Margaret Donnelly: Our focus needs to be on the bigger picture rather than once-off bailouts

Margaret Donnelly
Margaret Donnelly
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

At the moment it seems everyone's mind is concentrated on the €50m EU beef fund that is coming down the tracks. The fund will be bolstered by a further €50m from the Government and few would argue that the €100m is not needed within the beef sector.

However, there is a danger that everybody is putting too much focus on how this money is divided up. There's a much bigger issue rearing its head at the moment, that could severely impact the entire farming sector.

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And while it's not Brexit per se, it is related.

The knock-on effect of the UK's delayed Brexit has the potential to totally devour the time for what are certain to be difficult talks on the next EU budget and for CAP negotiations.

Both are inextricably linked.

The EU Commission has already floated the idea of reducing farm funding. As part of the upcoming EU budgetary talks for the period 2021-2027 the Commission has proposed that CAP funding should be set at €365bn. This equates to a cut of approximately 5pc or almost €5bn a year.

These cuts are being opposed by Ireland which has called for increased contributions from Member States to provide additional funding to maintain current CAP spending.

This stance has received the backing of the French, but it is less popular in northern and eastern Europe, where tighter EU spending and issues around migration from the Middle East and North Africa are more immediate concerns.

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Meanwhile, Brexit has the potential to eat up valuable time and money. Just this weekend Tory leadership forerunner Boris Johnson has said he will refuse to pay the UK's €39bn divorce bill unless there are better Brexit terms on the table. And even in the best case scenario of an agreed Brexit, the CAP pot will be €3.9bn lighter without the Brits since the UK is a net contributor.

If the overall EU budget is not agreed until October, when the UK is now set to leave the EU, it leaves just a few months to then agree how the CAP budget would be spent until 2027.

Ireland needs to focus not on the €50m beef fund that's currently on the table, but on the bigger prize of protecting the CAP budget.

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