United Kingdom Referendum on European Union Membership: Statements (Resumed)

I have two minutes. I will take two topics and give them one minute each. My first point on Brexit is about how Ireland now finds itself placed with regard to foreign direct investment. Companies have been signalling their intent to look at Ireland a second time or consider Ireland as a possible alternative location. We need to ensure our State agencies, including Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland and the other agencies, capitalise on this. They are certainly in a position to do so. Visa and work permit schemes should be fast-tracked and packages should be put in place in order that if there are expressions of interest from companies looking to relocate, which seemingly there are, then we should be in a position to welcome them and take them on.

Again, the housing crisis comes into play. One issue for companies potentially looking to relocate is accommodation. I have heard anecdotally that places are already being snapped up or at least inquired about. We should prioritise that. Every job created through foreign direct investment generates three more in the local economy as well as the obvious benefits of those high-end jobs coming to our country.

The question of the Northern Ireland Border is crucial. It is critical that we look at arrangements to insulate the all-island approach, if at all possible. All the work of the Good Friday Agreement, cross-Border institutions and everything we have seen done in recent years should be protected. It would be disastrous if the Border were to re-emerge. I encourage all interested parties to look at how an all-Ireland border could be put in place instead. If customs posts or controls are to be put up, then they should be put on the United Kingdom rather than our Border, if at all possible.

This is the second time I have spoken about Brexit in the House. In my maiden speech I spoke on the concerns and fears I had, how Brexit would affect our country and, critically, how Brexit would affect the United Kingdom. Some of the things I alluded to in that speech are the things we have been listening to in recent days, including the potential for untold damage to the United Kingdom as a country and the possible eventual destruction of it as a single country.

I wish to concentrate on the impact of Brexit on our country. The Government will undertake the lead task of negotiating, along with our fellow EU 27 member states, with the United Kingdom. It is vital that we come with the best possible plan to ensure the UK remains with as much access and involvement in Europe as possible in future. It is to the benefit of our country to have such an arrangement and we need to ensure it is realised. The onus is on every political party and every politician, regardless of party, to work together on behalf of our country. We need to support our Government to ensure the UK's onward involvement is as total and immersed in Europe as it can be, even if it chooses not to remain a member of the EU.

I wish to caution one point in that regard. If we, as the European Union, undertake a deal with the United Kingdom, it is vital that we ensure we stitch in to any arrangement certain precautions and provisos. For example, if the UK has free access and free trade, all of which would be to our benefit, we must not allow the UK to engage in practices such as not observing minimum wage or environmental regulations, etc.

If the UK does not have the restrictions placed on it that we should insist on, then an unequal playing field could develop where the UK becomes a base for business and enterprise selling into the European Union while not observing any of the laws we and our fellow members of the European Union would like to see.

However, while observing that potential risk, it is key that we work together to ensure the European Union has a stance that is not vindictive and does not bear any animosity towards the UK for how it voted. That stance needs to recognise that we will be better off together regardless of whether the UK is a member. We need to develop a proper free trade understanding with the UK while also insisting that it observes things like free movement as well, which, if it wants access to the benefits of the market, is an inherent part of it.

This is probably the worst thing that could have happened to our country. It is one of the worst things that could have happened to the United Kingdom. I believe there is some mechanism within the Article 50 process for a country not to complete it, but to withdraw from the process even after it has started it. I still believe the UK would have a better future as part of the EU and that is where I would like to see it. However, if that is not to be, then the onus is on all EU states, but particularly Ireland, to ensure Britain plays as full a part as possible and that we have as full a relationship with the UK, particularly in trade, as is possible in the current situation.

I congratulate the Minister of State on his reappointment and wish him every good luck and success.

This is certainly a very worrying time for everybody. Even though we were all preparing, we still did not expect the vote to go the way it did. The European Union, formally created in 1993 after decades of international co-operation between the countries of Europe, has provided an exceptional outlet in the free movement of goods, services and individuals, creating an economically strong and vibrant Europe. For the United Kingdom to move away from these values in favour of its own independent policies, formed without regulation from the rest of its community, is certainly an upset to our society.

