The Government has been actively preparing for Brexit since the Brexit referendum took place. While a no deal Brexit will never be Ireland or the EU’s choice, the risk of a no deal remains significant and, therefore, no deal preparations have the highest priority across Government.
The aim of the Government’s preparations is to make sure that Irish citizens and businesses are as ready as possible for a no deal Brexit, as set out in the Government’s most recent Contingency Action Plan published in July. This plan sets out in detail the Government’s analysis of the risks and impacts of a no deal outcome across the range of key issues and sectors and the extensive work ongoing across Government to mitigate these risks. This plan follows on the enactment of the Brexit Omnibus Act earlier this year and the roll-out of a comprehensive programme of engagement with stakeholders across all key sectors with over 1,200 events to date so that citizens and business take the necessary actions to prepare. This is in parallel with detailed contingency planning at EU level. However, as underlined in the Contingency Plan, notwithstanding Government preparations, a no deal Brexit will be highly disruptive for Ireland.
As Minister for Finance, my objective is to protect the economic and financial interests of the State and to support the work of the Revenue Commissioners so as to minimise the Brexit disruption to trade, to the greatest extent possible. My Departments and its agencies are advancing preparations within the whole of Government framework overseen by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of An Taoiseach.
The Government has already taken important steps to prepare our economy, including through dedicated measures announced in Budgets 2017, 2018 and 2019, supported by long-term planning through the National Development Plan and the National Planning Framework which will provide significant investment in Ireland’s public capital infrastructure.
Budget 2020 is being prepared on the basis of Government assessments of the implications of a possible no deal – not because we are resigned to this outcome but because it is the only prudent way to prepare. It is important to give certainty to businesses and citizens that the Government is prepared for a no-deal Brexit and stands ready to support the economy in such a scenario. For the most affected sectors, a number of temporary, targeted support measures are under consideration and both the level and type of support will be finalised as part of the Budget 2020 negotiation. Assuming a no-deal Brexit ensures the Government has the necessary resources at its disposal to meet the impact of this exceptional challenge, whilst preserving the longer-term sustainability of the public finances. Finally, it is important to safeguard the hard won progress of recent years in stabilising the public finances.
In terms of the financial services sector, the Central Bank has been preparing extensively for Brexit. The Central Bank is satisfied that, from a financial stability perspective, the most material and immediate risks from a no-deal Brexit are manageable. Some level of market disruption would be inevitable in a no-deal scenario, but the system as a whole should be resilient enough to withstand these bumps.
The Revenue Commissioners are also prioritising Brexit preparations and have been taking measures aimed at facilitating and supporting legitimate trade with UK post Brexit, in close cooperation with other Government agencies. These measures include a significant upgrade of their national Customs ICT system to deal with increased volumes of customs declarations, the assignment and training of up to 600 additional staff for Brexit related roles across a range of functions and an ongoing extensive nationwide trader outreach programme. Additional physical capacity is also in place at ports and airports to apply checks and controls. Funding and training has also been provided to support the customs intermediary sector.
I am satisfied that my Department and its relevant agencies are continuing to give the highest priority to the work of preparing for a no deal Brexit, including encouraging and supporting preparedness by business and citizens across the county so that we can mitigate the impacts to the greatest extent possible.