Monday 20 November 2017

EU State aid 'holiday' may be vital part of plan

Taoiseach Enda Kenny Photo: Getty
Taoiseach Enda Kenny Photo: Getty

John Cronin

"We must have a plan". Not unreasonably, this cry - with increasing concern - can be heard from almost every part of Irish society worried by Brexit: from social interest groups, from economic commentators, from politicians and from trade bodies.

The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, gave a speech recently to the IIEA which was reported widely but not with the analysis it deserved. It may well be that the commentators have failed to recognise the disclosure by Government of a plan to counter the "serious, direct threat to Ireland's economic prosperity" and, perhaps, more generally, to help Ireland absorb and respond to the economic shocks that Brexit will bring.

"We will make a strong case at EU level that Ireland will require support that recognises where Brexit represents a serious disturbance to the Irish economy," the Taoiseach said. For EU and competition lawyers, these words were a reasonably clear signal of intent to seek European Commission approved derogation - in popular language, a "holiday" - from State aid rules on a regional, sector or even national basis. It would permit the Government here to cushion the blow of Brexit by providing a range of support measures.

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