I propose to take Questions Nos. 145 and 146 together.
The Council held a public exchange of views on the CAP reform package on the basis of the Romanian Presidency’s progress report, and revised drafting suggestions to the three Regulations i.e. the CAP Strategic Plan Regulation, the Horizontal Regulation and the Common Market Organisation Regulation. Agriculture Ministers were invited to comment on these documents and provide guidance to the Presidency on the next steps.
During the CAP debate, Ministers also discussed coupled income support on the basis of a paper presented by the Czech delegation. The Netherlands delegation also informed Council of the outcome of the Congress “CAP Strategic Plans – exploring eco-climate schemes” which was held in Leeuwarden in early February. Ministers also discussed the importance of the bioeconomy.
The Council of Agriculture Ministers meeting on 18 March was an important opportunity to highlight to the Council, the Commission and to my fellow Ministers, the impacts of a no-deal Brexit on the agri-food sector in Ireland and with potential knock-on effects across the EU market as a whole. During the discussion on the meat market, I outlined the exposure of the Irish beef sector in particular and called for the full suite of measures available under the Common Market Organisation, including targeted support for farmers, to be deployed rapidly in the event of a no-deal Brexit. I also referred to the need to protect the EU beef sector in trade discussions with Mercosur, against the background of the significant uncertainty arising from Brexit. I also highlighted the exposure of the Irish fisheries sector, and the need for careful joint EU management of fisheries resources, as well as financial supports for fishermen and their communities.
The Slovenian delegation presented a point of information under any other business to highlight the importance and uncertainty of small-scale fisheries in the context of the Commission’s proposal for a new, post 2020, European and Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). Commissioner Vella said that Small Scale Coastal Fisheries were an important sector for coastal communities and employment and as such enjoy preferential treatment in the EMFF proposal. Discussions on the EMFF proposal will continue in the Fisheries Council Working Party.
I also held bilateral discussions with Commissioner Hogan on the impact of Brexit and the Commissioner has confirmed the EU’s readiness to respond and support Ireland. This process of engagement is continuing, and the Government will not be found wanting when it comes to supporting the Irish agri-food sector.