The Bill before us is essential to ensuring we are as ready as we can be for the challenges coming in just 50 days' time. The support of the House has been a hallmark of Ireland's approach to Brexit. I look forward to continuing that constructive engagement and working closely with all Members as the Bill passes through the Oireachtas.
Last year, when I opened the Second Reading on the 2019 Brexit omnibus Bill I made an unusual call for a Minister in wishing that the law we were seeking to enact would sit on the shelf. I am glad to say I got my wish on that occasion. The 2019 Act sought to provide contingency measures to address issues that would arise should the UK leave the EU with no deal. The withdrawal agreement, including the protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland, agreed late last year meant many of the provisions of the 2019 Act would not be commenced. Ireland strongly supports the withdrawal agreement and the certainty it brings. The protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland protects the Good Friday Agreement, North-South co-operation and the all-island economy. It avoids a hard border on the island of Ireland while preserving the integrity of the EU Single Market and Ireland's place in it. It also ensures access for Northern Irish goods to the Single Market and trade in goods will continue to flow freely on this island. It is vital the protocol is now fully and faithfully implemented.
The House understands well the impact the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill will have on the protocol. It is our view, and that of our EU partners, that the offending provisions need to be removed. The withdrawal agreement provides structures for handling issues around the implementation protocol. These are the only appropriate way to deal with the outstanding questions. I am in regular contact with the Commission Vice-President, Mr. Sefcovic, who is the EU co-chair of the joint committee overseeing the implementation of the withdrawal agreement. Talks on the future relationship between the EU and UK are also continuing. All of us here today share that wish for the closest possible relationship between the EU and the UK in the future. To get a deal there will have to be compromises with which both sides can live.
However, a deal cannot come at any price. There must be a level playing field supporting open and fair competition for our businesses and a fair and balanced outcome on fisheries, which is a particularly sensitive issue for a number of member states, including Ireland. We cannot have a deal that would damage the long-term political and economic interests of Ireland and the EU. The UK will also be aware that a future partnership agreement will only be possible if the withdrawal agreement, which it signed and ratified less than a year ago, is fully implemented.
Throughout this process, we have worked closely with the EU task force. I speak regularly with Michel Barnier. From the start, Mr. Barnier has been a good friend to Ireland and has taken the time to really understand our concerns and vulnerabilities. He is acutely aware of our concerns and knows that Ireland fully supports his work in his attempt to close out an agreement that is fair to both sides. However, even if there is a deal, the end of the transition period will bring significant and lasting change for citizens and for businesses. From 1 January, the UK will be outside the EU Single Market and the customs union, and will no longer be bound by EU law. This will significantly change the way the EU and UK engage into the future.
We have used the transition period to recalibrate and refine the readiness work carried out ahead of a possible no-deal Brexit in March and October 2019 and January of this year. In May, the Government decided to intensify preparations on the basis of two scenarios: a limited free trade agreement, including fisheries; or a hard Brexit that would see the EU and UK trading on WTO terms from the start of next year. This has proved a prudent basis for baseline planning.
On 9 September, the Government launched its Brexit readiness action plan. The plan sets out the actions the Government will take, and that businesses and citizens must also take, to address the changes that will arise at the end of the transition period. Probably the most significant change is that, in 50 days, the UK will be outside the Single Market and customs union. This means that new controls and procedures will apply to anyone moving goods to, from or through Great Britain, processes that simply do not apply to such trade today. A significant part of the action plan is given over to outlining the steps businesses must take into account.
The action plan has been accompanied by an intensified programme of trader engagement. Since it was launched, there have been more than 50 separate ministerial engagements touching on Brexit and these were supported by a range of official level meetings and briefings. We are using a multitude of virtual tools, from webinars to instructional videos, to assist businesses to prepare for the end of the transition period. The Tánaiste sent a checklist on Brexit readiness to 225,000 businesses registered in Ireland. Revenue separately has written to over 90,000 businesses that are trading with the UK and followed up with some 14,000 phone calls. Budget 2021 allocates €340 million to Brexit-related measures and provides for a €3.4 billion recovery fund to respond to the twin challenges of Covid-19 and Brexit. We have made a range of financial, upskilling and advisory supports available to businesses in response to a specific demand. The July jobs stimulus package included a €20 million "ready for customs" package to assist with hiring and training staff in the customs area.
