Budget 2020, which was announced today, provides “very little detail” on mitigation for a no-deal Brexit, according to the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA).

Edmond Phelan, the association’s president, claimed that the uncertainty around Brexit has been “almost as bad as the no-deal scenario for cattle and sheep farmers”, and that “nothing in today’s budget acknowledges that reality”.

Phelan also argued that “it is clear that a no-deal Brexit would also require support from Brussels”, on top of the €110 million allocated to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, of which €85 million has been earmarked for the beef sector.

We still are not clear as to what will be done to deal with the shortfall in applications for the BEAM [Beef Emergency Aid Measure] programme. ICSA believes that the rate per qualifying animal should be adjusted upwards so that the full exchequer contribution of €50 million, along with matching EU funding, can be utilised.

The ICSA president also highlighted the pressures in the sheep sector, on the back of low sheep price in the UK, and he called for a “package along the lines of the BEAM scheme” for sheep farmers.


Phelan added that he was “appalled” on the increased stamp duty on land purchases, which was increased from 6% to 7.5%.

“This is a totally gratuitous assault on farmers trying to expand their enterprise,” he said.

However, he did welcome the extension of the Capital Gains Tax relief for farm restructuring for another two years, to the end of 2021.

Carbon tax

The proposed increase in the carbon tax was also criticised by Phelan, who labelled it “simply an unfair tax on rural dwellers”.

“Most rural dwellers cannot afford an electric car. Hybrid cars are okay for urban commuting but totally unsuited to rural or long distance driving and not practical for towing,” he stressed.

Carbon tax without an alternative way of travel or haulage is simply personal tax dressed up in virtuous clothing.

Meanwhile, Phelan described the “minimal adjustments” to the self-employed tax credit and the Capital Acquisitions Tax Group A rates as “begrudging”.

“Initially, there was a commitment to rectify the injustice of income tax credits in three tranches of €550 a year. If that had happened, the self-employed person would have already achieved income tax parity with the employee,” he said.

“It is manifestly unfair that we are heading into yet another tax year whereby the earned income tax credit is still less than the employee tax credit – €1,500 versus €1,650,” the ICSA president concluded.