Europe raises cap on grants as Government prepares for Brexit

Europe raises cap on grants as Government prepares for Brexit
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Farmers in crisis are set to get a much-needed boost in emergency funds with a decision by the EU today that State-aid grants can be increased up to €25,000.

The Government will also unveil legislation for its emergency measures to protect Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit. This will start its long passage through the Dáil next week.

The coalition’s omnibus bill crosses nine government departments and is made up of 15 parts. The legislation will help protect Irish citizens, support businesses and jobs, and secure access to services and products, according to the Government.

Areas covered under the legislation include facilitating continued access to cross border health services, measures to support vulnerable firms, securing the all-island electricity market, and enabling the ongoing availability of grants and insurance products.

The legislation will also allow for the continued payout of dozens of welfare payments both here and in Britain for citizens from either country. There are also measures to ensure bus and rail services continue across the border.

The laws will begin their passage in the Dáil next week with the house set to sit until 11pm on several nights. The bill will move to report and final stage in the Dáil the following week before entering the Seanad on the week of March 11.

Government figures have said this allows for a two-week sitting period afterwards if there are any problems before the measures are signed into law by the Brexit deadline of March 29.

Figures provided to Fianna Fáil last night, though, throw into question preparations for Brexit. While the Government has pledged to employ an extra 400 customs officials by the end of March, figures received by FF’s Michael McGrath show just 230 have been hired so far.

Furthermore, pressure is mounting for a new deal ahead of another Westminster vote in Britain next week, with British negotiators again seeking yesterday to put a time limit on the Irish backstop.

However, amid concerns about Brexit, new EU rules will increase the maximum amount that member states can use to support farmers in crisis without the need for prior approval from the European Commission.

In some cases, agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan will say, State aid provided to farmers can be increased by as much as 66%, rising from €15,000 to €20,000 and even up to €25,000. The EU will also announce that it has approved State aid of €5.75m to help finance Carbery Food Ingredients for its West Cork dairy operations.

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