While the process of ratifying the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration continues today at Westminster, the Government continued its no deal contingency planning. 4 Memos were brought to Government on legislation required in a no deal scenario; the Common Travel Area; Medicines; and Transport Connectivity.
Speaking after the Cabinet meeting, the Tánaiste said:
“While all eyes are on the House of Commons tonight, it is important the Government’s planning continues for all outcomes, including no deal. Today’s discussion at Cabinet took this work forward in the important areas of transport connectivity and medicines, with Memos brought to Government by Minister Ross and Minister Harris respectively. We also agreed an approach to no deal Brexit legislation. Finally, I updated the Cabinet on developments with our Common Travel Area, which will continue in all circumstances.
A no deal Brexit will have a significant impact on Ireland – these measures being taken by the Government are designed to limit the damage. It remains our view that the only way to secure an orderly withdrawal is to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement.”
Further detail on issues discussed by Cabinet today is provided below:
Legislation required in a No Deal Brexit scenario
The Government had a detailed discussion on its approach to legislation to mitigate some of the most damaging effects of a no deal Brexit.
An outline approach was published, based on a full review of Irish legislative provision, in the No Deal Contingency Action Plan on 19 December. Considerable work has continued in the interim to refine and develop the plan further through a Senior Officials Group, co-chaired by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of the Taoiseach, and involving every relevant line Department and the Attorney General’s Office.
Today Government agreed that, aside from the European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Bill 2018 and the Regulated Professions (Health and Social Care) (Amendment) Bill, legislation across different sectors be grouped into one omnibus Bill, in order to assist with the speed of passage through the Houses.
The Bill, comprising 17 Parts, will focus on the broad themes of protecting the citizen, and supporting the economy, enterprise and jobs. Amendments to the Interpretation Act 2005, which would be required in the event of an orderly Brexit with a transition period, will also be included. The work on primary legislation will be complemented by responses in secondary legislation through the adoption of a range of Statutory Instruments. An overview is set out below.
Proposed Miscellaneous Provisions (Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union on 29 March 2019) Bill Omnibus Bill with 17 parts focused on the broad theme of protecting the citizen, and supporting the economy, enterprise and jobs. Full list of Parts is set out below:
|2||Business, Enterprise and Innovation||Amending Industrial Development Acts|
|3||Communications, Climate Action and Environment||Single Electricity Market
|4||Communications, Climate Action and Environment||Energy|
|5||Education and Skills||Student Support|
|8||Finance||Amendments to EU regulations|
|9||Transport, Tourism and Sport||Railway Safety|
|10||Transport, Tourism and Sport||Public Transport Regulation|
|11||Employment Affairs and Social Protection||Social Welfare|
|12||Employment Affairs and Social Protection||Amendment of Protection of Employees (Employers’ Insolvency) Act|
|13||Taoiseach||Amendment to the Interpretation Act|
|14||Justice and Equality||Amendments to the Extradition Act|
|15||Justice and Equality||Amendments to the Immigration Acts|
|16||Justice and Equality||Amendments to the International Protection Act|
|17||Justice and Equality||Amendments to the Data Protection Act|
There will also be 20 Statutory Instruments covering a range of matters to mitigate a no deal Brexit.
Engagement with the Oireachtas
Also at its meeting, Government confirmed the need to work very closely with all Opposition parties and Oireachtas members to seek their cooperation in ensuring that the necessary Brexit related legislation will pass through the Oireachtas in a timely manner. The Tánaiste will meet with party leaders to discuss the need for all parties to work together in the national interest to ensure that the necessary Brexit-related legislation is enacted before the 29 March 2019.
The tight timeframes involved in getting legislation enacted will mean the potential use of special procedures and these will be discussed with Opposition Leaders and the Business Committee. The Government agreed that to facilitate proposed arrangements it is intended to brief and regularly update the Opposition on the progress of the Brexit legislation as it is developed.
These proposals take into account that a balance needs to be struck between ensuring that necessary legislation is in place while also ensuring that sufficient time is provided to enable the Houses of the Oireachtas to scrutinise the proposed legislation and make suggestions.
At the EU level the European Commission has screened all of the existing rules under EU law and has tabled fourteen legal acts to be adopted by the Commission in the context of its contingency planning for a no deal scenario. There are five proposals for Council Decisions / Regulations, five proposals for Commission Implementing Acts, and four proposals for Commission Delegated Acts. Examples include adjustments to the rules of approval of automotive vehicles or in relation to ship inspections, and the apportionment between the UK and the EU27 of tariff rate quotas included in the goods schedule of the EU at the World Trade Organisation.
These measures are being progressed with a view to being in effect by 29 March 2019 through special accelerated procedures at EU level.
Update on Common Travel Area (CTA)
The CTA is a long-standing arrangement between Ireland and the UK which means Irish citizens can move freely to live, work, and study in the UK on the same basis as UK citizens and vice versa. It provides for associated rights and privileges including access to employment, healthcare, education, and social benefits, as well as the right to vote in certain elections. Considerable progress has been achieved bilaterally with the UK over the past year involving several Departments in what has been a whole-of-Government exercise.
The CTA is an arrangement that is valued on both islands. Both the Government of Ireland and the UK Government have committed that the CTA will be maintained in all circumstances. The CTA pre-dates Irish and UK membership of the EU and is not dependent on it. The CTA is recognised in Protocol 20 to the EU Treaties, which acknowledges that Ireland and the UK may continue to make arrangements between themselves relating to the CTA while fully respecting the free movement and other rights of EU citizens and their dependents. Protocol 20 will continue to apply to Ireland after Brexit.
