I propose to take Questions Nos. 279 to 281, inclusive, together.
The Government is seeking to minimise the impact of Brexit in the first instance through a negotiated outcome which delivers trading arrangements in the future which are as close as possible to those that prevail at present.
In line with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade-coordinated ‘whole of Government’ approach to Brexit, my Department is planning for an orderly Brexit which involves, inter alia, a transition period to the end of December 2020. Key Government decisions in this regard have been made in July and September 2018 in relation to staffing and IT resources, and engagement with the relevant ports and airports is ongoing in relation to the infrastructure needed to carry out import controls and customs checks.
In Budget 2019, €7m was provided for the commencement of a phased process of Brexit-related recruitment of additional staff, as well as the procurement of ICT hardware and software to carry out the anticipated increased volumes of import controls and export certification - €4m for staffing and €3m for ICT.
The Budget also provided for capital funding of €27 million in Brexit-related supports for the food industry, comprising:
- €13 million in supports for food industry competitiveness and innovation;
- €3 million for Artisan and Micro food and beverage programmes through the Leader Programme and for LEAN manufacturing initiatives designed to improve competitiveness
- an additional €5 million for Bord Bia, bringing the total Grant in Aid to €46.6 million. This is a 60% increase in funding for marketing and promotion of our food offering since 2014;
- €6m in funding to progress an €8 million Food Innovation Hub in Teagasc Moorepark, of which €2 million was provided in 2018.
A further €44m has been provided in direct aid to farmers through increased spending on areas of natural constraint, the introduction of a Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot Scheme and additional funding for the horticulture sector.
These measures are in addition to those contained in the 2017 and 2018 Budgets. 2017 saw the introduction of farm-gate business cost reduction measures in order to enhance competitiveness, including a €150m low-cost loan scheme, while the 2018 Budget included a dedicated €50m Brexit package containing additional funding for Bord Bia and Teagasc, as well as a substantial contribution to a joint (DAFM and DBEI) €300m “Brexit Loan Scheme”, at least 40% of which is available to food businesses.
In addition, market and product diversification work continues with the industry in order to increase the sector’s global footprint across the world. In the last two years I have led trade missions to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, China, Hong Kong, Canada, USA, Mexico, Japan and Korea. Further missions to China, Indonesia and Malaysia will take place over the next two weeks.