Since 2016 I have been continuously highlighting the adverse impacts that #Brexit will have on all of our country and particularly the border region. This welcome EU support must be targeted at areas like #Cavan and #Monaghan to support our local economy through these challenging times.
- Below statement by Minister Coveney and Minister Byrne. Also below my speech in Dáil Éireann on 17th December regarding the adverse impacts Brexit will have on our country and particularly the border region.
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney & Minister for European Affairs, Thomas Byrne welcome allocation of €1.05 billion to Ireland from the Brexit Adjustment Reserve
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney T.D. and Minister for European Affairs, Thomas Byrne T.D. have warmly welcomed the Commission proposal for an allocation of over €1bn to Ireland from the Brexit Adjustment Reserve, which was set up to help member states most affected by Britain’s departure from the EU.
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney said:
“I’m pleased that this proposal has been made on the Brexit Adjustment Reserve. The BAR is valued at a total of €5.4 billion, €4.2 billion in 2021 and €1.1 billion in 2024. Ireland’s proposed initial allocation for 2021 is €1.051 billion or 25% of the first tranche of the fund.
“My department and our permanent representative in Brussels have been relentless in maintaining the argument that allocation of this fund should reflect the countries most affected by Brexit. Once again I want to thank my team for what they have delivered here. Once approved, the funds will go to my colleagues Paschal Donohoe and Michael McGrath to manage at cabinet level. I hope the European Parliament and Council will now approve as we continue to work through Brexit.”
Minister for European Affairs, Thomas Byrne TD said:
“I met virtually with Commissioner Johannes Hahn today where he informed me of this much anticipated news of an initial proposed allocation of over €1bn to Ireland and a further allocation in 2024. This funding from the Commission is much needed by the sectors and areas most negatively affected by Brexit.
“An Taoiseach Micheál Martin negotiated this fund at the European Council in July and Ministers and officials have worked tirelessly to ensure Ireland’s interests were protected. I look forward to the Commission’s proposal receiving support from all member states and the European Parliament.”
Notes To Editor
- Full Commission proposal available here: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_2536
Dáil Éireann debate –
Thursday, 17 Dec 2020
Brexit Readiness for the End of the Transition Period: Statements
The Minister for Foreign Affairs said in his introductory remarks that Britain will be outside the European Union, the Single Market and the customs union from 1 January next, which is only two weeks away. How we trade with Britain will be dramatically different, therefore. Even if a free trade agreement is concluded between the European Union and Britain, there will be significant and enduring change. It is vital, as previous speakers have all said, that all businesses, regardless of their size and be they small, medium or large, need to focus on Brexit readiness, as things will simply not be the same.
The Minister gave a sombre message on the Government’s concerns about the lack of preparedness, particularly with small and medium enterprises. Being prepared is critical and essential. We know that without preparation, there is the real risk of delays and a loss of income, which would be damaging for any business or enterprise. We cannot emphasise enough how important it is for businesses and enterprises to be ready. There is and has been for a considerable length of time, substantial Government help available, especially the Brexit readiness checker, which shows exactly what businesses need to do.
The budget for 2021, which was passed in this House some weeks ago, allocated substantial resources to confront the twin challenges we face at this particular time, that is, the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit. The figure the Minister quoted was €340 million to be spent on Brexit-related measures and that is welcome. The Government has also provided a recovery fund to assist businesses in the aftermath of Covid-19 and Brexit. It is extremely important that we remain committed to protecting and strengthening the British-Irish trading relationship following Brexit. Britain has always been and will continue to be an important market for Ireland. What is often left out of the narrative and commentary is the extremely important market we are for Britain as well. That cannot be emphasised enough by the Government.
I have had the privilege of representing two Border constituencies over a considerable period of time. I was a public representative for Cavan-Monaghan prior to the Good Friday Agreement and I am glad to be one since the Good Friday Agreement as well. I am conscious of the benefits that all of this island derived from the Good Friday Agreement, particularly in my region and in the Border region in general. We have thankfully seen the development of the all-Ireland economy. We have seen businesses develop, grow and be established on an all-Ireland basis. We have seen the interdependence of the economies, North and South, and that has been tremendously important in providing job opportunities, particularly for the areas that suffered so much due to the Troubles over that prolonged period of time.
When the Brexit referendum took place in 2016, Deputy Howlin and the Minister of State, Deputy Byrne, referred to the fact that our parliamentary system responded with one voice and message to our fellow member states in the European Union. It was good parliamentary work, regardless of who was in government. We were in opposition for most of that time and we gave strong support to the Government in its efforts to win support over from other member states. I was Chairman of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence in the last Dáil and I had the opportunity to invite our counterpart committees from other member states of the European Union to come here, visit the Border region and see at first hand that we did not have a border but that we moved seamlessly North and South and South and North.