I very much respect democracy and I respect people's right to vote, but the decision by the British people to leave the European Union will have effects far beyond its borders. We will also be affected by this action. With the removal of the UK from the EU trade channels, it will become more difficult for Irish producers to export their goods across the Irish Sea, resulting in a potential decrease in bilateral trade flows between the two countries and also a drop in the total merchandise exports from Ireland, disproportionately affecting the basic and fabricated metal, agricultural, forestry, fishing, food and beverage, and textile sectors.

Trade is not the only area affected by the British exit. With its departure, foreign direct investment into the UK is likely to fall, leading to lower productivity and lower growth which will in turn also negatively affect Ireland, I am afraid.

I hope the movement of workers between Ireland and the United Kingdom is not at risk. Given previous EU migration laws this has not been a problem, but now it is possible that the UK could impose restrictions on Irish citizens working in the UK, creating great upset and inconvenience for our citizens. Furthermore, migrants, who had been bound for the UK, may now come to Ireland, with research suggesting an average wage fall of 3.9%, with workers in high-skilled positions experiencing a 5% wage decrease.

Politicians and the business community have to deal with the political reality we now have. We must try to make the most of the situation. While it is a bad situation, with intelligence and determination and everybody pulling together, we have to come out of this with the negative effects minimised.

I was concerned that the price of beef would be low in September or October. Now with this UK decision I can see it being further negatively affected. As the Minister of State is aware, the farming community is on its knees. One thing which was always true about farming was that irrespective of what was happening with beef or sheep, those milking cows had an income. However, that is no longer the case. It is tragic that dairy farmers are losing money every day. I am afraid that Brexit will compound that problem. These family farms are really struggling for survival. If the price of beef were to go lower than I had anticipated for autumn, it would lead to a crisis in that sector. That is one concern we need to try to address.

I look forward to the European Union affairs committee getting its structures in place in the coming weeks. I know that all the members of that committee look forward to working with the Minister of State. I believe it will be us, as Ireland Incorporated, working together in unity in whatever way we can to mitigate the negative consequences of Brexit.

In recent days the Taoiseach was out fighting our corner with the other EU leaders. To say that this is unprecedented and something out of this world altogether is not an overreaction or an exaggeration. If a man had placed a bet with Paddy Power at the start of the year that the United Kingdom would leave the EU and that Donald Trump would become President of America, he would have got some odds. There was money to be made. The first part has come true, whatever about the second part.

On a serious note, I hope the committee will be able to work with the Minister of State in ensuring we try our best to ensure Irish people working in Britain are taken care of in the best possible way and that our trade and our tourism figures will not go down as a result of this. I certainly hope that will not happen. It is a very unusual time to say the least. Politically there is an onus on all of us to pull together and do everything we can for the citizens of Ireland.

I thank the Deputy for his kind words. I also congratulate him on his appointment as Chairman of the European Union affairs committee. It has worked very well on a cross-party basis and I know it contains Deputy Haughey for Fianna Fáil and Deputy Crowe for Sinn Féin along with others. It is important it gets up and running because we need to act collectively.

Clearly the Brexit vote has shaken the ruling elite in the European Union and beyond, with statements coming lately from President Obama. They are worried about the possibility of destabilising a cosy consensus among the ruling elite on a global, financial, capital arrangement they have, and on future projects that they hoped to create around battle groups incorporating an EU-wide army that included the British. They are also concerned about the effect this exit might have on the arrangements for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP, and other competitive and trading arrangements.

The sentiment behind Brexit is definitely complex. Racism played its part, but so did a sentiment that is part of a wider revolt against the European Union that I just described - the European Union of war, wealth, power and economic bullyboys who have shaped Europe as a haven for the very wealthy at the expense of the people, whose democratic wishes they chose to ignore.

This is a slap in the face for the Europe that forced Irish, Greek, Spanish and Portuguese workers to bail out bankers and bondholders. Even though Greece is the cradle of democracy, the EU cruelly ignored the democratic wishes of the Greek people when it forced them to privatise some of their most precious assets, including their heritage. What the EU has done to the people of Europe is absolutely obscene.

The racist far-right proponents of Brexit, including Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, have no place in shaping the future of Britain. Their hateful rhetoric against migrants and refugees was largely unchallenged in the debate by both the "Leave" and "Remain" sides, to the disgrace of both sides. There must be a lesson in that for the future of politics of Britain and elsewhere. The vote to leave was encased in Labour strongholds, including areas that were decimated by the loss of jobs in coalfields, mines and steelworks and by the imposition of austerity by successive Tory and Labour governments.