Government preparations also continue. Our ports and airports are well prepared for the new realities. Provision has been made for some 1,500 additional staff to support and carry out customs, sanitary and phytosanitary, SPS, and food safety checks and controls. The State has spent over €30 million making Dublin Port ready and fit for purpose for the new realities of 1 January next year. The decision of the European Council to approve the €5 billion Brexit adjustment fund is also welcome. We are working closely with the European Commission to ensure the fund targets the sectors and member states most disproportionately impacted by Brexit.
The Government's approach to Brexit readiness is broad. Our needs are being addressed at a national level through policy and economic responses on an administrative basis and through targeted Brexit-related resources. As part of this work, primary legislation is again required to support measures that address a number of the complex issues that could arise for citizens and businesses post-transition. An omnibus Bill is considered the most effective way to address this broad range of issues. This 2020 Brexit omnibus Bill contains 21 parts which come under the remit of 11 different Ministers. The Bill is similar to the 2019 Act but it has a different point of departure. The Bill is intended to deal with the permanent changes that will take place at the end of the transition period while the 2019 Act catered primarily for the possibility of a disorderly UK withdrawal from the EU. In other words, the last omnibus Bill that we introduced some time ago was preparing for a disorderly no-deal Brexit whereas this legislation is preparing potentially for a no trade deal or no future relationship deal Brexit. However, it does not have the same series of requirements because the withdrawal agreement and the protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland deal with many issues.
The Bill is diverse and technical in many aspects. Its overarching purpose is, first, to protect citizens, consumers and businesses; second, to reduce the possibility of serious economic disturbance; third, to facilitate the sound functioning of a number of key sectors, and fourth, to support aspects of the common travel area and North-South co-operation on the island. Protecting our citizens lies at the heart of this Bill, with several provisions aimed at minimising the impact of Brexit on citizens across the island. Provisions of the Bill will support ongoing co-operation in healthcare between Ireland and the UK, provided for under a memorandum of understanding on health arrangements which is currently being finalised. We will facilitate the continuation of student mobility by allowing SUSI grants to be paid to eligible Irish students studying in the UK, as well as to UK students in the Irish higher education institutions. The Bill will amend the Social Welfare Act to ensure continuity of treatment in respect of UK payments. It will also amend the Protection of Employees Act to ensure that employees who make contributions in Ireland are covered if their employer becomes insolvent under UK law. We will provide a basis for the ongoing recognition of divorces, legal separations and marriage annulments granted in the UK or Gibraltar, and also ensure that UK citizens continue to access the national childcare scheme on the same basis as Irish citizens.
The Government is keenly aware of the impact the end of the transition period will have on businesses. Several parts of the Bill seek to minimise disruption to our economy and the business sector. Part 8 includes a number of measures on taxation that will allow businesses and citizens to continue to access measures and reliefs in areas such as income tax, capital gains tax, corporation tax and stamp duty. Specific anti-avoidance provisions are also included. The Bill includes provisions to introduce postponed accounting of VAT to alleviate potential cash flow issues by allowing extra time for businesses trading with the UK to make their VAT returns. This measure has been requested by a number of business representative bodies. Restrictions will also be in place regarding the operation of the VAT retail export scheme to limit the risks of loss of revenue to the Exchequer in light of the volume of travel to the UK.
Part 8 also provides for a run-off regime of 15 years to protect the policyholders of existing insurance contracts issued by providers in the UK or Gibraltar. Part 11 makes a number of amendments to the Customs Act to support the operation of the customs online roll-on, roll-off service. This new service is required to handle a substantial increase in non-EU trade from the end of the transition period. The legislation proposed will specify new offences and provide additional powers to customs officers.
To address the possibility of labour force disruption when companies are applying for new employment permits and renewals, provision is made to allow UK citizens to be counted together with citizens of Ireland, the European Economic Area, EEA, and the Swiss Confederation for the purposes of the 50% rule.
