Brexit will be damaging to the Irish economy, the British economy and Europe in general. Therefore, we must do everything possible to limit the damage through thorough preparations in order to make the country infrastructure-ready, particularly at ports and airports. We must also make interventions to assist companies to deal with fluctuations in sterling and to diversify and reduce their dependence on the UK market. Yesterday, I raised here a number of questions with the Taoiseach on our state of preparedness for a no-deal Brexit or even an orderly Brexit, which is what we hope for. According to the Government's data and that of its agencies, however, too many companies with the potential to suffer the greatest impact remain without Brexit plans or have not engaged sufficiently with the various Brexit-preparedness initiatives. The AIB Brexit sentiment survey of 1 November indicates that a substantial number of companies have simply not engaged and do not have any Brexit plan. In fact, the proportion of exporting companies with plans for Brexit is as low as 30%, which must be of huge concern.
I note the 3,000 applications for positions with Customs and Excise. Can the Taoiseach say how many customs officials will be in place on 29 March and working at their desks? The Dutch Government has already hired 1,000 customs officials. Can the Taoiseach outline the work required on infrastructure at our ports and airports? I draw his attention to an article published in the Irish Examiner on 28 November 2018 and setting out the content of a leaked memorandum which had been brought to Government by the Tánaiste. The memorandum warned that a variety of challenges had arisen with the potential to impact on the country's capacity to be Brexit-ready. The memorandum sets out risks associated with site acquisition, potential lease-break rental options, statutory planning, procurement and construction issues at the ports and airports which will be most affected by Brexit. Ministers were warned that the scale of the problem facing the State is exceptional. The memorandum states, "In the case of Brexit, the scale and likely cost of infrastructure required, and the short time frame required to gear up for Brexit are exceptional and fall well beyond the routine demands of the State, especially in the case of our ports." The memorandum further warns Ministers of detailed plans on the upgrading of Rosslare Harbour, Dublin Airport and Dublin Port. Significant issues were identified regarding the capacity of Rosslare to be ready by 29 March 2019. The memorandum also details specific site issues at Rosslare.
A number of issues arise. I will make the same point I made yesterday. There has been a general tendency on the part of the Government to be coy and to withhold information from the public on contingency planning for Brexit, specifically a no-deal Brexit, on the apparent basis that it would cause undue panic. I disagree with that view and believe the public should be made fully aware of all the implications of Brexit, irrespective of the scenario that ultimately emerges. The challenges and lack of preparation for Brexit should be shared with the public in full. We should not have to rely on the high standard of investigative journalism so evident in the Irish Examiner to make this basic information available. I ask the Taoiseach to commit to the publication of a detailed plan, including timelines, costs and challenges at our ports and airports, and to publish it without delay.