I believe the future of Britain will be shaped by the battle that is taking place inside the UK Labour Party today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. The leadership of that party will either remain with Jeremy Corbyn, who has a vision for change that involves redistributing wealth and getting justice for the British people, or pass to the warmongering, racism and austerity of his opponent, Angela Eagle. If Jeremy Corbyn wins this important battle between the right and left of the UK Labour Party, the future of British politics will be blown open. I want to send solidarity to Jeremy Corbyn from the left in the Irish Parliament. We hope he stays in for the long haul and wins this battle despite the haranguing and harassment of the right.

I would like to put the record straight with regard to the future of Scotland and Northern Ireland, both of which voted to stay in the EU. People Before Profit absolutely respects the democratic right of those countries to have polls on their futures. We are in favour of a Border poll. We are extremely disappointed that Sinn Féin has attacked People Before Profit. I assume that attack is probably based on the stated position of our allies in the Anti-Austerity Alliance. We have an honest disagreement with the alliance on the question of the Border, just as Sinn Féin has honest disagreements internally on the question of the right to choose. Indeed, Sinn Féin has an honest disagreement with its allies in the DUP on the question of Irish unity.

When one considers the impact of Brexit on Ireland, one must reflect on the EU's recent statement on the derogation from water charges. The ink was hardly dry on the Brexit result when the EU told the Irish people that they have no derogation from water charges and will have to pay. This statement was made in spite of the demonstrations, the protests and the votes that were cast against water charges in the general election, the result of which is reflected in this Parliament. The first and most important lesson to take from Brexit is that we must always stand and organise against racism and the far-right. The second lesson is that we have to continue the fight for democracy and against the EU in this country. We might even see an Eirexit at some future stage.

The startling hypocrisy of our Government in eulogising the EU despite the savagery it has imposed on us is absolutely breathtaking, as Deputy Boyd Barrett might say. Brian Hayes, MEP has announced that if the EU goes after our 12.5% corporation tax rate, we are out. It seems it is okay for the Government to go after lone parents, teachers and nurses, to impose stealth taxes and to create a housing crisis and a trolley crisis, but it is not okay for anyone to dare to touch our corporation tax rate. It is absolute hypocrisy. The response of the EU to the result of the referendum has been to organise separate meetings. It is astounding that it has responded to the democratic will of the British people with this sort of "up yours" message. The Government sitting across from me is also behaving disgracefully. It is shameful that it has spent almost €500,000 defending Apple, which owes the State €19 billion, in the European courts. It is a disgrace. Rather than defending Apple, we should be trying to get that money back from it.

I want to contradict the views of the previous speaker. I am astonished by the amount of ignorant and uninformed rhetoric that has just come from her. I would like to explain to her the subsidiarity of national law to EU law, which was in place when we joined the EU in the 1970s, but I cannot do so because she is walking out the door. We will have to pretend we do not know that the system to which I refer, which has been in place since before Ireland became a member of the EU, exists.

If I am being really honest, a little part of me wanted to see the EU get a kick in the backside. I suppose it got a kick in the backside and an awful lot more. It got a bloody nose. The result of the referendum has done a great deal of damage. I believe the voters of the UK, who are our nearest neighbours and friends, have made a mistake that will have significant repercussions elsewhere. I remind the House that when we were facing our worst ever economic difficulties in 2008, the UK Government provided a bilateral loan of billions of euro to this State. That is something we should not forget.

As I waited for the result of the referendum the other night, I watched as the results came in from two of the 380 counts, those in Newcastle and Sunderland, which started a trend that was clearly only going to go one way. In one case, the "Remain" vote won but was lower than we would have liked and in the other case, the "Leave" vote won and was higher than we would have liked. The real difficulty we face now as the UK's nearest neighbour is that we might get caught in the crossfire. There is annoyance, anger and vexation, particularly among the countries of eastern Europe, because of challenges for those countries that probably did not exist five years ago. They are being challenged by developments in Russia, by the refugee crisis in Syria and by the possible accession of Turkey to the EU. It was better to have a more stable and more concrete bloc of 28 countries than a bloc of 27 countries and another country that has decided by a small margin to leave.

