At the outset, I would like to point out that in discussing the funding of the Common Agricultural Policy, we should bear in mind that this funding forms part of a broader EU budget which is negotiated by Finance Ministers and then agreed by Heads of State and Government at the European Council.
The European Commission has proposed, as part of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021-2027, that funding for the Common Agricultural Policy should be set at €365 billion. This equates to a cut of approximately 5% to the CAP budget in the next MFF period of 2021 - 2027. I have previously stated that the proposed cut is unacceptable for Ireland. The retention of an adequate budget for the CAP post-2020 is a key priority for Ireland.
Negotiations on the MFF proposals have commenced and are running in parallel to the CAP post-2020 negotiations. The European Commission's intention is to reach overall agreement on the MFF before the European Parliamentary elections in 2019.
The MFF is a critical matter for all Member States and its agreement requires unanimity at the EU Council. It is clear that there are divergent views among Member States on the appropriate level for the budget. While some Member States (including Ireland) have indicated their willingness to increase their contributions, once they contribute towards areas of added European value, there are others who feel equally strongly that the current proposals, such as they are, are too costly.
The departure of the UK from the EU further compounds the budgetary issue, with some €12 billion per annum in UK net contributions being removed from the budget post-2020. Against this background, agreeing the MFF will make these negotiations a particularly challenging task.
The new CAP proposals point to a more significant environmental ambition than the current CAP schemes, including in Pillar I. It is a new departure for Member States that they will be required to design a specific climate and environment scheme in Pillar I. This is something that I support as it is consistent with my Department's long term strategy for the agriculture sector, which recognises the critical importance of environmental sustainability. I believe that protecting the environment and the sustainable development of agriculture are two sides of the same coin.
I believe that farmers play a vital role in the provision of public goods and need to be adequately recognised and recompensed for this role. It is important that the overall level of the budget acknowledges the public goods being delivered from farmers.
I continue to work towards building consensus among my agriculture colleagues in Europe with regard to maintaining the CAP budget. I co-signed a Joint Memorandum in Madrid in May last year, which calls for the CAP budget to be retained at current levels for the EU 27 post-2020. The memorandum has been supported by up to 20 other EU Agriculture Ministers. We will continue to work together on this issue as the negotiations for the CAP post 2020 and its budgetary allocations progress.
I have also sought to continue this work as part of ongoing bilateral meetings. Since May 2018, my colleague Minister Doyle and I have met initially with the EU Agri Ministers from Germany, France, Belgium, Denmark, Finland and Hungary, inter alia to support a strong CAP Budget after 2020. I have also met with Ministers from the Netherlands, Estonia, Belgium, Poland, Luxembourg, and Austria, and my officials engage regularly with counterparts in other Member States on this issue.
Ireland needs to work closely with its EU colleagues to build a consensus around the need to reverse the proposed cuts in CAP. I would like to reassure the deputy that I will continue to do this, and to fight for a strong CAP budget as the negotiations progress.