With respect to addressing Brexit contingencies, my Department continues to participate actively in the Whole-of-Government approach to preparedness and contingency planning for Brexit. The Government sanctioned in the region of €4m for the commencement of a phased process for the recruitment of additional staff to carry out increased volumes of import controls and export certification arising from Brexit.
These requirements are significant, and arise in relation to the carrying out of documentary, identity and physical checks on imports of animals, plants, and products of animal and plant origin, as set out in EU legislation. My Department had previously carried out an extensive analysis exercise to establish the potential volumes of controls that will need to be carried out. This exercise has been used, where appropriate, to guide relevant planning in relation to putting in place the staff that will be required.
Regarding staffing requirements, at all stages, my Department has sought to use a combination of recruitment, redeployment and temporary flexible solutions, such as contracted veterinary services, where appropriate and as necessary. Given the level of uncertainty surrounding Brexit, my Department’s approach has been to adopt, where possible, options that offer a degree of flexibility, such as internal short term redeployment and contracted services, whilst ensuring, in conjunction and cooperation with our recruitment partners, the Public Appointments Service (PAS), that avenues for more permanent recruitment are available and can be drawn from as necessary. This approach is with a view to being able to address requirements in the near to medium term across various possible contingencies, from the negative end of the spectrum in terms of a no deal-Brexit to more benign contingencies of a Brexit based on a deal between the EU and the UK.
Focussing on immediate initial requirements, in the area of East-West import and export controls for UK product into Ireland, in the event of a no-deal Brexit on October 31st, my Department will have 240 staff resources available across a range of disciplines in both front line control and back up administrative spheres. This overall number will include recruits, redeployed staff and contracted Private Veterinary Practitioners (PVPs )
Overall, the key grades where the majority of deployment will occur are in veterinary and portal inspector roles on the animals and products of animal origin side, as well as agricultural and forestry inspectors and portal inspectors on the plant health and forestry side. In terms of recruitment, engagement with PAS is ongoing
It is important to note that staffing estimates are provided on the basis of a disorderly Brexit using the infrastructure that is expected to be available in Dublin and Rosslare ports in October. The development of additional infrastructure has the potential to have a knock-on effect on the numbers of staff required, and this contingency is being actively examined. Estimates may also need to be revised in light of any new political developments or on foot of any changes to the UK’s requirements, particularly regarding export certification.
In the context of an initial uncertain period in the event of a no-deal Brexit, it will be necessary to carefully observe how operational arrangements with respect to staffing are bedding down. Furthermore, it will also be necessary to observe how a no-deal Brexit might evolve, given the ongoing potential staffing effects.
I remain confident that my Department is in a position to deliver the services required in terms of both imports and exports at the appropriate time.