A €20m scheme to help the Irish aquaculture sector overcome the impact of Brexit has been approved by the European Commission under EU State aid rules.

The scheme (equivalent to £17m) is aimed at “mitigating the adverse impact on employment in the coastal communities, by supporting the development of an alternative source of raw material supply for seafood processors and by enhancing the viability of aquaculture companies”, the European Commission said.

It will be open to aquaculture producers who are planning to purchase and install new machinery and equipment, as well as construct new premises, with the aim of increasing the production, enhancing the quality of the aquaculture products or substantially increasing energy efficiency.

The Commission said the aid will take the form of direct grants, covering up to 50% of the actual investment costs and will run until December next year.

The plan is to finance the scheme under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR), which was set up to mitigate the economic and social impact of Brexit, subject to approval under the specific provisions governing funding from that instrument.

The Irish government has already said that the Seafood Task Force recommendations relating to dealing with the negative impacts of Brexit in relation to substantial loss of fish quotas and market disruption after Britain withdrew from the EU are due to be funded through the BAR.

The Commission said it has assessed the measures under relevant legislation and guidelines, and found that the scheme facilitates the development of an economic activity and “does not adversely affect trading conditions to an extent contrary to the common interest”.

On this basis, the Commission says, it approved the Irish measure under EU State aid rules.

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