© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The top of the head and ears of an Aberdeen Angus cow is seen in Enniskerry

DUBLIN (Reuters) – The European Union will provide Irish beef farmers with 50 million euros of exceptional aid to compensate for the fall in beef prices suffered as a result of the Brexit process, the European Commission’s agriculture chief Phil Hogan said.

Ireland’s economy is considered the most vulnerable among the remaining 27 EU members to the impact of its neighbour’s decision to leave the bloc, particularly for sectors with close trading links to Britain such as agriculture.

The Commission has already promised Irish farmers that they can expect significant help if Britain leaves the EU without an agreed deal. The terms and timing of Britain’s departure are still uncertain, but Hogan said on Thursday that the bloc’s executive was intervening now due to an exceptional aid requirement.

Under the terms of the package, the Irish government can top up the fund by 100 percent, which would bring it up to the 100 million euros farmers have demanded, citing the difference between recent beef prices and those they achieved before Britain’s 2016 referendum on leaving the EU.

“The Irish beef sector exports over 50 percent of the total EU requirement of beef to the United Kingdom, so Ireland and Irish beef farmers are more exposed than any other sector in the European Union,” Hogan told Irish national broadcaster RTE.

“So we are responding now to a very unique situation and it’s a one-off payment to take account of the market sentiment that has been going in the wrong direction for many, many months in relation to beef to the United Kingdom.”

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Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who was met by protests from angry farmers at a recent cabinet meeting held outside Dublin, said he expected farmers to receive the money in the next couple of months.

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