Those parliamentary groups who came here met local entrepreneurs and community and civic leaders and got a clear message that we did not want a border reimposed on our island. They got the clear message that, as communities, we appreciate the significant progress that has been made and that we were not going back to the era that we suffered so much through during that long period from the late 1960s up until 1998. Deputy Howlin, the Minister of State, Deputy Byrne, and the Minister, Deputy Coveney, referred to the work of Mr. Michel Barnier. In his knowledge and interest in our country, Mr. Barnier is to be credited in every discussion we have on Brexit. I know that from working with Mr. Barnier in the Council of Ministers in the past.
The Minister, Deputy Coveney, gave a clear but sombre message about what lies ahead of us. The Minister referred, in particular, to his concerns at the preparation of small and medium-sized enterprises. Small and medium-sized enterprises are more important to the less developed parts of our economy than to the more developed areas economically. Professor Edgar Morgenroth, either for the Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, or for Dublin City University, did an exceptional piece of work on the projected regional impact of Brexit. It showed clearly the adverse impact that Brexit would have on my region and on the Border region in general. Because of our dependence on agrifood, construction products and the engineering sector, there was a marked difference between the impact that Brexit would have on Cavan-Monaghan and the Border in comparison with south Dublin. Our economy is more dependent on the small and medium-sized enterprises than the east coast in general. It shows clearly the need for assistance to support small and medium-sized enterprises.
Despite many challenges that our businesses and enterprises faced over the years, many of them, thankfully, have grown from one- and two-person businesses to be small medium-sized enterprises, and some of them from my own counties of Cavan and Monaghan have grown from one- and two-person operations to become international corporations today. They deserve great credit.
Many of the companies that are providing such valuable employment in areas such as Cavan and Monaghan are totally dependent on the road network, because we do not have a rail network, to export their finished product to the ports and airports, or to bring in raw materials for their enterprises. We are talking about Brexit preparedness and readiness. One other narrative that we need to get on to next is to support enterprises post-Brexit. I would argue that the infrastructural needs of that region or regions that will be most adversely impacted have to be prioritised for investment. We are all aware that if there is poor infrastructure, businesses face additional costs, and if we are to try to assist businesses to remain competitive following Brexit we have to ensure the infrastructure is brought up to a very good standard to assist those enterprises. I am talking about the road network. I am talking about broadband. I am also talking about investment in human capital. There is great scope and potential there for more investment in education and training on a cross-Border, all-island basis. That was provided for in the Good Friday Agreement. It was provided for that we would go towards all-island structures in the areas of education, health, trade and enterprise. Brexit should give an impetus that we drive forward that agenda and we support those businesses at the coalface of Brexit.
I instanced in this House on many occasions some of the enterprises in my own immediate area. They are sited both sides of the Border. There may be part manufacturing or part assembly in Fermanagh and other part assembly or part manufacturing in Cavan. Those activities of manufacturing and assembly plants are all interdependent and we know the difficulties that will arise should there be customs procedures or additional customs costs imposed on those enterprises. We have to ensure that every possible assistance is given to help those enterprises remain competitive.
I welcome the fact that the shared island initiative that has been announced by the Taoiseach and is included in the programme for Government, will assist in developing cross-Border, all-island projects. There is great scope there. I repeat it is very important that we improve the infrastructure in the Border region. In particular, I am thinking of roads. We need that investment. Alongside the investment in improving the infrastructure, Government needs to give business and enterprises that face particular challenges now, and that are providing worthwhile employment, a clear message that they will be supported through these very challenging times.
Another issue that I mentioned here yesterday in the post-European Council statements was the need to ensure that we have the EU cross border healthcare directive still applicable for patients from the State seeking to access health services in Northern Ireland and-or in Britain.
An area that has not got much attention, to my knowledge, in this debate is the area of criminality and the problems that different trade zones and different taxation regimes, etc., lend to smuggling and criminality. Some people have spoken to me who have a particular knowledge and understanding, and who are concerned about the criminal world. We have had enough criminality associated with the Border over the years. We have to try to ensure that the home-grown criminals, smugglers and thugs do not get a fresh lease of life. Many of those dangerous gangs are linked up with similar dangerous gangs in Europe and we do not want to become a trafficking place for those people to abuse and use people. It is important, given the unique policing demands of the Border region, that An Garda Síochána and the other security forces – the Minister has responsibility for defence – are adequately resourced to deal with any outfall from the new position that we will find ourselves in.
The first meeting of an Oireachtas committee post the Brexit referendum in 2016 was the then Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence. I mentioned at that committee that that referendum result and that vote really knocked the stuffing out of communities in the Border area because we had gone from living in the troubled times to the much better era post-Good Friday Agreement, and of course, we all thought of borders arising again. Thankfully, that will not happen. This is the last opportunity we will have in the Oireachtas to speak before Brexit actually happens. I compliment the Minister and all his colleagues in the Government, and particularly the officials in Departments and other statutory agencies who have been exemplary in getting a very clear message across to their counterparts throughout the European Union about the need to protect the interests of our island.