Westminster has refused to step in to replace a £15.3 million EU fund ring-fenced for TB eradication efforts in Northern Ireland, according to a departmental response penned by Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister Poots.

The question, seeking to quantify the shortfall in funding anticipated as a consequence of the exit from the EU, was put to the region's Agriculture Minister by SDLP agriculture spokesman Patsy McGlone.

In response, Minister Poots wrote: "In relation to future Rural Development funding, Northern Ireland will lose out on £34 million of funding over the 2021-22 to 2023-24 period.

HM Treasury has further advised that there will be no separate funding to replace the income DAERA has received for many years from the EU Fund for Disease Eradication to support the Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) Programme.

"This totals £15.3 million over the next three years."

'A hole in TB eradication efforts'

McGlone warned efforts to eradicate TB will suffer a major financial setback as a result.

The Mid Ulster MLA said: “Brexit continues to have a profound impact on agriculture, farming businesses and rural communities.

This week DAERA has confirmed to me, in response to an Assembly question, that the North will lose out on £34 million of Rural Development funding, which will have a serious impact on rural communities.

“The Department has also confirmed to me that the British Treasury will not be replacing resource under the EU Fund for Disease Eradication to support the Bovine Tuberculosis Programme.

"This programme is worth £15.3 million and the loss of resource will have a substantial impact on efforts to tackle bovine TB in the farming sector.

“It is astonishing that we have parties continuing to champion Brexit when it will clearly have a disastrous impact on communities and businesses across the North, particularly in the agri-food sector. It’s time people stopped burying their heads in the sand and started working on solutions to this crisis.”