Extensive Brexit preparedness and contingency planning has been undertaken across Government. The Brexit Contingency Action Plan Update, published on 9 July, reflects the extensive work which has taken place at EU level and on a whole-of-Government basis, including the Brexit Omnibus Act, to prepare for a no-deal Brexit. It sets out the next steps to be taken between now and 31 October.
The Government has been very clear about our objectives since the UK decided to leave the EU, which include protecting the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts and the achievements of the Peace Process, including the avoidance of a hard border on the island.
Those objectives are delivered by the Withdrawal Agreement and, in its absence, there would be no easy solutions. The Government has consistently highlighted the risks that Brexit poses for Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement, and repeatedly underlined that a no-deal Brexit is in no one’s interests.
In respect of citizens, it is important to underline that, under any scenario, Irish citizens will continue to have EU citizenship wherever they reside. They will also continue to enjoy the right to live and work throughout the EU and the right not to be discriminated against on the grounds of nationality.
There are certain EU programmes and benefits, notably EHIC and Erasmus+, where access for citizens in Northern Ireland would be affected in the absence of agreement on UK withdrawal. The Government is working to ensure that people in Northern Ireland continue to enjoy access to EU rights, opportunities and benefits, with a particular commitment in these areas, into the future.
It is important to stress also that the Common Travel Area (CTA) and the associated rights and privileges will also be maintained in all circumstances. This allows Irish citizens and British citizens to access a range of similar rights in each other’s countries on a reciprocal basis, including access to healthcare and education. This is particularly important for the ways in which people live on the island of Ireland.
Together with UK Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, I signed a Memorandum of Understanding between Ireland and the United Kingdom on the CTA in London on 8 May, reaffirming our commitment to maintaining that important arrangement.
In any scenario, the Government will also continue to engage with the UK Government to ensure that the vital citizenship and identity provisions of the Good Friday Agreement are upheld in all relevant policy areas.