Varadkar negotiates aid package worth millions even if there’s no Brexit

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Varadkar negotiates aid package worth millions even if there’s no Brexit

Taoiseach says many sectors have been hit by growing uncertainty


Stars in their eyes: Anti-Brexit protesters outside the UK Houses of Parliament. Photo: REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
Stars in their eyes: Anti-Brexit protesters outside the UK Houses of Parliament. Photo: REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar revealed the Government is negotiating a multi-million-euro support package with Brussels for Irish exporters and the agri-food sector even if the UK does not leave the EU over the coming months.

Mr Varadkar stressed the support package, while not to the order of the measures prepared for a no-deal Brexit scenario, would still be substantial enough to help offset some Brexit-related losses suffered by major elements of the Irish economy. The Taoiseach did not reveal the scale of the support package.

However, sources indicated that the package will be worth more than €100m initially – and could be dramatically increased in scale if Brexit- related market disturbance continues.

The package negotiated with the EU to help Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit with the UK crashing out of the EU was, in contrast, reported to be worth €500m-plus.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed had warned that, in the event of a no deal, Ireland would need “mega money” to offset the short-term hit on the agri-food sector and, in particular, the beef and dairy markets.

Speaking at a Midleton Chamber of Commerce event, Mr Varadkar said the Government was negotiating with the EU for a support package, even if Brexit does not happen over the coming months.

“We are also engaging with the European Commission on assistance that might be required in a no-deal scenario for our agri-food sector and our exporters,” he said.

“We have a very substantial package in place that will be ready for the agri-food sector, especially the beef sector, if we find ourselves in a no-deal scenario.

“Indeed, I am in discussion with EU Commissioner (Phil) Hogan and Agriculture Minister Creed to see if we can do a package anyway – recognising that there has been a market disturbance just because of the threat of Brexit without it even happening,” he added.

“I think that is a real possibility – it would not be on the scale of what we would have to do in the case of a no-deal Brexit but I think it would be helpful and welcome to the industry nonetheless.”

The Taoiseach acknowledged that the Irish tourism, agri-food and general exporters sectors have been hit by mounting uncertainty over Brexit and the fluctuations of sterling against the euro.

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“The most exposed sectors (are) those in the agri-food industry, in meat in particular, and of course in tourism.

“Even though Brexit hasn’t happened yet I know that some people and some businesses are already seeing the effects because of the effect the fall in the value of sterling has had on tourism and the impact of (market) uncertainty on beef prices.

“People and our businesses want reassurance and want security,” he added.

Mr Varadkar said Ireland was doing everything possible to tackle such issues here – while negotiating with the EU and UK for the best possible Brexit.

“There is no good Brexit – and a no-deal Brexit would be very bad for Ireland.

“But we have put in place many of the things that we needed to so we can soften the fall if it happens.

“One thing we have been doing is preparing for the past two years for any eventuality where we have assistance for businesses with low-cost loans, we put together a comprehensive contingency action plan which is now in place.

“The legislation which has not been passed in the UK has now been passed in Ireland, it was signed by the President on St Patrick’s Day.

“Legislation that protects the common travel area, that protects student grants, welfare pensions – all of those things will be protected no matter what else happens as a consequence of Brexit.

“And also there is a real focus on citizens’ rights, contingency put in place for air connectivity and road haulage.

“For those of you involved in business, it is important for me to ask – once again – that you prepare for all possibilities,” he added.

Irish Independent

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