My Department is participating very actively in the Whole-of-Government approach to preparedness and contingency planning for Brexit. The Government has already sanctioned in the region of €4m for the commencement of a phased process for the recruitment of additional staff across a range of skill sets to carry out increased volumes of import controls and export certification arising from Brexit.
These requirements are significant, and arise in relation to the carrying out of documentary, identity and physical checks on imports of animals, and products of animal origin, as set out in EU legislation.
As regards staffing requirements, my Department will use a combination of options including recruitment, redeployment and temporary flexible solutions where appropriate and as necessary. My Department continues to work with our recruitment partners, the Public Appointments Service to engage Veterinary Inspectors and Administrative support staff.
A competition for the recruitment of Veterinary Inspectors in my Department was advertised on 1 March to augment current staffing levels at Border Inspection Posts at Irish ports and airports. Mechanisms to temporarily redeploy experienced people within my Department have also been initiated and the engagement of contracted temporary service arrangements is also being progressed.
I expect my Department to have in the region of 230 staff available for redeployment as part of its Brexit Response although the final staffing numbers to be engaged in response to Brexit contingencies will depend on the nature of Brexit and the trading relationship with the UK that ensues. Should a hard Brexit be confirmed as the probable contingency to be addressed, my Department will, through the mechanisms I have outlined, have the scope to deploy appropriate levels of Veterinary Inspectors as may be required.
Overall, I remain confident that both the State, and my Department, will be in a position to deliver the services required in terms of both imports and exports at the appropriate time, be that at the end of March or any other point in the future.