Farmers and poorer regions will bear brunt of post-Brexit cutbacks

Sarah Collins

The EU has again warned farmers and poorer regions to prepare for a round of post-Brexit budget cuts.

The bloc is laying the ground ahead of a formal proposal on the bloc's post-2020 budget, due on May 2.

MEPs last week said they were "extremely concerned" that many regions will lose funding under the new budget, and said they will reject any plan that does not cover all EU regions. Regional spending makes up around a third of the bloc's 150 billion a year budget.

A Commission white paper published last month mooted cuts to the Common Agricultural Policy of up to 30pc in a worst-case scenario. The Irish Farmers' Association says a "strong increase in the CAP budget" is needed to close the income gap between farmers and others sectors in society.

EU commissioners held a second debate on the future budget last week, focusing on potential new revenues for the bloc.

Nothing has been "firmly confirmed or firmly excluded" from the list of options, Commission vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis confirmed.

Valdis Dombrovskis
Valdis Dombrovskis

The Commission's white paper last month suggested new revenue streams, or "own resources", in EU jargon, could be found by hiving off profits from carbon allowances, taxing plastic or sending a proportion of corporate or financial transaction taxes to Brussels.

And in an indication of its future spending priorities, the Commission last week announced a plan to take military needs into account when planning road, rail and other transport upgrades.

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"This means a more efficient use of public money and a better equipped transport network, ensuring a quick and seamless mobility across the continent" said EU transport commissioner Violeta Bulc. "This is a matter of collective security."

EU leaders last month discussed how to handle future budget talks, with Austria, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands coming out against an overall increase in the size of the budget from its current level of 1pc of GDP.

MEPs want an increase to 1.3pc, while the European Commission has come out in favour of a smaller increase.

But most countries are still flexible, acknowledging that challenge such as security and migration require more money.

The Taoiseach, for instance, has said he is prepared to contribute more to the budget if CAP, regional and other policies are maintained.

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