DÁIL ORAL PQ WITH FINANCE ON IRELAND’S CONTRIBUTION TO THE EU BUDGET

  1. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the projected level of expenditure on Ireland’s EU contribution in 2019 and 2020; the projections for this expenditure post-Brexit and during the next multi-annual financial framework, MFF, to 2027; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21622/18]

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan

Ireland has been a net contributor to the EU budget since 2014. It is one of nine of the current 28 member states that are now net contributors. Ireland’s contribution for this year will be €2.7 billion. How does the Minister envisage this sum rising in the context of our contribution in 2019 and 2020? It is a very large contribution. It is approximately twice the annual budget for the Garda Síochána. How would a no-deal Brexit and the proposal relating to the MFF impact on this?

Deputy Paschal Donohoe

The European Commission’s proposal for the MFF for the period 2021 to 2027 was published on 2 May 2018. I welcome the publication of the proposal, which marks the start of an important debate on the future of the EU budget. The proposals come at a time of great change and adjustment for the EU with new priorities and the departure of UK from the EU.

With Ireland’s growing prosperity we have moved from being a net beneficiary to a net contributor to the EU budget. As such, it is important that the next MFF will be an appropriately sized spending plan for the EU 27 in a post-Brexit era, and that it will be capable of meeting the priorities of the European Union.

Negotiations on those priorities and how they should be funded will be complex. The Deputy asked how Brexit will impact on all of this. It will do so in two different ways. First, the level of contribution currently made by the UK will obviously not continue into the future. The UK will honour some of the commitments it has but clearly it will not be contributing to future European Union budgets. The second effect is that it does not reduce the demand for expenditure from the European Union budget in other member states. The level of demand is there for the same or higher levels of expenditure and one of the key contributors to this budget will no longer be involved in the negotiation.

In the context of Ireland’s contributions under the next MFF, the European Commission’s post-2020 proposal would lead to an increase in this country’s contributions to the EU budget. As the Deputy will be aware, the Taoiseach has already said that Ireland is open to contributing more. Clearly, we need to ensure that Ireland’s core priorities are protected. It is difficult to be definitive on the level of projected contributions because the negotiations have yet to commence.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan

I thank the Minister for his reply. What is his view of the Commission’s MFF proposal? Does he agree with the proposed increase to 1.11% of GNI? Would he prefer the figure to be higher or lower? What is Ireland’s position on this proposal? The Minister referred to the Taoiseach as saying that Ireland, as one of the nine net contributors to the European Union, will be prepared to pay more. What kind of territory are we talking about in this regard? The Minister’s former colleague European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Phil Hogan, said he wanted the figure to be 1.2% or 1.3% of GNI. Is that in the same territory as what the Minister envisages?

Has the Department made contingency plans regarding the additional funding Ireland will have to find for the EU?

I know Mr. Brian Hayes, MEP, puts a figure of an additional €200 million on the net impact of Britain leaving but continuing to pay, perhaps, for passporting rights, the open skies policy and so on. Is serious work being done by the Department in this area, given this €3 billion a year or more will have a huge impact on future budgets?

Deputy Paschal Donohoe

A huge amount of work is being done in this regard. On the Deputy’s question on my view of what the future level of contribution should be, if I was to say that here today, I would probably be the first Minister involved in these negotiations to outline a figure in regard to our potential contribution in the future. We are at the very early stage of these negotiations. At this point in time, it is sufficient for Ireland to say very clearly that we believe that more should be paid if our core priorities can be protected. There are many other member states which have not even gone that far. In terms of whether we know what the future level of contribution will be once the UK leaves, at this point it is difficult to put a definitive figure on it because there are still so many open areas in regard to the negotiation between the UK and the EU.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan

Does the Minister think the figure is in the kind of territory referred to by his colleague in the European Parliament, Mr. Brian Hayes, or could it be much more significant? Obviously, as we go on post-2020 and begin to deal this new multiannual financial framework, there will be a huge and growing impact on our budgets and we also have concerns that there will be gaps in the Common Agricultural Policy. Is there any indication of the size of the net financial gap that will be left due to the UK leaving? This is something that has to be on the Department’s horizon. It must also be seen in the context of the vision for Europe of President Macron, who was a very happy spectator at the football last night, given that his vision will have a huge impact on our future contributions.

Deputy Paschal Donohoe

To respond to the middle part of the Deputy’s question, it is precisely because it refers to concerns we have about the funding of CAP, and the desire we have to protect, for example, funding of ERASMUS and research and development, that I am being careful in regard to putting a figure on a future Irish contribution. We are not engaged in a dialogue in this regard; this is a negotiation, as the Deputy understands. If I say here today what I believe the level of Irish contribution will be in the future, before we have secured agreement in regard to the protection of funding programmes that are important to Ireland, it will undermine our ability to secure our national interest in these negotiations. Our contribution will go up. The degree to which it will go up will depend upon our ability to secure areas that are important to Ireland.

In regard to some of the proposals of President Macron on the future of the EU budget, as the Deputy knows, there are some areas we are concerned about and would not be in a position to support, for example, in regard to the implementation of CCCTB across Ireland, but there are other areas on which we will be engaging with the European Commission to come up with a new budget because we will need one, and a more modern one than we have now.