Brexit remains a priority issue for this Government, and the Taoiseach, my Government colleagues and I take every opportunity to engage with EU partners and the UK to advance Ireland’s priorities. Throughout the Brexit process there has been a strong understanding from our EU partners of the need to address these unique circumstances on the island of Ireland. Ireland and our EU partners are united in our determination to do all we can, deal or no deal, to protect our citizens, our businesses, including those in border counties, and our peace. This has been reflected in the number of EU27 heads of government, ministers, parliamentarians and officials, as well European officials such as Mr Michel Barnier, the EU chief Brexit negotiator, who have included visits to the border while in Ireland, reflecting and deepening this sense of understanding and solidarity. Visits to all border counties, which stand to be particularly affected by Brexit, whatever form it takes, have been included in the itineraries.
The Government continues to work closely with the European Commission, and with our fellow EU Member States, to ensure that Ireland is as prepared as it can be for the UK's withdrawal from the EU. This includes ongoing work with the Commission to meet the shared twin objectives of protecting, on the one hand, the all-island economy and the gains of the peace process, and, on the other, the integrity of the Single Market and Ireland's place in it.
The Commission’s contingency action plan emphasises that it stands ready to engage with the Member States that will be most affected by a no-deal withdrawal and expressly states that “the Commission will support Ireland in finding solutions addressing the specific challenges of Irish businesses”. Recently the Commission announced a €50 million exceptional aid fund for the Irish beef sector to address price difficulties caused in part by the ongoing uncertainty in relation to Brexit.
Given the significant risk of a no-deal Brexit, no-deal planning has the highest priority across Government. The Government's Brexit Contingency Action Plan Update, published on 9 July, outlines the comprehensive body of work across Government to prepare for a no-deal Brexit. The Action Plan emphasises the need for stepped-up preparedness measures between now and 31 October, by exposed businesses in particular. As set out in the Action Plan, the Government has put in place a number of measures to advise and support businesses to prepare for new customs and other administrative requirements in a no-deal scenario. These measures include financial supports for businesses, and an intensified and individual business-focused engagement programme by Revenue designed to support and assist businesses in understanding the potential impact of Brexit and how to prepare for and mitigate the risks.
Despite the ongoing political uncertainty in the UK, Ireland and the EU remain firmly of the view that ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement, including the backstop mechanism aimed at avoiding a hard border, represents the best way to ensure an orderly Brexit and the protection of our all-island economy and the gains of the peace process. These priorities are of particular importance for the border counties, including Cavan and Monaghan. We are determined to work towards that outcome.