I do not subscribe to the point of view that the voters of the UK should be given another go at it and asked to vote again until they come up with the right answer. My opinion is that the "Leave" vote would have been much closer to 60% if it had not been for the horrible killing of an MP, Jo Cox. The trend was going in that direction until this young woman was the victim of a savage attack. Perhaps the result would change if the referendum were held again, but I do not know whether the "Remain" side would win.

There is no doubt that the biggest challenge for Ireland is in the agriculture sector. Approximately €5 billion of our total food and beverage exports of €11 billion are exported to the UK. I saw a remarkable and more important statistic recently. Approximately 90% of our food exports to the UK, which as I have said are worth €5 billion, are consumed within two weeks. That is how quickly our produce is brought to the UK, put on the shelves, paid for and consumed. It will be a real challenge for our agriculture sector to replace that market if it has to do so as a result of the outcome of the conversation between the UK and the EU when Article 50 is invoked.

As I said at the outset, the people in the UK are our friends. Many of them are our family. I do not want to see them punished. I can understand the thoughts of those who do not think the UK should be rewarded. They should not have an opportunity to pick and choose in an à la carte manner, to use a term I heard yesterday. They cannot have the best of both worlds. They cannot have an opportunity to undercut or reduce workers' rights or environmental standards while retaining access to the Single Market. That certainly cannot be allowed to happen. I believe last week's vote was a mistake. It will probably lead to the break-up of the Act of Union between England and Wales, and Scotland. It has the potential to lead to the break-up of the Irish Act of Union. My real concern is that it could lead to the break-up of the EU. We are in a political time when anything could happen. I have to say I found the applauding of some people in the European Parliament disappointing. Those people were elected and that is democracy. Democrats disappoint us on some occasions.

I would like to share one minute of my time with Deputy John Brassil.

I am glad to have the opportunity to speak in the Dáil on the decision returned last Friday by the British electorate to exit the European Union. While the decision may have come as a shock and a disappointment to many, it is one that we must accept. We have to respect the will of the British people. Since the foundation of the State in 1922, we have consistently and constructively engaged with our closest neighbours to build a strong relationship that has seen them become our largest trading partners. It has taken the better part of a century to construct the special relationship we have with the British, which is why Ireland must be to the fore in the impending negotiation process to protect what has been built.

The Taoiseach gave a commitment in his address last Monday that he and his officials would be at the table for every major decision in the negotiations. This is obviously welcome. However, I remind the Taoiseach of the importance of the negotiations to our agricultural output, 40% of which goes directly to Britain. For example, just over half of all our beef exports - 52% to be exact - go directly to Britain. Some 84% of our poultry exports and 30% of total dairy products are exported to Britain. As a farmer, I cannot emphasise enough the importance of ensuring the agricultural market is prioritised, protected and enhanced. The beef and dairy markets, in particular, have endured much volatility of late. The Taoiseach must ensure farm families and the communities of rural Ireland are not adversely affected by the impending negotiations. Even though we are a member of the European Union, we must have our bilateral arrangements recognised by Brussels and seek the necessary exceptions to protect such vital trade agreements.

A report published by Teagasc in April serves as a stark reminder of the potential implications for the agriculture industry. The report examined four scenarios in the event of Brexit. The largest impact showed a reduction in total Irish agricultural food exports of €800 million, while the smallest estimated an annual loss of agricultural food exports of circa €150 million or 1.4% of agricultural export value. That is serious. Obviously, the magnitude of the potential loss in agriculture export value would depend on Britain’s future trading relationship with the 27 members, including Ireland, and the direction of British agricultural policy, both of which remain unknown. I suggest the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Michael Creed, seek talks with his British counterpart in an effort to provide some certainty on the many questions that have arisen surrounding the agriculture sector post-Brexit.

