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Call for EU to create ‘Brexit relief fund’ for Ireland

Luke James
Brussels correspondent
EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker in Ireland to discuss Brexit concerns (Getty)

Jean-Claude Juncker has been called on to create a “Brexit relief fund” to cushion the economic impact of the UK’s exit from the EU on Ireland.

The European Commission president said Ireland should “not pay the price” for Britain’s choice yesterday during a two day visit to Dublin to address Brexit issues.

But an Irish government study has predicted the country’s economy will be hit by a 4.3% slump if the UK leaves the EU’s single market and customs union as planned.

Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy says Juncker could show his commitment to Ireland by ring fencing funds to stop Ireland becoming “collateral damage” in the process, which he warned could have the same effect as the financial crisis.

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The MEP made the proposal in a written question to the Commission which said: “Given that the repercussions of a prolonged period of austerity are still being felt in Ireland in the form of crises in homelessness and healthcare, will the Commission consider setting up a Brexit relief fund which could be triggered to help businesses, local authorities, community projects and others that stand to suffer from the effects of Brexit?”

Carthy said his idea is based on the €150m European Globalisation Fund, which supports groups of workers made redundant as a result of market changes or company relocations.

Cash would go to any sector affected by economic change linked to Brexit, but primarily small business owners and farmers.

The Irish agriculture sector, which depends on the UK market, could be particularly badly hit.

Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy has called for a ‘Brexit relief fund’ (European Parliament)

Dairy exports could be reduced by 19% by 2030 under a UK-EU free trade agreement, according to the Irish government’s study.

But everyone from used car dealers to the cultural sector could pay a price, according to Carthy, who said he had been contacted by a wide variety of interest groups “all acutely aware at this stage of the devastating impact of Brexit on their operations.”

He told Yahoo: “The objective of this fund must be to avoid and anticipate the worst outcome for these operators rather waiting for the worst to happen.

“If this fund can help Irish sectors prepare for the what’s coming down the line, to put in place the necessary changes to restructure or retarget their actions, or even just give float money for temporary shocks, then we’ve already done a lot to help them.”

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In a speech to the Irish Parliament yesterday, Juncker revealed the EU was  preparing an economic response to the possibility of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

“We will use all the tools at our disposal which could have a cushioning impact,” he said.

“The new long-term budget for our Union from 2021 onwards has an in-built flexibility that could allow us to redirect funds if the situation arose.”

The Commission is obliged to provide a specific response to the Carthy’s proposal within the next four to six weeks.