My Department’s Brexit planning, guided by recent Government decisions, is well advanced and from an agrifood perspective, I welcome the endorsement by the European Council of the Withdrawal Agreement, and approval of the Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship.
My officials are working closely with their counterparts in other Departments, with a focus on the staffing, infrastructural and IT requirements that will arise in the context of the implementation of import controls at ports and airports on an East-West basis under the central case scenario. This envisages no hard border on the island of Ireland, a transition period to 31 December 2020, and a future free trade agreement between the UK and the EU.
Notwithstanding the current focus on preparation for this scenario, contingency planning for a disorderly Brexit in the event of the UK exiting on 30 March 2019 is also continuing. The primary focus in this regard is on ensuring that my Department and its agencies are prepared to fulfil their legal obligations as efficiently as possible, while also continuing to facilitate trade. Similar to the work alreadyundertaken in relation to the central case scenario, the Department will continue to work closely with other Departments in making progress on these arrangements as required over the coming period.
My Department has also been active in getting the agri-food industry Brexit-ready through an extensive programme of stakeholder consultation, through participation in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade-led preparedness communications campaign under the banner "Getting Ireland Brexit Ready", and working with Revenue on information seminars for businesses.
All of these activities complement and expand upon the range of Brexit support measures that I have announced over the last three Budgets, as well as the market diversification work that I and my officials continue to engage in so that the agri-food sector's exposure to the UK market can be reduced.