To ask the Minister for Finance the discussions that he has had with his European counterparts in relation to establishing an EU reform fund to protect vulnerable countries from the negative impact of Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Since the referendum outcome, I have met with my EU counterparts at the monthly Ecofin and Eurogroup meetings, most recently at the December meetings which took place on the 5-6 December. In line with the agreement at EU level, there have been and will be no negotiations with the UK until Article 50 has been triggered.
I have taken the opportunity, in exchanges with EU partners, to underline Ireland's unique relationship with the UK. As the Deputy will be aware, the key issues for Ireland, associated with the referendum outcome, including our close economic relationship with the UK, have been articulated on numerous occasions by me and other members of the Government.
The Irish Government's position on Brexit was outlined in meetings with the Head of the Commission Taskforce on Brexit in Dublin on 12 October. Close engagement with the Taskforce continues at official level. In our engagement with the Taskforce we have made them aware that Brexit is already having an impact on the Irish economy, and of the disproportionate consequences posed by Brexit to the Irish economy overall in comparison to other Member States.
In the context of Brexit, it is more important than ever that the EU continues to support economic growth and employment. In this regard, I would point out that the €150 million Agri Cash Flow Support Loan Fund, as announced on Budget Day, is supported by EU Budget and European Investment Fund (EIF) funding. In addition the opening of the new European Investment Bank (EIB) office in Dublin on 12 December will also help steer future EIB investment activity in Ireland, including for SMEs.
To ask the Minister for Finance if his department is considering any specific and targeted financial measures to ensure that Brexit does not lead to greater regional imbalance; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The UK referendum on EU membership presents an important challenge for the Irish economy, both nationally and at a regional level. I have already introduced a number of actions and measures in response to this challenge.
As the Deputy will be aware, my Department incorporated the potential impact of Brexit into the macroeconomic forecasts that underpinned Budget 2017. My Department also published an in-depth sectoral analysis of the Irish economy and highlighted those with the greatest trade exposure to the UK. As part of this work, regional issues were also highlighted, particularly with respect to the location of employment and enterprise. In light of my Department's sectoral and regional findings I announced a number of measures in the Budget, with a view to getting Ireland "Brexit ready". The detail of these sectoral measures include;
The retention of the 9 percent VAT rate to assist the hospitality sector.
A reduced Capital Gains Tax relief to help entrepreneurs and bring the relief more in line with that in operation in the UK.
An extension of the Foreign Earnings Deduction (FED) until the end of 2020, in order to assist with the diversification of trade into non-traditional export markets for Irish goods and services.
The Special Assignee Relief Programme (SARP) is also extended until the end of 2020. The extension will provide certainty for foreign direct investment in Ireland, following on from the UK vote to leave the EU.
The introduction of an income averaging "step-out" in the agriculture sector, to help with the volatility Brexit may bring. In addition to this a €150 million loan fund will be provided jointly by the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland and EU Exceptional Adjustment Aid to enable farmers to better manage their cash flow and reduce the cost of borrowing.
At a macroeconomic level, Budget 2017 sought to build up Ireland's buffers to any fallout from Brexit. This involved setting a new domestic target of a debt to GDP ratio of 45 percent to be reached by the mid-2020s, or thereafter, depending on economic growth, as well as the establishment of a rainy day.
The measures introduced in Budget 2017 are just the start of a process of getting Ireland Brexit ready. More measures will be implemented as the EU-UK negotiations develop after Article 50 is invoked. As with Budget 2017, these measures will have a regional dimension where appropriate. Indeed, as a key priority in the Programme for a Partnership Government, the Government will shortly publish a new Action Plan for Rural Ireland. The Action Plan will be a whole of Government approach to the challenges facing regional and local communities, including those presented by Brexit.
To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the measures his department is taking to ensure that all aspects of the Good Friday Agreement are upheld in view of the Brexit referendum result; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien.
* For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 15th December, 2016.
Ref No: 40499/16
As reflected in the Programme for a Partnership Government, the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and the subsequent agreements, including the 2014 Stormont House and the 2015 Fresh Start Agreement, is a priority for the Government.
It is important to note that the status of the Good Friday Agreement, as an international agreement, has not been altered as result of the UK decision to leave the European Union. The UK referendum result does not in any way diminish the centrality of the Good Friday Agreement or the requirement of both the British and Irish Governments to uphold it.
Ensuring that all aspects of the Good Friday Agreement and the overall balance of the settlement in Northern Ireland are upheld, regardless of the UK’s status within the EU, is a priority for the Government.
