU budgets.

Mr Hogan will on Friday unveil the results of a public consultation on the future of the CAP, which he says will "arm" him "with the necessary policy positions to argue for the money" in the EU's next seven-year budget. A budget proposal is due mid-2018.

There have already been rumblings in the European Parliament about shifting EU budget lines away from agriculture and regional grants towards migration and defence. Fine Gael's Mairead McGuinness, a European People's Party member and Parliament vice-president, said there was no question of "robbing Peter to pay Paul" when it comes to CAP funding.

"Agriculture and food production is a key priority area and cannot be hit by budget cuts to fund other policy areas," Ms McGuinness said.

"Any cuts to the CAP represent a reduction in income to rural communities as CAP payments contribute to business and local economies."

Mr Hogan said it would take fresh cash to fund migration and defence, rather than a budget shift. "There will have to be a requirement for fresh money, new money, for the new initiatives of security, defence and migration," Mr Hogan told this newspaper in an interview a few days ahead of the Commission's reflection paper.

"I do not see a situation arising from Brexit that the cuts in expenditure will go to pay for those new policy initiatives."

A new budget will have to be agreed by all member states and a majority of MEPs.

Meanwhile, Estonian president Kersti Kaljulaid said there are a "high number of quite popular policy areas where the EU is spending but shouldn't be".

Indo Farming