The Government's position on developments in relation to British membership of the EU has been clearly articulated, particularly by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade: we very much want the UK to remain an integral member of the Union.
The UK's continued membership of the Union is a matter of strategic importance for the Government. In this regard, Departments, including my own, have been working on this issue for some time.
In relation to the potential economic impact, under the research programme agreement between the Department of Finance and the Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, my Department commissioned research on scoping the potential economic implications for Ireland of a change in the EU-UK relationship. The research was published on 5 November 2015 and is an important contribution to understanding the potential issues arising.
The summer economic statement notes that there are a number of risks to the central forecast scenario set out in the 2016 stability programme update and sets out an assessment of the potential economic impact of a vote by the UK to leave the EU. The scale of the impact would, of course, depend on the agreement entered into between the EU and UK following such an outcome. The prudent and consistent economic and fiscal policies, which have been the basis for our economic recovery, have resulted in a greatly reduced general government deficit and debt ratio, which means we are better placed to deal with the type of risks arising.
As the Taoiseach has said, Ireland will have a clear plan in place to deal with the implications, including the economic implications, of a UK vote to leave, if that is the outcome. The key priority for Government would be to protect and promote Ireland's interests to the greatest extent possible in the event that the UK votes to leave.
Based on the analysis carried out by all Departments, including the Department of Finance, a framework has been developed on a whole of Government basis to identify contingencies that may arise in the days, weeks and months that follow the outcome of the UK referendum.