The Government has extensive preparations in place for a possible no-deal Brexit on 31 October 2019. In its action plan published in July 2019, the Government acknowledged that a no-deal Brexit will be highly disruptive and will have profound implications across all aspects of society.
It would be impossible for the UK to maintain the current seamless arrangements with the EU across the full range of sectors, including transport connectivity, trade flows and supply chains.
The contingency plans in place, including in the transport sector, will mitigate but cannot eliminate the impacts of a no-deal Brexit. The reintroduction of customs or border controls as a consequence of Brexit will undoubtedly increase transit times for all traffic travelling via or from the UK to continental Europe, including for many Irish importers and exporters. The three locations for which Ireland is heavily dependent on connectivity to the UK are Dublin Port, Dublin Airport and Rosslare Europort. The OPW has worked with relevant agencies and Departments in delivering the required facilities for agriculture, health and customs checks at these locations. Temporary facilities are now in place to meet the needs of these agencies. Additional staffing in customs and excise and the Departments of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Health have been recruited and trained to provide the necessary support and to manage the efficient movement of freight and people through these locations. The necessary associated staffing and IT systems are also in place. I understand that testing of the relevant IT systems is continuing. Communications with stakeholders is ongoing and will continue during October 2019. My Department is also working closely with other agencies to have appropriate traffic management plans in place in the event that there is significant congestion in Dublin Port that impacts on wider traffic flows in the surrounding road network.
Regarding wider transport systems and services, the EU has adopted time-limited measures to ensure basic transport connectivity with the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The temporary measures cover air transport connectivity to the end of March 2020, road freight connectivity to 31 December 2019 and cross-Border bus connectivity, also to 31 December. The EU is considering proposals to extend these arrangements to 24 October 2020 in respect of aviation and to 31 July 2020 in respect of internal haulage and cross-Border bus services.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
In respect of rail, Iarnród Éireann and Northern Ireland Railways are working together to ensure the Enterprise service continues to run post Brexit.
There are concerns about potential disruption to the UK landbridge immediately after the UK's exit. My Department, along with the Irish Maritime Development Office, has met all the main ferry companies and has been assured that not only does sufficient capacity exist on alternative direct routes to continental EU ports, but should the demand for additional capacity arise as a result of Brexit, the shipping companies can respond. It is recognised, however, that these longer direct routes may not be a suitable alternative for all goods, particularly time-sensitive products.