Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Ceisteanna (601, 614, 648)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

601. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of the convention on social security between Ireland and the United Kingdom. [7668/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

614. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a matter (details supplied) regarding a carer's allowance post Brexit will be clarified; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7937/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

648. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the extent to which adequate provisions are being made to ensure that recipients of a social welfare payment continue to receive their entitlement uninterrupted in cases in which the entitlement is dependent on contributions in the UK and here, regardless of whether they are domiciled here or in the UK, with particular reference to the post-Brexit situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8443/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 601, 614 and 648 together.

The Government and the EU remain committed to securing a negotiated Brexit outcome. We have been planning for all Brexit scenarios but in light of uncertainties in London and the Brexit deadline of 29 March, the Government decided at its meeting of 11 December that immediate priority must now be given to preparations for a no-deal Brexit and that Government Departments and state agencies should urgently take forward work on that basis.

The Contingency Action Plan which the Government published on 19 December sets out in comprehensive terms the challenges to be faced and the actions taken and planned by the Government across key sectors in the event of a no-deal Brexit scenario.

My key area of interest is the impact of Brexit on the current reciprocal arrangements for social insurance schemes, social assistance schemes and child benefit under the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK, including Northern Ireland.

Last year, I met with the then UK Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and we agreed the objective of ensuring that the reciprocity of social welfare rights and entitlements, which currently exist for Irish and UK citizens moving within Ireland and between Ireland and Britain under the Common Travel Area, are safeguarded and maintained.

Because of the unique nature of the Common Travel Area and the specific rights which it provides and will continue to provide for Irish and British citizens in each other’s countries, it was agreed that we would formalise the pre-existing Common Travel Area arrangements in a documented agreement. That agreement was signed recently and the process required to ratify the agreement is ongoing. Under the terms of the agreement all existing arrangements with regard to recognition of, and access to, social insurance entitlements will be maintained in both jurisdictions. This means that the rights of Irish citizens domiciled in Ireland to benefit from social insurance contributions made when working in the UK and to access social insurance payments if resident in the UK are protected. We moved a motion on this matter in this House last Tuesday and I will be discussing it with the Select Committee on Thursday (21 February).

In addition, the General Scheme of the Miscellaneous Provisions (Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union on 29 March 2019) Bill, which the Government published on 24 January 2019, is part of a framework of wider planning and preparations for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, which the Government still hopes can be avoided. Part 11 of the General Scheme sets out proposed amendments to the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 2015 (as amended) which serve the same purpose as the agreement I have just mentioned. These amendments are being introduced in line with the Government’s Brexit priority of maintaining the Common Travel Area. I will be discussing these provisions with the Joint Oireachtas Committee tomorrow (Wednesday 20 February).

Deputy Smyth specifically asked about payments for carers from my Department. There will be no change to the qualifying conditions for such payments arising from Brexit.

I hope this clarifies the position.