Of course, Brexit raises many concerns about the North. There has been a common travel area since the 1920s. The British and Irish Governments have agreed reciprocal visa arrangements, including free passport travel, measures to increase the security of the external common travel area and sharing immigration responsibilities between the two countries’ immigration authorities. Ireland must do all it can to try to preserve the common travel area, as any change would have significant effects on the labour market, trade and tourism. The peace process and the Good Friday Agreement which was achieved through years of painstaking work by political figures on both sides are often championed as an example to the rest of the world of how peace can be achieved in even the most difficult of circumstances. Therefore, it would be extremely regrettable to return to the days of Border controls between the North and the South which, regretfully, is emerging as a realistic possibility in the fallout from Brexit. I suggest the fallout represents an opportunity for the European Union hierarchy to reflect and take a moment for self-assessment. We need a strong European Union, with cohesion and solidarity among the remaining member states, but, most importantly, we must maintain our unique relationship with Britain for the benefit of the Irish people.

I thank Deputy Bobby Aylward for giving me one minute of his time to discuss this topic. I will speak on one issue only: my concern for the education system and the number of students who currently obtain their education in the United Kingdom, in particular, Scotland where fees are free under EU arrangements. In particular, a number of nursing students are going to Scotland. What will be the implications of this decision in completing their education? What will be the further implications for the Irish system in this capacity? There will inevitably be greater pressure on the Irish system because fewer students will travel abroad or to the United Kingdom to receive their education. That is something we need to look into, on which we need to get figures and come up with an action plan to deal with.

I know that she is not here, but I begin by welcoming the clarification issued by Deputy Bríd Smith on her party's position on an all-Ireland poll.

I will focus my remarks on the health care system. Sinn Féin believes health care services must be developed on an all-Ireland basis. Ideally, we should move from increased co-operation to ultimately full integration of island-wide services. As Deputies are aware, in the past decade there have been developments in cross-Border co-operation, with a number of exciting joint departmental projects being developed. They include work on shared radiotherapy and paediatric cardiac services, health promotion, cancer research, mental health initiatives and suicide prevention. The result of the British referendum is deeply worrying for the future of this co-operation and parents, families and communities are anxious to see its continuation. This is particularly important, given that the new children's hospital will have a state-of-the-art cancer centre which will serve children across the island. However, there needs to be a critical mass of population to make sure the centre will be viable. That critical mass can be achieved only on an all-island basis.

At this time, it is important that we see concerted engagement with the Minister for Health in the Assembly to ensure current and future cross-Border projects are maintained and secured for the future. We cannot rely only on North-South Ministerial Council meetings for this engagement. There should be more regularised contact. Illness, disease and health know no borders and it is important that success in cross-Border projects, in which we have achieved a lot of success, be continued and guaranteed into the future. Earlier this week I was in Brussels as part of a health delegation led by the Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson. It had been arranged prior to the referendum result being known, but it turned out to be a timely engagement. It was a delegation of health professionals, educationists, innovators and stakeholders from the north west health innovation corridor. The project spans the north west and was launched in May 2013 by Martina Anderson, MEP. It is an example of how well cross-Border co-operation can work and it is a positive step towards creating an island-wide health care system. The fear among many in the delegation and the questions being asked of officials from the Commission was how the result of the Brexit referendum would impact on this cross-Border collaboration.

As my other party colleagues have already highlighted during the course of the statements, Brexit is not just a British issue. It is not an issue that will affect just the Six Counties; it will affect people in counties Louth, Cavan, Monaghan, Donegal and beyond. The reality is that cross-Border health care agreements are under threat as a result of the outcome of the referendum. Irish patients have been availing of health services in the North and Britain under the EU cross-Border directive. It meant that where there was an overly long waiting list, people could travel with ease to receive the treatment that they needed. The waiting lists are not going away; neither are the demands. Going North across the Border or across the sea was manageable, but it may become unmanageable. We need to be out in front on this issue and aware of it.

Let us not forget the big elephant in the room: access to termination services. The Government well knows that it and its predecessors have been systematically outsourcing the issue of terminations to our neighbours across the sea. Imagine what a woman with a diagnosis of a fatal foetal abnormality will feel as we see the Border deepen. The services will not be available. The Government cannot and should not continue to outsource this problem, but Brexit will throw up a very serious issue in this regard with a deepening of the Border. We cannot ignore it; the issue has to be dealt with.

We need to hear when the engagement to identify and assess how to minimise any adverse impact on the provision of all-island health services will commence. When will measures be taken to ensure there will be no adverse impact on or logistical challenges to accessibility issues in the case of cross-Border emergency medical transport services? These issues need to be identified. We need to consider how specifically we can all work together. When will the Minister be meeting his counterparts in the North on these issues? When will we see a plan? It is clear that nobody had anticipated the result of the referendum. I do not believe the Government has a plan. I think its plan was to wait and see and hope this would not happen. We need a plan because there are people who need to access services across the Border, who need to know there is a plan and that their future and services are secure.

