Ireland would consider increasing EU contributions, if CAP is protected - Varadkar

Other EU countries do not want EU budget Brexit hole to be filled

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Brian Lawless/PA)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Brian Lawless/PA)
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Ireland is prepared to increase its contributions to the EU overall budget, if other countries do too and working programmes such as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is protected, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

Speaking today in Brussels at an information meeting of the heads of governments, he said that the Irish Government is willing to consider an increase in its contribution to EU funds over the next five years, as long as well functioning programmes, such as the CAP.

Countries currently contribute to EU funds based on their Gross National Income (GNI) based on the size of their economy, which he said is fair.

He said at the informal meeting of the EU 27 he heard a lot of support for Ireland's position on the new EU budget, that programmes that work well should be protected and reformed, such as the CAP.

He also said that if Europe is going to do new things, then it should look at new sources of money for these, around migration and security.

Varadkar attended an informal dinner last night at the invitation of the Belgium prime minister, where 12 heads of Government exchanged views on the future EU budget and reforms that may have to take place as the EU modernises itself, he told journalists today in Brussels.

The bloc is set to lose out on an estimated €14bn a year after the UK leaves, but a group of budget hawks, led by the Netherlands, does not want the hole to be filled.

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is one of two main budget lines facing the chop, along with regional subsidies, which together make up 70pc of the bloc's €150bn a year budget.

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A Commission paper last week outlined three options for future farm payments - maintaining spending (but funnelling more money to small farmers), slashing the budget by 30pc or cutting it by 15pc.

The Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) said the Government should not "contemplate any of the options" which it said "would shut down agriculture and rural Ireland".

"This is a clear attempt to 'soften up' the European agri sector for a cut in the CAP budget, and it is totally unacceptable and it won't work," IFA president Joe Healy said.

Independent MEP Marian Harkin has said the Government needs to "resist the numbers being presented" by the Commission and push other countries to make up the budget shortfall.

The European Commission options paper is intended to prod national governments into boosting their budget contributions, with one official saying the worst-case scenario of a 30pc cut in the CAP will not materialise.

The EU estimates the increase should be more than 1.1pc but less than 1.2pc - "1.1x", according to budget commissioner Gunther Oettinger - which would mean a boost of €100bn or more.

Meanwhile, EU agriculture ministers ruled out mandatory cuts in farm subsidies post-2020.

At a meeting in Brussels on Monday, they agreed that cuts or moves to redistribute payments to smaller or more climate-friendly farms should be voluntary, and left up to national authorities to decide.

"Member States should be given flexibility in efforts to improve the targeting and fairness of direct payments," agriculture minister Michael Creed said at the meeting.

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