In July 2018, and again in September 2018, a number of decisions were made at Cabinet relating to Brexit preparedness and contingency planning, including the phased recruitment of staff, as required.
The Government has already sanctioned €4m for the commencement of a phased process for the recruitment of additional staff to carry out the greatly increased volumes of import controls and export certification arising from Brexit.
In my Department, a dedicated Brexit Unit was established in 2016. This Unit is led at Assistant Secretary level within the EU Affairs and Trade Policy Division, and its key function is to coordinate and represent the Department’s response to Brexit and to support me in my position at the Cabinet Committee dealing with Brexit. The designated official, at Assistant Secretary level, is supported by a staff complement of eight (one Principal Officer, three Assistant Principal Officers, two Higher Executive Officers, One Administrative Officer and one Clerical Officer). The Unit also leads on engagement with a broad range of stakeholders to inform and validate our response to Brexit.
Also within this Division, two officials (Assistant Principal Officer and Administrative Officer) working in the Trade Policy Unit are assigned to Brexit related trade matters as part of their portfolios.
In the Division with responsibility for Indigenous Enterprise, there are two officials (Assistant Principal Officer and Administrative Officer) working solely on Brexit mitigation measures to support business impacted by Brexit. This team also has a strong relationship with the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) and in 2018 launched a new Brexit Loan Scheme for businesses in response to Brexit. Other officials across this Division have Brexit related responsibility attached to their roles, and work closely to prepare businesses in Ireland for Brexit.
My Department has a lead role in helping to ensure that businesses are Brexit prepared. In this regard and as part of the 2019 Workforce Planning, approval has been given to set up a new Getting Business Brexit Ready Unit which will have a staff complement of one Assistant Principal Officer, one Administrative Officer and one Executive Officer. The Assistant Principal Officer and Administrative Officer have now been appointed and the Executive Officer will be appointed shortly.
The UK’s decision to leave the European Union continues to impact significantly on all policy fields across my Department.
Given the wide mission of my Department, staff across a number of other Divisions and business units, are involved in a range of business preparedness supports and Brexit related matters, as it relates to their policy area.
My Department is continually prioritising the Brexit challenges and actively keep the staffing requirements under review.
In respect of the budget made available for hiring of staff in advance of the UK withdrawal from the EU, the Department was allocated an additional €250k in 2017, €200k in 2018, and €1.15m in 2019. The additional funding has, and is, being used to strengthen the capacity of the Department to deliver on its strategic goals during a time when Brexit and other global challenges are impacting on many policy areas and business units in the Department.