On 25 December 2020, the European Commission published a Proposal for an EU Regulation establishing a Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR). The objective of the proposed BAR is to provide support to counter the adverse consequences of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union in Member States, regions and sectors, in particular those that are worst affected by that withdrawal, and to mitigate the related impact on the economic, social and territorial cohesion. The draft Regulation is subject to negotiations in the Council and European Parliament and its provisions may change.
It is proposed that the BAR would have a budget of €5.37 billion in current prices and that approximately €1 billion would be allocated to Ireland in 2021 as pre-financing to assist Ireland in funding appropriate measures in 2021 and 2022 to assist the worst affected sectors of our economy. The Government is very aware that our food sector, not least our fisheries sector, is particularly impacted by the outcome of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement and is examining how best to deploy Ireland’s proposed allocation under the Reserve to help our economy adjust to the new arrangements. In relation to our seafood sector, I am exploring a variety of possible measures.
In relation to the impacts of the Covid-19 Pandemic on our seafood sector, Government has continued to make available the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme to sectors impacted by the Pandemic, including our seafood sector. No additional funding has been made available by the European Union to fund any specific measures for our seafood sector. Rather, any Covid-specific supports I can provide for the sector must be funded through my Department’s existing European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) Programme, which is nearing its end and has almost exhausted its budget.
The EMFF Programme provides a wide range of supports for fisheries, aquaculture, seafood processing and for coastal communities. It provides grants for capital investment, innovation, marketing, professional advice, training and applied research and throughout the Pandemic demand for these supports has been very strong, as seafood enterprises continue to invest to grow their businesses. In 2020, I introduced special Covid support schemes for both the aquaculture and fisheries sectors through the EMFF Programme. The Covid-19 Temporary Fleet Tie-Up Scheme assisted fishing vessels impacted by market disruption across Europe during the first wave, while the Covid-19 Aquaculture Support Scheme compensated aquaculture enterprises for the reduced sales and production caused by the Pandemic.