Ireland’s marine department has confirmed that EU funds to compensate for the impact of Brexit on the fishing industry must be spent by the end of next year, reports Lorna Siggins.
There is no flexibility with this, it confirmed – indicating that money will have to be refunded if it is not spent.
The Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) fund was initiated by the European Commission to provide financial support to EU member states, regions and sectors most affected by Brexit.
It aims to deal with the ‘adverse economic, social, territorial and, where appropriate, environmental consequences’.
Ireland is the biggest beneficiary of the BAR and the first member state to receive its pre-financing, with staged allocations for a total of €920.4m
The European Commission said that Ireland would receive €361.5m in 2021, €276.7m in 2022 and €282.2m in 2023, and the funding can cover expenses since 1 January, 2020.
It said the funding will ‘help Ireland’s economy in mitigating the impact of Brexit, through support to regions and economic sectors, including on job creation and protection, such as short-time work schemes, reskilling and training’.
To date, minister for the marine Charlie McConalogue has allocated €224.7m of the fund on various schemes relating to the seafood sector sector, said the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM).
“The eligibility criteria set by the EU to qualify expenditure under the reserve are stringent, and any proposed expenditure must demonstrate a direct link to negative impacts arising from Brexit,” said the department.
It said the BAR expenditure terms are established by the EU in regulation 2021/1755, which states that all expenditure funded by the BAR must be carried out within the ‘defined reference period’, ending on 31 December, 2023.
“The regulation, as confirmed by the relevant authorities in the EU, does not provide for any flexibility in this timing,” said the department.
The Seafood Sector Taskforce established by Charlie McConalogue in March 2020, which signed off its final report in October 2021, recommended a broad range of support measures for the fishing fleet, for inshore fishermen, aquaculture, seafood processors, fisheries co-operatives and coastal communities.
“The taskforce recommended that these initiatives be funded through both the 100% EU-funded BAR, and Ireland’s forthcoming EU co-funded Seafood Development Programme 2021-27 under the European Maritime Aquaculture and Fisheries Fund,” said the department.
“The minister is examining the recommended schemes with regard to available funds, state aid rules, eligibility under the BAR and the public spending code.
“To date, on foot of the taskforce recommendations, the minister has been in a position to announce an unprecedented €224.7m-worth of new support schemes for development and restructuring, so as to ensure a profitable and sustainable fishing fleet and to identify opportunities for jobs and economic activity in coastal communities dependent on fishing.”
It added that details of the different schemes are available at: bim.ie
Additionally, in the case of the Brexit Adjustment Local Authority Marine Infrastructure Scheme, details are available at: gov.ie
The status of the various recommended schemes as of late October was as follows:
- Temporary Tie-Up 2021 (recommended by the interim taskforce report): €10m
- Inshore Fisheries Business Model Adjustment Scheme: €3.7m
- Inshore Marketing Scheme: €1m • Brexit Adjustment Local Authority Marine Infrastructure Scheme: €35m
- Blue Economy Enterprise Development Scheme: €25m
- Seafood Capital Processing Support Scheme: €45m
- Temporary Tie-Up 2022 Scheme: €24m
- Brexit Co-operative Transition Scheme: €1m
- Brexit Sustainable Aquaculture Growth Scheme: €20m
- Voluntary Whitefish Decommissioning Scheme: €60m
- Total expenditure of Seafood Task Force Scheme announcements to date: €224.7m.
This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here.