There is a plan and a Government. I understand the Minister for Health will make an announcement on the North-South issue on Monday. I will very much welcome it when it happens.

Living as I do in a Border county, I am very much aware, like the previous speaker, of the issues, North and South, and the need for greater economic and political co-operation and co-operation on health, education and transport services. All of us, North and South, must work together, notwithstanding the huge disadvantage of the decision made in Britain over the weekend. It is very important that the economic corridor grow. We in County Louth are at the very heart of that economic corridor, with two of the biggest towns in the country, Drogheda and Dundalk. We have huge employment and export potential and tourism is improving and increasing. Regrettably, there is no Minister in the constituency for the first time in many decades, which is a matter of concern to my constituents. All Deputies in the county are working together to make life better for everybody.

In particular, when section 50 is applied by the United Kingdom, the Government here should concentrate on recognising that fact and seek to have European agencies such as the European Medicines Agency, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, EBRD, and any other that may be based in England to relocate here. That is an action plan that is needed and we should be ready to do it. The Government should make sure Drogheda, the largest town in the country, will have a stand-alone local enterprise office, LEO, which should be the centre for enterprise in the region and a gateway city to Europe. Co-operation, cohesion and economic links are very important. Cross-Border trade is also very important. If we co-operate and work together, we can make all of these ideas a possibility.

Previous speakers have raised the issue of a Northern poll. I am a Nationalist, like all my family and most people I know. We favour a united Ireland but by consent. If there was a poll tomorrow, we do not believe it would be successful. It may even be divisive. What will never be divisive is us working together, reaching out our hand, getting the agencies to meet. I ask the Government to consider asking the regional bodies in the South to make immediate contact with the regional bodies in the North to talk about increased co-operation and working together. Some years ago there was a Lord Mayor’s cross-Border initiative in Dublin in respect of the Dublin-Belfast economic corridor. The theme of its conference was "2025" and very positive suggestions were made. That is the way forward.

Several traders in my constituency are concerned about the impact of Brexit on Christmas shopping, the increase in smuggling and cross-Border trade which, if the value of sterling keeps going down, will place them at a very serious disadvantage. There are huge economic problems arising from Brexit. It is clear that we must do more to tackle them. The North and the South working together is the way forward. I would welcome progress in that regard. The British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly is meeting this weekend and its meeting is timely. Many of these proposals will be discussed. It is a case of co-operation, working together, recognising what is happening and at the same time taking advantage of the situation. If we are the only English-speaking nation which provides a gateway into the European Union, that is a huge opportunity for us to seize. I urge the Minister of State with responsibility for European affairs to work closely with all of his colleagues in Europe to that end.

Several immediate problems and challenges arise from the result of the referendum, particularly for exporters, those involved in the agribusiness, tourism and the retail sector and we need a detailed and an immediate response. It is also important not to overstate the panic or not to engage in a panic reaction. There is an opportunity for the Government to involve the Parliament in its reaction. There is a need for a Brexit committee in some shape or form to be established in order that there can be monitoring of, and engagement with, all the implications for Ireland. The local authorities should be involved because every county and local authority will feel some effect. Deputy Fergus O’Dowd spoke about some of the effects in Border counties. Given our close relationship with the United Kingdom and the way that will change, every county will be hit. Local enterprise offices should be tasked with coming up with some analysis of how each county will be hit in order that we can have a targeted response that will deal with the issues that matter.

The scariest part of the result is that those who advocated the United Kingdom should leave do not seem to know what to do. At the press conference last Friday morning the then friends, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Gove, who now seem to have fallen out were like people who did not know what they had just done. Subsequent events suggest they do not. We do not know when they will press the button to engage the process. There are different messages coming from the United Kingdom. It, too, will have to get its act together and lay out a timetable and a process, but we cannot wait for that to happen. Those who export to the United Kingdom and who deal with UK multiples cannot wait for it to happen. Our response needs to be focused and urgent but not panicked. I will advocate for the establishment of a cross-party committee. Every Department should assign responsibility for dealing with the Brexit consequences to someone at assistant secretary level in order that there will be some management and monitoring.

