Chancellor Philip Hammond’s commitment to keep structural and investment funds in place for projects signed up until the UK leaves the European Union has been welcomed.
Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Michelle McIlveen said she ‘very muched welcomed’ the chancellor’s statement on EU funding, while the Ulster Farmers’ Union also welcomed the news, but cautioned that there was much work to be done moving forward.
Miss McIlveen said: “I very much welcome the latest announcement from Treasury to guarantee EU structural and investment funds for projects signed up until the point at which the UK departs the EU.
“This is very positive news for the new Environmental Farming Scheme, our Rural Development Programme and the European Maritime Fisheries Fund. The announcement provides confirmation that EU funding for contracts signed before the UK departs the EU will be honoured.”
The DAERA Minister concluded: “As I have said previously, I know that some will ask what comes beyond 2020, but that was a question we were facing within the EU anyway. At least we now have an opportunity to shape a support regime that is more suited to our needs and one that is not over-burdened with unnecessary bureaucracy. We can now turn our attention to addressing this particular issue, and this important opportunity.”
The Ulster Farmers’ Union president Barclay Bell said the Chancellor’s announcement is welcome.
“This guarantee that EU funding will continue after the UK has left the EU covers Northern Ireland’s agri-environment scheme and the wider Rural Development programme. This provides welcome reassurance that payments are secure until 2020,” said Mr Bell.
The UFU president said the focus would now move to the wider issue of support for agriculture and rural development, after the UK is no longer a member of the EU.
“There is a huge task ahead of us as we unpick the UK’s relationship with the EU. The guarantee that funding will continue until 2020 is good news, but we are concentrating now on how best to support farmers after 2020. In doing this we are working closely with politicians here and at Westminster, and with other UK farm unions. Our aim is to secure support equivalent to that presently provided by the EU,” said the Mr Bell.
The Chancellor’s statement confirmed that while the UK is still a member of the EU, businesses, are still entitled to apply for EU funds. The UFU says farmers and others in rural communities should recognise this and continue to seek EU rural development and other funding.