As the Deputy will be aware, I have had ongoing discussions with Commissioner Hogan regarding the potential impact of a disorderly Brexit. I have stressed the need for the Commission to be ready to deploy a range of measures to mitigate the potential impacts on the agri-food and fisheries sector. Avoiding a no-deal Brexit continues to be the Government’s overriding policy priority.
I am also keenly aware that the past few months have been very difficult for beef farmers in particular, following a difficult year for farm incomes in 2018 due to weather conditions. There has been a prolonged and exceptional period of depressed prices since last autumn, with the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the outcome of Brexit, among other factors, contributing to this market disturbance.
The announcement last week by Commissioner Hogan of EU exceptional aid for the Irish beef sector is really welcome in this context. I have been making the case for some time for an exceptional aid package from the EU Commission for Irish beef farmers, at EU Council of Agriculture Minister meetings, and in direct consultation with the Commission.
The announcement by the Commissioner is another example of the importance of EU solidarity when it comes to facing significant economic challenges.
Details of the proposal are being discussed with the Commission and I will make information available to farmers as soon as possible. The legal provisions used to provide the aid (Council Regulation 1308/2013) were put in place by the Irish Presidency of the EU in 2013. It is expected that this decision will be given effect through an Implementing Regulation. My officials will examine its provisions, when published, and engage with the Commission on the next steps.