Thursday, 6 December 2018

Ceisteanna (44)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

44. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to protect farmers in Border counties from a hard Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50980/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The agri-food sector is of critical importance to the Irish economy, and its regional spread means it underpins the socio-economic development of rural Ireland in particular. As such, Brexit has the potential to have a very significant impact on farmers and on the agri-food sector throughout Ireland, including farmers in the border counties.

The Government has, from the outset, been seeking to minimise the impact of Brexit through a negotiated outcome which permits trade along the border regions to continue without impediment. Crucially, I can confirm that the backstop arrangements in the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland contained in the draft Withdrawal agreement recently signed off by the European Council guarantee that there will be no hard border on the island of Ireland in any circumstances. The Government hopes that the backstop will never be used and will continue to work closely with the EU during the negotiations on a future agreement that establishes alternative arrangements.

In terms of practical supports, and following the range of initiatives that I introduced through Budget 2017 and Budget 2018, I announced a €78m Brexit package in Budget 2019 for farmers, fishermen and food SMEs. This includes €44m in direct aid to farmers through increased spending on areas of natural constraint, the introduction of a Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot Scheme and additional funding for the horticulture sector.

I wish to assure the Deputy that the Government remains very focused on supporting farmers and the agri-food industry through the challenges ahead, whether they are based in the border region or in any other part of the country.