To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the government has prepared and finalised Brexit sectoral response plans for each department as committed to in May 2017; if so, if he will publish these plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. - Darragh O'Brien.
REPLY I propose to take questions 11, 13, and 39 together.
The situation with regard to the Brexit negotiations has evolved significantly since the publication of the Government’s comprehensive approach document last May and the Government’s preparations have adjusted accordingly. Contingency planning at both a domestic and an EU level is focused on three areas: preparing for a no-deal scenario or so-called “disorderly Brexit”; preparing for a transition period based on the “status quo”; and preparing for the future EU-UK relationship.
While the outcome of the December European Council and the move on to Phase 2 has lessened the likelihood of a disorderly Brexit, very detailed work on a no-deal or worst-case-scenario is advancing intensively through the cross-Departmental coordination structures chaired by my Department.
Before Christmas, the possible consequences for each sector were comprehensively established. Now the work is focusing on possible mitigating measures. This work is also informed by ongoing stakeholder engagement. Separately, a new preparedness unit in the Commission is considering EU-level responses.
All this work provides a baseline scenario for the policies and sectors impacted, which can then be adapted as appropriate in light of developments in the EU-UK negotiations. This includes, as appropriate, any specific responses necessary according to regional needs and at the county level, including in Wexford.
That is why the decision has been taken to concentrate on completing this work and to participate in the preparation of the EU approach to the future relationship negotiations.
As concerns transitional arrangements, I welcome that the direction of travel is now firmly towards achieving a “status quo” transition period. Agreement on a “status quo” transition will provide certainty to individuals and businesses while also aiming to avoid any cliff edge effects between the UK leaving the EU and a future relationship agreement coming into force.
The expectation is that the European Council will adopt additional Guidelines at its meeting on 22-23 March 2018 on the framework for the future EU-UK relationship. These guidelines – as well as further clarity on the UK position, which has been sought by the European Council – will provide a clearer picture of the direction of travel in the negotiations. This will provide a basis on which the Government will publish a new paper in the coming months on our approach to the negotiations and our latest assessment of the economic and sectoral challenges posed by Brexit and our responses to them.
This work will, of course, be firmly grounded in the extensive work and outreach that has already been undertaken by individual Departments and agencies, as well as by stakeholder organisations, academics and others. Much of this is in the public domain, including the detailed response plan "Building Stronger Business - Responding to Brexit by competing, innovation and trading", which was published in November. A number of further important studies are underway with a view to publication in the coming weeks and months.