Several technical provisions support the sound functioning of a number of economic sectors and businesses. This includes additional time for re-certification of professional qualifications in specialized fields such as flourinated greenhouse gases and harbour pilotage services, as well as for market surveillance in the fields of construction products. The Bill also provides for Irish participants in UK settlement systems for financial services to continue to use these systems for a limited time after the end of the transition period while the migration to a new system is completed.
A number of provisions also seek to protect and maintain the common travel area, CTA, as well as broader UK-Ireland relations. I mentioned earlier the provision to facilitate continued operation between Ireland and the UK on healthcare arrangements. Access for Irish and EU citizens in the North to certain EU programmes and benefits, such as European health insurance cards, or EHIC, as many people know them, may be addressed in the future partnership currently being negotiated by the EU and the UK. However, the Government recognises the importance of such programmes and benefits to Irish and therefore EU citizens in Northern Ireland. Therefore, Part 3 of the Bill provides for a scheme to allow eligible residents of Northern Ireland not covered elsewhere to seek reimbursement for the cost of necessary healthcare while on a temporary stay in another EU or EEA member state or Switzerland, should it be required, from 1 January 2021.
Part 13 will provide a fallback for cross-Border bus services in the event of no EU-UK arrangements being in place. Part 16 puts in place measures to apply the 1957 European Convention on Extradition to the UK. This will ensure workable extradition arrangements are in place between Ireland and the UK after the end of the transition period if these are not otherwise provided for by agreement between the EU and the UK. Part 17 will provide a clear legal base for the exemption of UK citizens from passport checks within the CTA and will also ensure UK citizens do not come within the definition of non-national as applied in the Immigration Act.
Part 18 allows for the designation of safe third countries where appropriate safeguards are in place in line with international law. It is intended to designate the UK a safe third country for the purposes of returns of applicants for international protection whose applications are deemed inadmissible. In addition, provisions in the Bill will be complemented by a number of measures in secondary legislation which will also be adopted before the end of this year.
It is the Government's intention to take Committee and Report Stages in the Dáil from 24 to 26 November. The Bill will then go to the Seanad for Second Stage in the week commencing 30 November, with Committee and Report Stages the following week. Our aim is to pass all Stages in a timely fashion and be ready for enactment and commencement well in advance of 31 December.
The end of the transition will bring significant and lasting change. Many aspects of our relationship with our nearest neighbour will change quite fundamentally. The Government remains committed to protecting and strengthening the Ireland-UK relationship following the end of transition. For now, however, we need to prepare for whatever change may occur. It is simply the reality that if we do not manage to conclude a future relationship agreement between the EU and the UK in the coming days and weeks, then much of this legislation will be required to limit disruption, protect our citizens, protect the common travel area and to protect co-operation on the island of Ireland, North and South, in the areas that people will be familiar with, such as healthcare, education, social protection, freedom to travel and move around and freedom to work and study.
That is why I hope I will get the kind of co-operation that has always been forthcoming when it relates to Brexit from other parties in this House in order to make sure that we can do this in time and that it is not rushed at any stage. If people have concerns, come and talk to me about it; if people have amendments that they want me to take seriously, come and talk to me about it. I assure Deputies that this is not legislation that we will bring forward in a party-political way or in a Government-versus-Opposition way, but quite the opposite. If we are missing something, we would like to hear about that and Deputies will find me receptive to ideas and new thinking. If we cannot accommodate what Deputies propose, I will explain in some detail why.
This is an issue that the Irish political system has shown extraordinary solidarity on for the last four and a half years while preparing for and trying to navigate our way through at times quite stormy waters in the context of Brexit and the decisions that we have been trying to make around that in order to protect our relationship with the UK, to protect relationships on this island, North and South, and to protect our place in the EU, its Single Market and its customs union. We have achieved a lot so far but we still have a significant amount of work to do in a very short period of time. I look forward to colleagues' co-operation. Together we will produce legislation that will provide as much protection as we can provide, given the circumstances that we face with the approaching end to the transition period and what I hope will be the start of an agreed new relationship between the EU and the UK that will limit some of the disruption that is linked to the UK leaving the EU, its Single Market and customs union and to the end of the transition period in 50 days' time.