EU could speed up funding for Ireland in hard Brexit, commissioner says

Irish problem is a European problem, says budget commissioner Günther Oettinger

Günther Oettinger said funding allocated to the State under a  plan for 2021 to 2017 could be front-loaded to the start of the period.

Günther Oettinger said funding allocated to the State under a plan for 2021 to 2017 could be front-loaded to the start of the period.

 

The payment of European Union funds to support investment in the State could be accelerated to help cope with the shock of a hard Brexit, according to Günther Oettinger, the European commissioner for budget and human resources. Funding allocated to Ireland under the next EU budget, which will cover the period 2021 to 2027, could be brought forward towards the start of the period to support investment here and offset some of the impact, were a disruptive Brexit to occur, he said.

Speaking to The Irish Times after addressing a meeting of the European Chamber of Ireland in Dublin, the commissioner said consideration could be given to bringing forward funding which would otherwise be paid in the later years of the next budget period to the earlier years, to support investment here. The commissioner is leading negotiations on the next EU budget round, complicated by Brexit which will see a run-down of UK contributions.

The EU is providing €3.2 billion in funding for investment here in the 2014 to 2020 budget, which together with a contribution from the Irish exchequer supports investments of more than €6.1 billion in areas such as research, innovation, SMEs, climate change and restructuring the agricultural sector. Flexibility in payments under the next budget period is one mechanism which the commissioner said could be used to help Ireland in the event of a hard Brexit.

Sea transport

The EU could also look at supporting sea transport links between the State and the continent he said, underlining comments he made on Tuesday to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance. The EU could also look at the investment programmes supported under the Juncker plan via the European Investment Fund as another potential tool, he said, along with supports under the COSME programme for SMEs.

The commissioner said that two other mechanisms being examined in the context of developing the EU economic and monetary union could also be relevant in the event of a hard Brexit. These are proposals for the introduction of a stabilisation function to protect investments in the event of an asymmetric economic shock and and to help countries with structural reforms. The European Commission is due to publish more details on these EMU proposals in May, though it is not clear what political support they will receive from around Europe.

Mr Oettinger said the most important support Europe could provide would be “solidarity” for Ireland and the possible Brexit fallout.

“The Irish problem is a European problem.” he said. Time was now vital in the Brexit talks, he said, with risks increasing as time is lost without moves towards agreement on the key issues.