An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar met with leaders of EU institutions in Brussels this Wednesday to gather support ahead of fresh Brexit talks with the UK later this week, and to advance preparations for assistance in a no-deal scenario.
"We had a discussion about the kind of support that we’ll put in place for farmers and fishermen who may be affected by it [a no-deal Brexit] – they'll be the most affected – but also for exporters," An Taoiseach said after a meeting with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan.
Discussions covered "means by which we can provide aid to farmers and fishermen, and means by which we can intervene in businesses that are adversely affected, either to rescue and restructure them, or to provide capital loans to allow them to re-orient their trade away from Britain and towards trade with the rest of the world," Varadkar added.
Juncker said that the Commission is "ready to assist Ireland when it comes to farmers" – however he addded: "I don’t believe that the no-deal situation is the most probable one."
While he re-stated Ireland's position on not making preparations for a hard border, Varadakar also stressed the need to "protect the single market and the customs union" in case of a no-deal Brexit.
"If at some point in the future the UK were to allow chlorinated chicken or beef with hormones into their market, we wouldn’t want that coming into our market."
State aid rules
On Tuesday, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe told the Oireachtas that he had "preliminary discussions" with the Commission on " the kinds of support that might be needed and facilitated from a state aid point of view".
Donohoe clarified that the talks were "preliminary in the sense that much of it has to wait for conclusion until Brexit actually happens".
Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager would need to agree to any Government support to farmers beyond current rules, and Minister Donohoe said that she and Commissioner Hogan "stand ready to help".
Juncker, European Council president Donald Tusk and European Parliament Brexit representative Guy Verhofstadt all said on Wednesday that they would reject a UK withdrawal agreement that doesn't include the so-called backstop to guarantee no return to a hard border in Ireland.
The most striking quote came from Tusk, who said: "I’ve been wondering what the special place in hell looks like for those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it safely."
British Prime Minister Theresa May is due to visit Brussels on Thursday and Dublin on Friday for talks on the "alternative arrangements" her MPs have asked her to find with the EU.
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