My Department is participating very actively in the Whole-of-Government approach to preparedness and contingency planning for Brexit. My officials are working closely with colleagues in other Departments and agencies across the public service to develop a joint approach in relation to the implementation at ports and airports of import controls on products coming from the UK. In July 2018, and again in September 2018, a number of decisions were made at Cabinet relating to Brexit preparedness and contingency planning, including the phased recruitment of staff, as required. The Government has already sanctioned in the region of €4m for the commencement of a phased process for the recruitment of additional staff to carry out increased volumes of import controls and export certification arising from Brexit.
The aforementioned requirements are significant, and arise in relation to the carrying out of documentary, identity and physical checks on imports of animals, plants, and products of animal and plant origin, as set out in EU legislation. The Department has carried out an extensive analysis exercise, based on examination of trade and container movement data, together with close consultation with stakeholder organisations and individual companies, to establish as best we can the likely volumes of controls that will need to be carried out. This has been a difficult exercise, given the lack of detailed data as a result of the UK’s participation in the Single Market up to this point, but we have based our assumptions and planning on what we believe are reasonable estimates of the likely volumes.
On staffing, we have used this data analysis exercise to guide our planning in relation to putting in place the staff that will be required to carry out the range of controls needed. These controls are carried out by a combination of portal inspectorate staff and where necessary, the appropriate veterinary and technical supervision, as well as administrative staff not located at the ports. The Department is working very effectively with Customs and others to provide the resources needed to apply the necessary controls.
In general, the Department will look to recruit and redeploy as well as engage temporary flexible solutions where appropriate and as necessary. Veterinary supervision will be provided with respect to products of animal origin by a combination of: veterinary inspectors currently on recruitment panels, where we are in the process of engaging with 37 remaining on current panels; new recruitment competitions; redeployment within the department on a temporary basis if necessary and the possible engagement of contracted service arrangements as required.
The Department is also drawing from a pool of applicants for Portal Inspector posts and from redeployed volunteers from within the Department to conduct some of the necessary checks. Candidates for these roles will be interviewed in February to provide capacity in Dublin Port and Rosslare for the engagement of 70 Clerical Portal Inspectors, and a significant pool of additional applicants is available for interview as needed.
The Department can also draw from a pool of applicants for Technical Agricultural Officers for plant health checks. The Department continue to engage with PAS re the aforementioned options as well as other required grades such as Assistant Agricultural Officers as well as back up administrative staff in traditional administrative civil service grades.
Overall, I am confident that the state will be in a position to deliver the services required in terms of both imports and exports at the appropriate time.