French President Emmanuel Macron has called for a large budget to defend EU goals on food quality and environmental protection.
France is the EU’s biggest agricultural producer and the main beneficiary of its Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which is due to be renegotiated this year just as Britain, a net budget contributor, is set to quit the bloc.
The EU should maintain an ambitious farming budget with “not one euro less” than at present, after factoring in the impact of Brexit, Macron said.
Under plans for the EU’s budget (MFF) for 2021-2027, farmers would receive around €232 billion in direct support, a drop of more than €30 billion from the current seven-year budget.
“European agriculture has always been a given, it is today under threat,” Macron said in his speech, citing the EU’s reliance on imported soybean protein for livestock feed and Russia’s rise as a massive cereal exporter.
“No farmer or consumer wants to be subjected to the diktat of non-European countries,” he added.
Agriculture is a flashpoint in trade negotiations, notably in areas such as food safety standards and genetic modification, and Macron reaffirmed France’s “red line” that farm products be kept out of trade talks with the United States.
The European Commission also wants to leave agriculture out of EU-U.S. discussions, at odds with Washington, which is threatening punitive tariffs on European cars.
His comments come as a boost to Minsiter for Agriculture, Minster Creed who has been actively engaging with counterparts from France, Spain, Finland, Portugal and Greece, who have all called for the restoration of the CAP budget for the 2021 – 2027 period to current levels.
Up to 20 Member States have joined this alliance and Minister Creed has said the group will continue to work together in an effort to build consensus on this point.
In France recently, Minister Creed also raised the issue of Irish Exporters use of the UK land-bridge and sought assurances that Irish exporters would not be disadvantaged due to the transit of goods via the UK. The issue of maximising opportunities for live cattle exports was also raised by Minister Creed with specific reference to the provision of facilities in France for use by exporters.
Ireland's position on the EU budget has been so far unequivocal. From the Taoiseach to the Minister for Finance and Minister Creed, Ireland wants to see the budget restored to the previous level, taking into account that there will no longer be the UK contribution.
Some 80pc of the EU funds for Ireland come through the CAP.
For every euro Ireland puts into EU funds we get back a higher amount through CAP.
However, the Commission's current proposals are based on a certain increase in member state contributions and not all member states are willing to make a contribution.
The Dutch led the charge for rich northern states unwilling to step into the Brexit breach: “A smaller EU ... should have a smaller budget,” Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said.