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MoS McEntee Closing Statement on Contingency Action Plan Update

Ceann Comhairle,

 

Intro

 

As the Tánaiste outlined at the outset, and as has also been reflected in some of the other deputies’ contributions this morning, Brexit represents a unique and unprecedented challenge for Ireland. The political uncertainty in London means that there is a significant risk of a no deal Brexit, and it is not certain that the UK will seek a further extension, or that the EU will grant it if they do.

 

It is in this context that the Government continues to priorities preparations for a possible no deal Brexit.

 

 

The Brexit Contingency Action Plan Update reflects the work that has taken place across Government to prepare for a no deal, and the further steps that will be taken between now and 31 October. This work is extensive, thorough and detailed. That said, there is no good news in a no deal Brexit.

 

We cannot replace the seamless arrangements that exist today through mitigation measures. The mitigation measures will reduce some of the impacts, but there will be a fundamental change in the relationship between the EU and the UK.

 

Customs Checks for North-South trade

 

The Government has been very clear about our objectives since the UK decided to leave the EU – protecting the Good Friday Agreement and the gains of the peace process, including protecting the all-island economy and avoiding the emergence of a hard border on the island of Ireland. 

 

Those objectives are delivered by the Withdrawal Agreement.  Given the UK red lines the Withdrawal Agreement, including the backstop, is the only solution currently on the table that delivers the outcomes that everyone, including the UK, committed to achieving. 

 

In the absence of the Withdrawal Agreement, there are no easy solutions.  As the Action Plan says, “there should be no illusion – a no deal Brexit would result in far-reaching change on the island of Ireland”.

 

The Government is working closely with the European Commission to meet the shared twin objectives of protecting the Single Market and Ireland’s place in it, and avoiding a hard border, including physical infrastructure. This work is looking at necessary checks to preserve Ireland’s full participation in the Single Market and Customs Union.

 

As the Taoiseach has indicated, tariffs, for example, can be paid online. But other areas, such as SPS checks, are far more challenging and any solutions agreed will be far sub-optimal to the backstop and will be highly disruptive to the all-island economy.

 

Business Preparedness

 

For the time between now and 31 October, the Action Plan emphasises the need for stepped up preparedness measures, by exposed businesses in particular.

 

Citizens and businesses cannot assume that because a no deal Brexit was averted in March and April that the same will happen in October – the need for prudent preparations is more pressing than ever.

 

A new phase of the Government’s Brexit communications including an intensified engagement programme by Revenue, focussed on individual businesses and including targeted letters and follow-up phone calls.

 

Government departments and agencies will further engage with trade representative bodies in preparing businesses for Brexit.

 

Seminars offering advice and support for companies organised by government departments and state agencies will continue to take place nationwide.

 

The Government has engaged with the Customs Consultative Committee with a view to identifying a series of targeted measures that will be taken to support and incentivise capacity-building in the customs intermediary sector.

 

Agrifood & Fisheries

 

The Government has put in place a range of supports for the agri-food industry including:

 

•                 A €78 million Brexit package for farmers, fishermen, food SMEs and to cover additional costs related to Brexit;

•                 The Future Growth Loan Scheme via the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland for farmers, seafood sector and food SMEs;

•                 Specific supports for food businesses through Enterprise Ireland and LEADER food programme;

•                 Technology and innovation hubs;

•                 Additional funding to Bord Bia;

•                 Trade missions and market access activity.

 

Recently the European Commission has announced a €50 million exceptional aid fund for the beef sector to address price difficulties caused in part by the ongoing uncertainty in relation to Brexit.

 

The Government will continue to engage constructively with the European Commission to explore the full range of State aid flexibilities and supports for sectors in the event of a no deal Brexit.

 

Ireland will work with the EU and fellow Member States to identify options for the fishing industry from 2020 onwards including a common framework to manage potential tying-up of boats, the possible displacement into EU waters under the control of Ireland of fleets from other Member States, and funding for the sector.

 

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine will continue to engage with relevant traders to ensure that they are registered on the EU Trade Control and Export System (TRACES).

 

Ports and airports / Landbridge

 

As detailed in the plan, sufficient infrastructure is in place at Dublin Port. Rosslare Europort and Dublin Airport to provide an emergency response to a no deal Brexit. In the coming months we will be refining and improving this infrastructure.

 

In Dublin Port a 6,000 square metre warehouse has been converted to accommodate facilitiesincluding 13 inspection bays for SPS and food safety checks. Plans for a further 18 inspection bays are in place.

 

Additional staff have been trained and are in place to respond to a no deal Brexit; Revenue have hired 400, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine 190, and the HSE 59. Further staff will be made available before 31 October.

 

The UK’s accession to the Common Transit Convention (CTC) post Brexit will facilitate the use of the UK as a landbridge. This is a crucial route for Irish trade, with 150,000 trucks carrying 3 million tonnes of trade worth €21billion using this route to mainland Europe each year.

 

We are working with the EU and fellow Member States, particularly France, to facilitate the best possible use of the landbridge after Brexit.

 

Should there be significant difficulties for traders using the landbridge, the Dover-Calais crossing has been identified as a particular bottleneck, there is capacity on our direct sea routes to mainland Europe.

 

Irish Ferries MV W.B. Yeats (which entered into service in January 2019) provides capacity for 60,600 HGVs per annum. Another vessel of similar size is due to be delivered on the Irish Sea routes in 2020.

 

In 2018, CLdN launched MV Celine, the World’s largest Roll on Roll off vessel, and in 2019 launched MV Laureline, significantly increasing capacity on the Dublin-Rotterdam and Zeebrugge routes. In May 2018, Brittany Ferries' launched a direct route from Cork to Santander. BG Freight Line, will commence a Waterford-Rotterdam weekly freight service in July 2019.

 

Closing

 

The Government remains firmly of the view that the best, and realistically the only way to ensure an orderly Brexit is for the UK to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement agreed with the EU.

 

Our position has been clear and consistent. A change of Prime Minister will not change the facts of Brexit. The European Council has made it consistently clear that the Withdrawal Agreement, including the backstop, cannot be opened or renegotiated.

 

That said, the Government’s view is that there is a significant risk of a no deal Brexit, which is why no deal planning work has the highest priority across Government.

 

There should be no illusion – a no deal Brexit would result in far-reaching change on the island of Ireland.

 

It is only by Government, business and citizens working together nationally and with our EU partners that we can aim to mitigate as far as possible the impacts of a no deal Brexit, and ensure that we are as prepared as we can be for the changes it will bring.

 

We will continue this work as a strong and committed EU Member State and with the solidarity and support of our EU partners

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