I propose to take Questions Nos. 131, 133, 138 and 154 together.
Let me state clearly at the outset that the Government remains firmly of the view that the best and only way to ensure an orderly Brexit is for the UK to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement, as agreed by the UK Government and endorsed by the European Council. However, given the ongoing political uncertainty in the UK, it is our assessment that there is a significant risk of a no deal Brexit on 31 October. While we continue to plan for all scenarios, work on no deal Brexit preparations has the highest priority across Government departments and State agencies.
Following its approval by the Government, the updated Brexit Contingency Action Plan was laid before the Oireachtas and published on Tuesday 9 July. Its contents will be debated in detail in this House today. The Contingency Action Plan reflects the extensive work which has taken place at EU level and on a whole-of-Government basis to prepare for a no deal Brexit, including by setting out the next steps to be taken between now and 31 October.
At EU level, there is agreement on a range of temporary contingency measures in key areas, including maintaining basic air connectivity and road haulage access between the EU and the UK in the event of a no deal Brexit. These measures have been undertaken in tandem with our ongoing engagement with our EU partners and with the European Commission, on key outstanding issues, including on potential supports for Ireland and affected sectors.
With regard to the Government's work to reduce delays at ports and disruptions to supply chains, additional infrastructure has been put in place to manage the necessary checks and controls on our trade with the UK on an east-west basis post-Brexit. Work at Dublin Port has involved nine projects across eight sites to deliver 13 new inspection bays, documentary and identity check facilities, office facilities and parking for up to 128 heavy goods vehicles. Plans are in place for a further 18 inspection bays. A 24-hour service will be provided at Dublin Port, and extended hours to match arrival times will be provided at Rosslare Port with on-call service provision outside these hours.
Revenue accelerated and expanded recruitment and training schedules to meet the 12 April 2019 deadline, with an additional 400 staff trained and ready by that date. Revenue will continue to build on this and will have 450 additional staff in place by 31 October. Additional staff recruited in preparation for Brexit are deployed across a number of functions, with approximately half on import and export trade facilitation activities. Revenue will continue to monitor the need for further recruitment, deployment and training.
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) had approximately 190 staff ready to carry out import controls and export certification on 12 April 2019. Further staff will be ready to carry out controls in the additional inspection facilities that will be available by 31 October.
The HSE had 59 staff trained and available to conduct no deal Brexit (import and export) activities in time for the 12 April deadline. The HSE is progressing recruitment for a further intake of staff before the end of October.
Revenue are confident that their IT systems will handle the increased transaction levels in a no deal scenario. DAFM’s necessary IT systems were in place by March 2019.
As stated in the Action Plan, there should be no illusion - a no deal Brexit will be highly disruptive and will have profound political, economic and legal implications. Our need to prepare prudently is more pressing than ever. Citizens and businesses cannot assume that because a no deal Brexit was averted in March and April that the same will happen in October.
The time between now and the extended Article 50 deadline of 31 October must therefore be used wisely and effectively, by exposed businesses in particular, on increased preparedness measures. It is only by Government, business and citizens working together, both nationally and with our EU partners, that we can aim to mitigate, as far as possible, the impacts of a no deal Brexit.
We are determined to be as prepared as we can be, deal or no deal, for the changes Brexit will bring. We will continue this work as a fully committed EU Member State and with the unwavering solidarity and support of our EU partners.