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Thursday 26 April 2018

Government out to protect farm payments in EU budget

Paschal Donohoe and Leo Varadkar. Photo: Claire Godkin
Paschal Donohoe and Leo Varadkar. Photo: Claire Godkin
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Colm Kelpie and Kevin Doyle

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said the Government will look at how EU payments to farmers and businesses can be protected - as member states are urged to cough up more to plug the €13bn Brexit-related black hole in the EU budget.

The European Commission has called for an expanded budget to cover more spending on defence, security and controlling migration despite the upcoming departure of the UK from the EU.

Britain's departure may make it somewhat easier to persuade governments to raise Brussels' funding. An unprecedented cut in the last negotiations five years ago was driven in part by a push for savings led by then UK prime minister David Cameron.

The UK's departure from the EU budget at the end of 2020, after its formal Brexit in March next year, will deprive Brussels of around €13bn from an annual budget now running at around €140bn.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said EU spending needs to be hiked and he said EU governments needed to commit more money.

Mr Donohoe said the Government will outline its objectives in relation to the new EU budget in the coming months, but said protecting farm payments and R&D funding would be a priority.

"Myself, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Agriculture are going to be analysing the proposals that have come forward from President Juncker across the coming days," the minister said.

"There are a number of different options in relation to the budget. We clearly have particular needs in relation to European funding, in relation to how we support the Common Agriculture Policy and in relation to how we support research and development in our country.

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"Myself and the Government will have to consider how those priorities can be best protected in the future.

"When we have done that we'll outline our view in relation to what we believe the scale of the EU budget should be in the future. We need to do that work first."

Speaking at a conference on the next seven-year budget of the EU, Mr Juncker said it would have to finance joint EU policies in the areas of defence, security, migration, climate change, cohesion and agriculture.

"Britain will be leaving us... so we need to find... a means to reacting to the loss of a several billion euro, when a significant contributor goes," he said.

The EU's budget commissioner, Guenther Oettinger, said the gap from Brexit would be €12bn-13bn per year. (Additional reporting Reuters)


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