European Parliament approves over €1bn in Brexit subsidies for Ireland

State is by far the biggest beneficiary of the reserve for the countries hardest hit by UK exit

 European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers a speech during a debate on ‘The State of the European Union’ at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. Photograph: Yves Herman/EPA

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers a speech during a debate on ‘The State of the European Union’ at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. Photograph: Yves Herman/EPA

 

The European Parliament approved over €1 billion in subsidies for Ireland to help manage the economic impact of Brexit on Wednesday.

Ireland is by far the biggest beneficiary of the so-called Brexit Adjustment Reserve, a pot of €5.34 billion set aside by the EU for the countries hardest hit by the disruption caused by the departure of the United Kingdom.

Fine Gael MEP for Midlands North West Colm Markey described the funds as “hugely welcome” and demonstrating “a high degree of EU solidarity with Ireland”.

The fund was approved with an overwhelming vote of 652 votes in favour versus 32 against. The bulk of the funds will be distributed to Ireland in tranches from now until 2023, with a final 20 per cent allocated in 2025 in an amount calculated according to how the previous money was spent.

The Government has said the sum will be spent on compensating businesses for lost trade, protecting jobs, assisting fishing communities, and for customs infrastructure that is needed at ports.

Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus welcomed the funding, and appealed for the Irish Government to spend it on the border region.

“The lion’s share must be directed to helping workers and business decimated by Brexit along the Border,” he said in a statement.

Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher called in the European Parliament for the money to go to assist the fishing sector, while the industry body representing the food and drink sector Food Drink Ireland also appealed for funds from the scheme.

“The food and drink sector is deeply resilient but now faces major disruption to its markets from Brexit while still contending with the impact of a global pandemic,” its director Paul Kelly said in a statement.

A trade delegation of international MEPs led by Fine Gael’s Seán Kelly is due to visit Northern Ireland to discuss the impact of its post-Brexit arrangements under the Protocol. The European Commission is expected to propose measures to ease the implementation of the rules in talks with the British government in the coming weeks.

Brexit was not mentioned in the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s set piece State of the Union address to the European Parliament on Wednesday, a notable absence after years in which the departure of the United Kingdom has featured as a theme in EU debates.

“I noticed you never used the B word, Brexit,” Fine Gael’s Kelly said in his response in parliament to von der Leyen’s speech. “Perhaps an intelligent omission and a message in itself.”