Toilim leis an méid a dúirt an Leas-Cheann Chomhairle. I want to raise with the Tánaiste the matter of the Government's clear lack of preparedness in respect of meeting the challenges that Brexit poses for the island of Ireland. Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the Brexit referendum. Yet, there is no sense that the Government has grasped the magnitude of the economic social or political threats arising from Brexit. Let me spell it out for the Tánaiste. Brexit will negatively impact our people, economy and agreements. It is bad news for the island of Ireland as a whole.
The reality of all of this is underscored in the warning delivered by the ESRI this morning. The latest ESRI report states that a hard Brexit will reduce the State's spending ability by €200 million per year for the first three years post-Brexit. The report states that it could cost us up to 49,000 jobs. That means €600 million less will be available to the Government to spend to end the crises in health and housing and to invest in public services.
This should be a wake-up call to the Government to end its prioritisation of tax cuts for the wealthiest over investment in key public services. The Government needs to get real about the impact of Brexit. We know that the Taoiseach is attending his first European Council today.
The people of Ireland deserve to know which Leo Varadkar is attending. Is it the tough talking Leo Varadkar who, during the Fine Gael leadership contest, promised to campaign for the North to remain within the customs union and Single Market and that there would be no economic border on the island of Ireland or is it the weak Leo Varadkar who, after one meeting with Theresa May in Downing Street, became overawed and started talking about invisible borders? That is a fantasy in the context of the North leaving the customs union.
If the North is dragged out of the customs union by the Tory Government, it will mean an economic border on the island of Ireland. Goods crossing the Border will become imports or exports and potentially subject to tariffs. It will mean an average administration cost of €100 for each of the 2.3 million lorries that cross the Border with goods every year. That is not seamless, frictionless or invisible. It is very real and it is time for the Government to get real. It is reported that only one in 20 firms has a plan in place to deal with the consequences of a potential customs border with the North. Yesterday, the Irish Exporters' Association called on the Government to up its game. The challenge posed by Brexit must be met with the seriousness it demands. That means a seismic step-change on the part of the Irish Government.
Can the Tánaiste tell the House whether the Taoiseach's position on the Border is as outlined in his leadership campaign, namely, that he will campaign for the North to remain within the customs union and Single Market with no economic border on the island of Ireland? Is that the position he will present to the European Council today? Can the Tánaiste also inform the House of the steps the Government is taking to prepare businesses for the withdrawal of Britain from the customs union?