East Antrim Ulster Unionist Assembly member Roy Beggs MLA has raised the issue of the potential use of the Barnett Formula as a means of distributing agricultural funding once the UK leaves the EU.
Mr Beggs MLA asked the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs for “her assessment of the challenges posed by Her Majesty’s Government using the Barnett Formula as a basis for distributing the Basic Payment Scheme, after the United Kingdom exits the European Union.”
In response to the East Antrim MLA, the Minister said “UK CAP expenditure has been distributed to UK regions on the basis of the proportion of subsidies received by each region under the coupled payment regime which existed prior to 2004. These shares were maintained when Single Farm Payment was introduced in 2005 and again following the CAP reforms in 2013. I believe that the current distribution reflects the relative importance of the agricultural sector in each UK region.”
“The Barnett Formula is used by the Treasury to distribute increases in Government expenditure in England, to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland chiefly on the basis of regional population shares. It applies to most but not all Government expenditure.
“There has been no suggestion that UK Government expenditure replacing CAP monies should be allocated on the basis of the Barnett Formula. Population shares do not reflect the importance of agriculture in each region and therefore using the Barnett Formula would be unfair not just to Northern Ireland but also to Scotland and Wales.”
Roy Beggs added “It would appear to be detrimental to Northern Ireland if agricultural subsidies where to be distributed through the Barnett Formula and I would be against such a move. A fairer way needs to be found during Government discussions following the triggering of Article 50 in Spring next year to best cater for the needs of the Northern Irish farming community.”