Amidst the panic and recriminations we have to look into our own hearts and ask if there was a referendum on our membership of the European Union in the morning, how it would go. We cannot give a guarantee as we used to. I am on record as saying I firmly believe the European institutions walked away from us in our time of need. The Commission, in its dealings with us and particularly in its dealings with Greece, in the way it rammed home an austerity programme which did not stand for anything in terms of cuts but re-engineered society, was wrong and removed from the principles of the European Union and its establishment, principles that hold today.

We mark today the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. That cannot happen because of the European Union and its achievements in bringing people around the table, but the European Union cannot be allowed to exempt itself from criticism. I was struck all week in watching the response of the Commission and the Parliament to see that they were blaming Britain, politicians and everybody else, but they need to look at themselves, too, particularly in their engagement with this process in the coming weeks and months. They need to reflect on how they have walked away and lost that sense of mission. We, too, blame the European Union for many of our ills. We tend to gold-plate regulations that come from Brussels and blame the Commission. The same happens in the United Kingdom. I was intrigued that the people of Hull which has one of the biggest ports in the United Kingdom, predominantly trading into and out of the European Union voted to leave. The abandonment people felt, about which I heard on radio, was all due to London and lack of investment from there, but they took it out on the European Union. Two national governments have to discover why politicians seem to have left communities behind and why these communities vent their frustration and anger in the manner they did last Thursday.

Let us not dismiss or ignore those who voted to leave. They did so for a reason and we need to understand that, as well as urgently addressing the consequences for this country. We need to involve as many people around the country, on an all-island basis, in our response.

I want to join with my colleagues across the political divide in expressing my deep regret that the United Kingdom has taken the decision to leave the European Union and the Common Market. This decision is a bad outcome for the UK, the EU and the Republic of Ireland. Although I do not agree with the decision we, as a fully sovereign nation, must now accept and respect the will of the British electorate.

The decision to leave the EU, while a major challenge for the UK, will ultimately and unfortunately lead the Republic of Ireland down a similar path of economic uncertainty. It has the real possibility of derailing our strong recovery. It is especially dangerous for my constituency, encompassing parts of Donegal, Cavan, all of Leitrim and Sligo, which will be faced with many economic issues if a border is put in place and sterling continues to fall. This is why I believe the Parliament needs to be ready for the challenges which will most definitely arise.

On this basis, I welcome the Government's swift announcement of Ireland's contingency plan and key actions which will seek to limit the damage Brexit will cause in the intervening period. I hope there will be regular discussions and briefings between all of the leaders of the Opposition and the Taoiseach on this issue. I say this as I believe that any political instability at home will only further aggravate the difficulties which we are now about to face. If we are to be successful at limiting the damage of the exit decision, the Parliament, Government and elected Members of the Seanad, from all parties and none, need to work together to meet it head-on as one strong unified force.

We need to focus our political efforts and negotiation skills on getting the best deal for Ireland in the forthcoming exit negotiations between Britain and the EU. Most important, we need to fight for and secure the best possible deal for our Border with Northern Ireland, the common travel area, our trade and tourism industries and Irish citizens who reside and work in the UK. As the UK is Ireland's largest customer for food and drink, our agriculture and agri-food industry trade with the UK must be protected. We also need to ensure that tourism is not damaged by this decision. As I am sure the Government is aware, over 3 million UK citizens visit the Republic of Ireland every year. They are the lifeblood of many hotels, restaurants and SMEs throughout the country. They are vital to ensuring that the recovery the industry has witnessed is not damaged in the future. I also welcome the swift action taken by Enterprise Ireland, the IDA, Bord Bia and many other agencies and organisations over the past number of days which have sought to limit the damage caused by the decision or begun to seek new trade opportunities.

I firmly believe the Republic of Ireland is better off aligned with Europe and is stronger in the European Union. When we joined in 1973, Ireland was a completely different country. The EU has and continues to revitalise Ireland's rural areas through funding from the European development fund. It has, via the Common Agricultural Policy, strongly supported Irish farmers and allowed Ireland, a small nation on the periphery of Europe, to become a world leader on seven different occasions by holding the Presidency of the European Council. Our small nation is better off with Europe and I hope the European Union can survive this, the most challenging period since its establishment.

