Question from Cllr. Conor D. McGuinness (European Committee of the Regions) and MEP Chris McManus.
Of the EUR 920.4 million allocated to Ireland from the Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) fund, EUR 35 million has been directed to port and coastal communities to improve publicly-owned piers and harbours. This fund will be administered by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and projects will primarily be delivered by local authorities.
Maintaining access and egress for vessels is vital to support the use of maritime infrastructure along the Irish coast. In some cases, dredging works are required to ensure vessels can safely enter or depart ports and harbours. Before a local authority can begin dredging works, it must undertake costly preparatory work including environmental assessments and the procurement of a foreshore licence.
Will the Commission confirm that:
1. neither the BAR fund nor the Commission’s rules preclude the use of this funding for the dredging of ports and harbours, nor indeed for the expensive preparatory work required before dredging works can commence;
2. the decision to exclude this latter item from the scheme is a decision of the Irish Government;
3. inclusion in the scheme of preparatory work by local authorities that is essential to the improvement of publicly-owned piers and harbours is in line with the principles of the BAR?
Response from Commissioner Ferreira on behalf of the European Commission.
1. The Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) has the objective to mitigate the negative economic impact of the United Kingdom’s (UK) withdrawal and support measures specifically set up by Member States with a direct link to Brexit.
The measures referred to by the Honourable Member may be eligible in principle if the justifications provided by the authorities demonstrate compliance of the measures with the key requirements of the BAR Regulation: (i) the adverse consequences of Brexit, (ii) direct link between the measures carried out and negative consequences of Brexit, (iii) the eligibility criteria set out by the regulation.
2. The regulation leaves to Member States to decide which sectors, regions or communities are worst affected and require support. The regulation provides for a list of indicative measures to counter the adverse consequences of the UK withdrawal, but this list is non-exhaustive to allow a flexible use of funds as needed for the specific situation of the sectors, regions and local communities in Member States.
3. Under shared management the Commission cannot provide written ex-ante confirmation that all the requirements are fulfilled, notably a link to Brexit, before the Member State submits its application for a financial contribution from the Reserve (by 30 September 2024), i.e. selects the measures to be supported under the BAR. The Commission will only then assess and determine eligibility as well as additional payments (or recovery) of BAR fund.
The Commission has been available for several bilateral meetings with Irish authorities to discuss operational challenges in setting up measures supported by the BAR instrument. The Commission stands ready to further exchanges to this end.