Brexit: State aid measures to help farmers ‘diversify’

Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney confirmed this morning (February 22) that farming enterprises will be provided with the opportunity to ‘diversify’ in the event of a no-deal Brexit on March 29.

The minister, who admitted that “you can’t rule anything out with Brexit”, was speaking during a press conference about the Omnibus Bill which caters for a number of areas – including agriculture – in the event of a Brexit crash out in just over one month’s time.

We have made changes to the state aid rules that will allow Enterprise Ireland to distribute money to businesses.

He added: “That includes farming enterprises so they can explore business diversification, particularly in situations where cheddar cheese is the primary focus.”

Meanwhile, the minister went on to say that it was impossible to determine, at this stage, what tariffs would be applied to Irish goods being exported into the UK.

“We will not know what the application of tariffs will be until the British government puts forward its proposals. We have been looking – with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine – at the options that could be adopted.

It is extraordinary that, at this stage, we don’t have more clarity.

Asked about checks on goods and possible tariffs being applied at the border, Minister Coveney said that only in the event of a no-deal Brexit could answers on this subject be provided; those answers, he added, could only come from the UK by working in conjunction with the EU.

We do not want physical border structure; we want regulatory alignment and assurances that preferential treatment will be given to Northern Irish farmers in relation to tariffs.

He continued: “Animal Health has been treated as an all-island scenario and must continue that way. It is going to take two sides sitting down together with a willingness to keep it that way for it to continue. The country is facing into an emergency situation and you can’t rule anything out with Brexit.”

Other aspects of the Omnibus Bill include: health services; industrial development; electricity regulation; student support; taxation; financial services; the Harbours Act, 1996; third country bus service; social welfare; protection of employees; extradition; and immigration.