The Taoiseach, my Government colleagues and I have been working to emphasise the need to ensure that all aspects of the Good Friday Agreement are fully reflected in both the exit deal and in any new EU-UK relationship. This is in the context of our engagements within the EU 27 to highlight Ireland’s priorities in relation to Brexit which also include the Economy and Trade and the Common Travel Area, both issues with a significant North/South dimension.
On the basis of my first round of consultations with my EU counterparts, I believe our EU partners have a good understanding of the issues specific to the island of Ireland including Northern Ireland and the peace process. I was also pleased that Michel Barnier – who will lead the negotiations for the Commission - specifically referenced the Good Friday Agreement in his first public comments earlier this week.
However we take nothing for granted and, as co-guarantor of the Good Friday and succeeding Agreements, the Irish Government will continue to work to ensure that the provisions of the Agreement are protected and reflected in the upcoming negotiations.
To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to open any new embassies or consulates as a consequence of the Brexit referendum result; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien.
To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if additional staff have been deployed to Irish embassies or consulates as a consequence of the Brexit referendum result; if so, the embassies which have received additional staff and the number of additional staff; the role assigned to each new staff member, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien.
I propose taking questions number 247 and 248 together.
Following the outcome of the referendum in the UK in June 2016 and in line with the Government’s contingency plans prepared in advance, capabilities and resources are being assigned to manage the complex process of the UK exit from the EU.
As we approach the end of the year, I am happy to set out the resources which are in place in my Department as of today. Within my Department, the key Divisions are the Ireland, UK and Americas (IUKA) Division and the European Union Division, both headed at Second Secretary General level. Within the IUKA Division, there are teams focused on Northern Ireland and on wider British-Irish Relations, while the European Union Division contains a specific team focused on the EU-UK negotiations.
In effect, most branches of the Department at its headquarters in Dublin are involved in some way as part of the response to the UK exit, for example the Legal Division, the Trade Division and also the Policy Planning Unit. In addition, there is also an intra-Departmental senior management group on issues relating to the UK exit, chaired by the Secretary General and comprising senior officials from across all relevant business units of the Department.
In terms of Irish offices focused on work relating to the UK exit, additional posts have been approved for our Embassies in London, Berlin, and Paris and the Permanent Representation of Ireland to the European Union in Brussels. Several of these posts have been filled already while the selection and assignment process to fill other key positions is at an advanced stage. The Permanent Representation of Ireland to the European Union in Brussels now has a unit dedicated to managing our response to this issue and there has already been some reassignment of roles in order to fill key positions in this unit.
I would stress that these measures comprise the first phase of our response to the UK decision to leave the EU and matters remain under review as the Government continues its detailed analysis of the implications of the UK referendum decision. I expect that our allocation of roles and responsibilities in key missions across the network will be revised further once the UK triggers Article 50, which is expected by the end of March 2017, and that the resources dedicated to this issue by my Department will be enhanced further to meet the particular challenges of the negotiation phase.
In general terms, all of our diplomatic Missions across the EU and further afield are working on this issue.
I would also add that a number of officers of my Department are seconded to the Department of the Taoiseach and working on EU matters, while two officers are seconded to the International and EU Relations Division of the Department of Finance.
As regards our global diplomatic footprint, a range of factors are taken into account in considering our diplomatic representation overseas: our national political, economic and trade priorities - including the response to the result of the UK’s referendum on EU membership - and maintaining our influence within the EU and with other EU Member States. EU issues are the sole focus of the Permanent Representation in Brussels, our largest diplomatic mission, and a major part of the work of our Embassies in all twenty-seven other EU Member States.
The configuration and scale of the State’s diplomatic and consular network is kept under ongoing review by the Government.
To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans, to revise The Global Island - Ireland's foreign policy paper in view of the Brexit referendum result; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien.
The Global Island: Ireland’s Foreign Policy for a Changing World, published in 2015, was the Government’s first major statement of foreign policy in nearly twenty years. It set out our policy priorities and ambitions across the full range of our external engagements. It remains a cornerstone for our planning and for the delivery of Government objectives and it is not intended to update the document at this time.
My Department’s new Statement of Strategy 2016-2019, which articulates the Government’s priorities for external engagement for the next three years, including objectives from the Programme for a Partnership Government, was agreed by Government on 13 December. It will be translated and laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas in the New Year, and will be published online thereafter. The Statement of Strategy provides us with specific goals and outputs, designed to structure our response to the challenges of the day. Foremost among those challenges is undoubtedly the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union. The Statement of Strategy sets out our priority actions in this area and how the staff of the Department at home and in our network of Missions abroad will contribute to protecting Irish interests during Brexit negotiations and beyond. It also underlines the importance of the whole of Government approach and how we will work with our partners in Government to ensure the best possible outcomes for Irish citizens across the full breadth of our work.