1. Brexit Planning and Action Structures
Since before the Brexit referendum took place, the Government has been preparing for different possible scenarios. On the day of the referendum vote on 24 June 2016, our initial contingency planning was made publicly available.
This framework was central to the development of Ireland’s position in the negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement, and also served as guidance for the further work which has been underway across all departments and agencies since then.
This work is managed through a range of inter-Departmental engagements led by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the Department of the Taoiseach, with regular Memoranda to Government on all aspects of preparedness and contingency planning including legislation, transport connectivity, infrastructure requirements and the Common Travel Area.
The work also draws on the large number of research reports prepared and/or commissioned by the Government and others on the possible impacts on Ireland of a range of Brexit scenarios.
In July 2018, the Government agreed to plan for Brexit on the basis of a central case scenario, and in November 2018 all departments provided updated action plans addressing both the central case and no deal Brexit scenarios. The shift to preparing for a no deal Brexit required the acceleration of certain measures already identified and underway, the putting in place of possible temporary solutions that can be rapidly implemented, and potential crisis response measures.
In December 2018 the Government published a comprehensive Contingency Action Plan. While this acknowledged that a no deal Brexit would have profound macroeconomic, trade and sectoral impacts for Ireland, and that it would not be possible to eliminate all risks, the Government has been working at home and at the EU level to implement measures to mitigate damage to the greatest extent possible.
As the Brexit negotiation process has continually evolved, Government structures and actions have developed accordingly, and since December 2018 have been focused primarily on a no deal Brexit scenario. This has required the prioritisation and reassignment of resources across the civil and public service.
The Government’s approach is based on the principle that addressing the challenges of a no deal Brexit requires:
Responses at the EU level Responses by Government Responses by businesses and affected sectors.
It is only by working together nationally, and with our partners in the EU, that we can mitigate the negative impacts of a no deal Brexit and ensure that we are prepared to the greatest extent possible.
As part of no deal Brexit preparations, it has been necessary to step up further the coordination arrangements across the public service, building on already preestablished national arrangements for the delivery of effective emergency management.
Currently a Secretaries General Group chaired by the Secretary General to the Government meets weekly to oversee the ongoing work on no deal Brexit preparations and contingency planning. It is supported by an Assistant Secretaries Group on no deal Brexit, co-chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and a range of other Brexit-related interdepartmental groups. This includes a Senior Officials Group on Legislation, also co-chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach and by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which oversaw the development of both primary and secondary no deal Brexit legislation.
Despite the extensive mitigation measures being undertaken at EU level by the Irish Government and by businesses as outlined in this updated Contingency Action Plan, significant short-term risks in the event of a no deal Brexit on 31 October include: Disruption of East-West trade between Ireland and Britain due to delays at ports and/or inability of businesses to meet regulatory requirements; Delays to transit of exports and imports through the UK landbridge, with knock-on impacts on wholesale and retail supply chains; Closure of businesses and/or loss of jobs in Ireland due to trade disruption and associated costs, tariffs and currency movement, in particular in the agri-food, fisheries, manufacturing and tourism sectors; Regional economic and labour market impacts due to the location of mostexposed business sectors; Deterioration in Ireland’s macroeconomic position, including deterioration in the public finances; Community relations undermined, and political instability in Northern Ireland and potential related security concerns; Significant negative impact on the Northern Ireland economy, especially in the area of agri-food exports; Loss of or limited access to rights and entitlements for Northern Ireland residents entitled to EU citizenship; Disruption in North-South trade and the all-island economy due to tariffs and the imposition of various regulatory requirements; Disruption to North-South cooperation in areas such as energy, road and rail connectivity; Loss of access to fishing landings from UK EEZ, and displacement of other EU fishing activity into Irish waters;
Notwithstanding mitigation measures in place, potential disruption to daily life in areas such as online retail purchases from UK, access to medicines and medical devices, and financial services sourced from the UK.
Preparing for a no deal has required an immediate focus on crisis management and possible temporary solutions (political, economic, administrative, legislative and communication), which can be rapidly implemented until the necessary longer-term adjustments are in place.
Grappling with the enormous range of impacts and disruption both in the immediate short term and in the longer term will involve difficult and significant choices of a practical, strategic and political nature.
Given the scale of these risks, existing coordination arrangements will be intensified and adapted as appropriate in the light of developments and taking account of the nature of the issues that may arise due to a no deal Brexit. This includes planning for coordination and crisis management, should the need for this eventually arise including reassignment of staff and other resources across the public service to respond to this emerging situation.
All government departments and the agencies/bodies under their aegis will be prepared to act in a key support or other support role. Government departments will have preidentified the specific roles that it expects agencies/bodies to undertake in a no deal contingency setting, and work with them in the planning, preparedness and implementation phase.
The Government Information Service (GIS) will work closely with the above structures on the preparation and delivery of communications on all no deal Brexit issues as necessary with the cooperation of communications’ units / press offices from all departments and relevant agencies.
In light of the profound challenges posed by a no deal Brexit:
The work of the existing coordination structures will be intensified over the period ahead.
There will be regular reports to Government on all aspects of no deal Brexit planning, tracking readiness across critical issues.
Emergency crisis management structures will be activated by Government at the appropriate time.