“State aid exemptions won’t come close to addressing Farming crisis in ‘no-deal’ Brexit scenario” – Matt Carthy MEP
Sinn Féin MEP, Matt Carthy, has said that the European Commission agreement to raise the limit on state aid for farmers from €15,000 to €25,000 per farm in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit scenario “won’t come close” to addressing the challenge faced by farmers in those circumstances. Carthy, who is a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture & Rural Development committee, said that in a no-deal situation EU emergency funding would also be required.
“State aid exemptions won’t come close to addressing the potential damage to the agricultural sector that a British withdrawal without agreement would cause. While I welcome the increase of exemptions for state aid, this is by no means problem solved.
“The scale of the measures announced so far signal a worrying level of complacency on behalf of the EU and the Irish government. A recent study by Food and Drink Europe forecast that beef and cheese exports to the UK could fall by up to 90%. The beef sector alone is looking at losses up to €732 million.
“To put this into perspective, the so called “crises reserve” of the Common Agricultural Policy contains €500 million in funds. This demonstrates the danger of failing to act accordingly to the scale of the treat posed.
“Sinn Féin have been advocating for a Brexit emergency package to be provided for since 2016, it is now 35 days before Britain crash out and neither the Irish Government or the EU have given farmers a concreate idea of how they will be assisted.
“State aid limit increases are only relevant if you have the funds to increase aid, the availability of such funds remains questionable considering the wider implications of a no deal scenario for the overall economy.
“The agricultural and food industry requires forward planning to operate smoothly, an inability to plan ahead costs money. We can already see the effects of Brexit in the north, the beef trade to Canada has been paused due to concerns over the tariff applied when the beef arrives. Beef leaving the North now would not arrive until after March 29 and could end up being hit with WTO tariffs. The impact of Brexit is here and will only get worse so the ‘wait-and-see’ approach of the Irish government and the European Commission is grossly irresponsible.
“EU representatives have been rightly critical of Britain for allowing us to come so close to the brink of disaster without a deal but yet they too are failing to provide assurances that adequate aid for farmers will be in place.
“Indeed, even with a deal we are looking at significant market disruption which means there really is no excuse not to have a plan in place and funds set aside. For our part, Sinn Féin is clear on what is required, an automatic mechanism that can easily be triggered in the event of tariffs being instated, significant currency fluctuations or other Brexit related shocks.
“We also propose a relief fund similar to the existing European Globalisation Fund, which is triggered when mass redundancies or job losses are brought about by global production shifts. Additionally, we have suggested a potential fund under Article 219 of the Common Market Organisation Regulation, which provides for exceptional measures against market disturbances.
“The time for informal assurances and playing down of the crises has long passed, farmers need a watertight guarantee, with budgetary allocation attached, that losses will compensated.”