It is fair to say that the only certainty to emerge from last Thursday's Brexit vote is that there will now be a period of prolonged uncertainty. Whether we like it, we in Ireland are caught in the middle of the uncertainty. The political turmoil in the UK is contributing to the economic fallout from its decision to vote to leave the European Union. The impact of the Brexit vote on our economy will take some time to become clear, but it is very hard to see anything other than it having a very negative impact over the short and medium term.

The outcome of the referendum is very disappointing, but we have to respect the views of voters. We still have the right to say that we regard the outcome as a bad result for Ireland, the United Kingdom and the European Union as a whole. Fianna Fáil is very clear that while the outcome of this referendum will have far-reaching and wide-ranging implications for Ireland, it does not and should not change our relationship with European Union. We will not support any move to follow the lead of the UK and leave the European Union, and will instead work from within to reform the EU and rebuild European solidarity and cohesion. On Monday, sterling fell to a 31 year low against the dollar.

A very worrying aspect has crept into behaviour in parts of the UK. In the past few days despicable graffiti was daubed on a Polish community centre and verbal abuse was hurled at individuals because they were members of ethnic minorities. We cannot and will not stand for hate crime or these kinds of attacks. They must be stamped out.

What does this mean for Ireland? We are in uncharted territory. Ireland and Britain have enjoyed a special relationship for many years. The common travel area has been in existence since the 1920s. The Irish and British Governments have agreed reciprocal visa arrangements, including passport-free travel, measures to increase the security of the external common travel area border and to share immigration data between the two countries' immigration authorities. We need to be cognisant of how this special relationship will change as a result of the referendum outcome and must do all we can to try to preserve the common travel area as any change will have significant effects on the labour market, trade, exports and tourism.

In addition, while the vote to remain won in Northern Ireland, the overall result means that the issue of a Border re-emerging between North and South is now a real and live issue. A recently published report by the House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Committee noted that there are nearly 300 formal crossing points between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, as well as many informal crossings. This indicates the scale and complexity of the issues before us.

Northern Ireland will now share a land border with an EU member country, which will undoubtedly bring its own difficulties. We need to avoid knee-jerk reactions and work constructively with the European Union and the United Kingdom to come to some sensible arrangement that will minimise, as much as possible, the re-emergence of a hard border which would be a regressive step on many levels.

There is a real concern among pensioners living in Ireland, in particular those in receipt of English pensions, as to whether they will continue to be paid and about the fall in the rate of sterling. People on a fixed income who depend on these pensions do not need the added strain of this uncertainty. I acknowledge the comments of the Minister, Deputy Varadkar, that he will make a particular effort to ensure cross-Border workers and pensioners retain all of the rights they currently have.

The Irish Tourist Industry Confederation said it was as yet unclear what the Brexit vote means for the industry here. However, uncertainty is certainly not good for business. Britain remains the largest source market for inbound visitors to Ireland. According to the CSO, 3.55 million visitors came to Ireland in 2015, a market value of approximately €995 million for the Irish economy. The fall in sterling and potential weaknesses in the UK economy mean that Ireland's competitiveness is more vital than ever. In my constituency, Kildare South, the agriculture and equine industries have a significant relationship with Britain. Irish agribusiness is now bracing itself for the outcome of the Brexit result as the UK remains its prime market outlet. Primary trade between North and South and EU and non-EU approved ingredients and how they would be labelled and marketed are also of real concern to Irish farmers.

Some 50% of Ireland's total beef exports go to the UK and are worth €2 billion, followed by one third of our total dairy exports which are worth €1 billion. With the UK leaving the EU, a drop in Irish exports of between €150 million and €800 million can be expected. We have to ensure this does not happen. We need a calm, stable and measured approach.

Our main focus should be on doing all that we can to protect Ireland's interests and ensure we are shielded as much as possible from the negative consequences of a European Union without the United Kingdom. We should also look at opportunities that might be presented to us. I met people just now who have been living in China and who have just moved back to Ireland and they spoke about the potential for a very positive relationship with China. That is something we should consider. In Kildare we have Kildare Village, which is very popular with Chinese people who come to Europe and visit Kildare to do their shopping there. While this is a crisis, there are opportunities we must consider as well.