The Government has introduced dedicated Brexit-related support measures in the three most recent Budgets which were aimed at reducing both on-farm and agri business costs through, principally, a series of low-cost loan schemes. Additional grant supports to Bord Bia and to Teagasc have been designed to intensify market and product diversification to reduce our exposure to the UK market.
Most recently, a €78 million Brexit package for farmers, fishermen, and food SMEs was announced in the 2019 Budget. This comprises €44 million of direct aid to farmers through environmental schemes, €27 million in capital funding for the food industry and €7 million for staff recruitment and ICT requirements to meet the increased volumes of import controls and export certification arising from Brexit.
In relation to no-deal Brexit supports, I have recently met with Commissioner Hogan to discuss the potential impact of a disorderly Brexit on the sector and stressed the need to be ready to deploy a range of measures to mitigate the potential impacts on farmers and processors. Commissioner Hogan confirmed the EU’s readiness to respond and support Ireland, and my officials are currently examining options in consultation with the European Commission.
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.
Negotiations on the CAP legislative proposals are ongoing at EU level. Since the proposals were launched in June 2018, a significant number of Working Group meetings have taken place under the Austrian and Romanian Presidencies. The proposals are also discussed at the Special Committee of Agriculture meetings on a regular basis and have, in fact, featured at every SCA meeting under the Romanian Presidency to date. In addition, the CAP post-2020 is a standing agenda item at every Agri-Fish Council meeting, where I have discussed the CAP proposals extensively with my Agriculture Ministerial colleagues.
However, there is still some way to go before agreement can be reached on these proposals. The Romanian Presidency has outlined its ambition to achieve a Partial General Approach on the proposals at its last Agri-Fish Council meeting of Ministers in June. I can assure the Deputy that my Department is working hard with the Commission and the Council in an effort to secure the best possible agreement on the CAP post-2020 proposals.