At the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 18 November 2019, the Commission presented two proposals for CAP transitional rules. Such transitional measures are normal practice between consecutive programming periods to provide legal and financial certainty where a gap arises due to any delays in finalising a new budget and CAP regulations.
The recent Council accepted the need for such proposals and broadly welcomed them. However, discussions are ongoing, with a number of key issues yet to be agreed. The first and most important for the majority of member states is the financial flexibility regulation, which allows the continued transfer of funds between Pillars I and II in the year 2020. This is expected to be adopted by the end of this year.
The second more substantial regulation provides the option to extend the current rural development programme, in certain circumstances. It aims to provide certainty on the process around granting of support for the year 2021.
Agreement on this regulation is not expected to be achieved until summer 2020, subject to agreement on the EU budget. Discussions on the latter regulation will continue over the coming months. The transitional regulations are complex. A number of issues need to be considered in more detail with regard to the RDP and how the transitional regulation will work in practice. I am continuing to work with the Commission and my European ministerial colleagues to reach agreement on these important legislative proposals. I want to provide certainty to Irish farmers at the earliest possible date. I expect that the transitional regulations will, at a minimum, provide for the extension of the existing RDP payments into 2021. I anticipate that there should be no interruption in direct payments. The current proposals provide for the optional extension of the current RDP and potentially for new commitments for some measures for a maximum of three years. The precise arrangements will be clarified when agreement is reached on the regulations. In the meantime, the N+3 rule will continue to apply, which will mean that scheme commitments entered into by farmers prior to the end of 2020 will continue to be honoured after that date.