Detailed bilateral work with the UK has continued, including in the social security, health and education sectors. Arrangements relating to immigration continue to be led by the Minister for Justice and Equality through long established structures. Ireland’s shared aim with the UK throughout has been to ensure that the necessary arrangements are made in both countries so that the CTA continues to function effectively after the UK leaves the EU – irrespective of whether there is an orderly Brexit or a “no deal” scenario.
Neither Irish citizens in the UK nor British citizens in Ireland are required to take any action to protect their status and rights associated with the CTA. After the UK leaves the EU, both Irish citizens in the UK and British citizens in Ireland will continue to enjoy these rights. Both Governments have committed to undertaking all the work necessary, including through legislative provision, to ensure that the agreed CTA rights and privileges are protected.
As part of a whole-of-Government response to Brexit, Minister for Health, Simon Harris T.D., has outlined a comprehensive and coordinated set of preparations to ensure the continuity of health services and supply of medical products in the event of a no-deal Brexit. This work involves the Department of Health, the HSE, the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) and other agencies engaging in intensive Brexit preparedness and contingency planning.
Minster Harris outlined the fact that a wide range of issues are being examined, with contingency planning for a range of eventualities underway. A key consideration is to ensure, as far as possible, minimum disruption to health services and that essential services are maintained on a cross-border, all-island and Ireland-UK basis.
In relation to the continuity of supply of medicines in the event of a no-deal Brexit, significant work has already been undertaken by the Department of Health, the HSE, and the HPRA, together with industry, to minimise and address any risks to continuity of supply. The supply chain for medicines is complex, and shortages are an increasing feature of the global medicines landscape faced by all countries on an ongoing basis, irrespective of Brexit.
In 2018, the HPRA developed and launched a multi-stakeholder Medicine Shortages Framework to mitigate the impact of medicine shortages when they occur. This framework is used to manage and address an average of 45 shortage notifications a month. The health system is therefore well placed to anticipate and respond to any additional shortages, should they arise because of Brexit.
There are approximately 4,000 medicines marketed in Ireland, of which 60-70% come from, or transit through, the UK. The HSE and HPRA have advised that the supply of a small number of these products may be vulnerable for reasons such as their short shelf life, special storage and transportation requirements, and single supplier reliance. The HSE and HPRA are progressing contingency plans, including those involved in the supply of critical medicines, verifying contingency planning to date and, where necessary, identifying clinically appropriate alternatives to these small number of vulnerable products.
Industry, including pharmaceutical companies and wholesalers, has been engaging in extensive planning for Brexit for some time and advanced arrangements are in place to ensure continuity of supply. Both the HPRA and HSE are working closely with companies to highlight any issues regarding the availability of specific products associated with Brexit. To date, no major issues have been identified through this process.
The Department of Health, HSE and HPRA do not anticipate an immediate impact on medicine supplies should there be a no deal Brexit on 29 March. There are already additional stocks of medicines routinely built into the Irish medicine supply chain, and these additional stocks, together with planning by Revenue to allow the fast-tracking of essential drugs into Ireland, will help deal with any delays and shortages that may arise.
It is important to note that there is no need for hospitals, pharmacists or patients to order extra quantities of medicines, as doing so could disrupt existing stock levels and hamper the supply of medicines for other patients.
The Government received an update from the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross T.D., on the potential implications for east – west transport connectivity with the UK and our wider EU and international trading partners in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
The Government focussed on connectivity with the UK and on Ireland’s reliance on the UK Landbridge for some €21 billion of trade with the EU – i.e., trucks crossing from Irish ports to the UK and then into EU ports, and vice versa.
This trade is largely in time-sensitive products such as agri-food, where the shorter journey times and high frequency of sailings allow a quicker and more viable route to market than direct sailings to the continental ports.
Currently, trade between the UK and Ireland is relatively frictionless as it is all within the Single Market. With the UK potentially becoming a third country from 29 March 2019, substantial additional customs, agriculture, health controls will be required at ports and airports that involve trade with the UK. The main pinch-points are likely to emerge in Irish, UK and French ports – in particular, Dublin, Rosslare and Dover-Calais.
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the Department of Health and the Revenue Commissioners are already preparing by developing the necessary plans within Dublin and Rosslare Ports and Dublin airport to allow for these controls. The scale of the checks required will likely result in delays for goods moving through the ports but there is a focus on preventing congestion through the provision of appropriate measures.
The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport has assessed the maritime capacity for direct sailings between Ireland and continental EU ports as a potential alternative for trade that currently takes place using the Landbridge. Based on consultations with the shipping sector and wider stakeholders, the Minister’s preliminary assessment is that sufficient capacity will be available on direct routes to continental ports from end March 2019, and should demand for further capacity arise, the shipping sector can respond quickly to meet such demands. The Minister will however keep this under review and report back to Government with a further assessment before end February. The Minister will keep under review, in particular the emerging picture in relation to the degree and nature of customs and SPS controls at domestic, UK and relevant EU ports and the likely impact on traffic flows.
The Minister also raised a number of other potential risks to transport connectivity from a no-deal Brexit, and notes the temporary mitigation measures proposed by the European Commission in a no-deal scenario to ensure basic connectivity for flights between the EU and UK, as well as its proposals to facilitate the continuation of international road haulage between the EU and UK.