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Meanwhile Sinn Fein has accused recently installed Taoiseach and Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin of failing to protect the nation’s farmers, arguing the agreement amouns to a 10 percent cut in the amount they will receive in accordance with the EU’s common agriculture policy (CAP). EU leaders signed off on the deal, a £677billion (€750billion) package of measures aimed at protecting the EU’s economy from the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic, in the early hours of yesterday morning at the conclusion of a four-day European Council meeting in Brussels.
The so-called frugal four countries (the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden and Denmark) forced concessions at the summit, with the proportion of the overall figure made up of non-repayable grants dropping from £450billion (€500billion) to £350billion (€390billion).
Critics remain concerned the money will be used to pay for high levels of public spending in the south of the bloc, where Italy and Spain have been hardest hit by COVID-19.
Such fears have also surfaced back in Ireland, with Independent TD Mattie McGrath saying his country was “is set to become fifth highest net contributor to the fund behind Germany, France, Holland and Sweden”.
It is worrying that more attention has been paid to getting a deal for Europe rather than ensuring that we get a good deal for Ireland
Speaking in Ireland’s legislature, the Dail, he said: “While this may be a good deal for Europe in terms of showing solidarity and for the European economy, questions must be asked about the increasing burden and levels of debt being placed on Ireland.
“It is worrying that more attention has been paid to getting a deal for Europe rather than ensuring that we get a good deal for Ireland.
“While a strong European economy will be beneficial to Ireland, we must ensure that the burden placed on us is not too great, and that we will not be left behind, and we need urgent clarity on this.”
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There are also specific concerns about plans to cut size of CAP fund as a result of the UK, a £9billion net-contributor in 2017, leaving the EU, with both Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald and Monaghan TD Matt Carthy both highly critical of Mr Martin.
Mr Carthy told RTE: “We need to cut through the spin and get to the heart of the deal.W
Referring to the CAP changes, he said: “That’s really dangerous, there is much to be concerned about.
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“We need to know how much we are putting in and we still don’t know what we’re getting out of it.”
Ray Bassett, a prominent Irish eurosceptic and a former Irish Ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas, was similarly sceptical.
He told Express.co.uk earlier this week: “I just cannot understand why any Irish Government would support the thrust of the Recovery Plan.
“Ireland is in the same position as the frugal four countries which have opposed the Plan (Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and Austria), it will receive very little of the new funds available but, as a large net contributor to the EU budget, will see large sums extracted from the Irish tax payer to service this new debt.”
Speaking after agreement was announced yesterday, Mr Martin himself said it is a strong deal which includes a substantial and significant package of measures.
He added: “I welcome what is a very substantial and significant package of measures – 1.8 trillion, which I think will go a long way to help reboot and re-energise economic recovery within the European Union.
“It has been a very challenging number of days negotiating this package but it has been worthwhile and the solidarity displayed through this summit is something I think will stand Europe in good stead going into the future.
“The COVID-19 challenge is unique – its impact in terms of our economic, social and political life is very severe and it necessitated a response of this scale and magnitude.
“Overall this is a strong package and, from the Irish and European perspective, we welcome its wide-ranging and comprehensive breadth, which I think will do a lot to help Europe respond to the challenges of COVID-19.”
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