As Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade with special responsibility for Brexit, Deputy Coveney has responsibility for co-ordinating the whole-of-Government response to Brexit, including developing and advancing Ireland’s approach to the negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
The conclusion of a withdrawal agreement between the EU and the UK is a key priority for the Government. A failure to reach such an agreement, resulting in a disorderly withdrawal, would, I believe and I think we all believe is now universally accepted including in the UK, be hugely damaging for the UK and for the EU, most particularly Ireland.
It is therefore incumbent on all sides to act responsibly and to approach the negotiations in a constructive, positive and ambitious frame of mind, with a willingness to compromise.
The immediate focus is on working with our EU partners and the EU institutions to ensure that the negotiations proceed in a positive manner, with a view to making sufficient progress on the withdrawal issues so that we can move on to discussing in parallel the future EU-UK relationship, including as regards trade. The need for effective transitional arrangements is also now very broadly understood.
At a national level, the Government’s National Risk Assessment 2017, which was published by the Department of the Taoiseach on 29 August following a public consultation, acknowledges the significance of risk arising from Brexit and that Brexit represents an overarching challenge that could have far-reaching impacts on nearly all aspects of national life. It identifies areas where Brexit poses a specific risk, particularly in respect of the economy. The national risk assessment provides a systematic overview of strategic risks facing the country and is not intended to replicate or displace the detailed risk management that is already conducted within Departments and agencies.
As a priority, the Minister, Deputy Coveney, and I continue to work with colleagues across Government to deepen our understanding of the exact consequences of the range of different scenarios. These scenarios include one where no agreement is reached.
By agreement between the Taoiseach and the Minister, Deputy Coveney, new cross-departmental co-ordination structures, chaired at very senior level by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, are being put in place and will be fully operational next week. One of the top priorities will be to develop and pull together the work already done on the effects of a disorderly Brexit and what steps could be taken in response.