Extensive and detailed Brexit preparedness and contingency work continues to be taken forward, co-ordinated by officials in my Department, working closely with the Department of the Taoiseach, across all Government Departments, Agencies and sectors, including the agrifood sector.
The agrifood sector is of critical importance to the Irish economy, and its regional spread means it underpins the socio-economic development including those in rural Ireland in particular. As such, Brexit has the potential to have a very significant impact on farmers and on the agrifood sector throughout Ireland, including farmers in the border counties.
At this stage, Ireland has not formally notified the Commission to seek emergency aid for the farming sector either through EU Regulation No. 702/2014 - the Agriculture Block Exemption Regulation or under Article 219 of (EU) Regulation No. 1308/2013. However, there are on-going discussions with the Commission regarding the difficulties facing Ireland.
The Commission’s contingency action plan emphasises that it stands ready to engage with the Member States that will be most affected by a no deal withdrawal and expressly states that “the Commission will support Ireland in finding solutions addressing the specific challenges of Irish businesses”.
Minister Creed held a bilateral meeting with Commissioner Hogan last week to discuss the potential impact of a disorderly Brexit on the Irish agrifood and fisheries sectors. They discussed the unique exposure of the Irish agrifood and fisheries sectors to the threat of a disorderly Brexit and the challenges that it could present. Minister Creed stressed the need to deploy market response measures, including exceptional aid, under the CAP to provide necessary supports to Ireland's agrifood sectors. Commissioner Hogan reiterated the EU’s readiness to respond and support Ireland and in particular, challenges facing Irish farmers and the agrifood sector, given our specific exposure to the UK market.
The Government will continue to explore all measures, including state aid options, with the Commission to support the agri food sector.