Wednesday, 13 March 2019
Recent Developments on Brexit: Statements
It is fair to say that the Irish public is extremely nervous when it comes to Brexit, and is probably pretty fed up of it at this stage. It has been the main topic of conversation here in recent years but we are at the point where it has become very real to people and focused minds more than at any time previously. It is an unusual set of circumstances for us whereby we do not have direct control over a political policy that will have such a significant impact on all facets of life on this island, our country, people and businesses. It is a British policy.
What we do control is our own preparedness. Fine Gael and the Government have been working on preparing for Brexit since before the British people voted for it. That preparation began once the referendum was called. We have seen in recent times how that preparedness leaves us as well placed as possible. While we continue to work with our EU partners to avoid a damaging no-deal exit - I welcome this evening's vote in Westminster - and while it is all very well and good for MPs to vote and state that there will not be a no-deal exit, until such time as they agree an alternative, that is the default position. I accept, however, that matters in this regard are a bit more difficult for Theresa May following that vote, which morally compels her not to leave the EU without a deal. It is still a fact that there needs to be an agreement on an alternative. That said, we must focus on the things we can control as opposed to those we cannot. We will continue to use our position at the heart of Europe to get the best possible outcome for our country and citizens and Europe. Hopefully, we can continue to maintain as close a relationship as possible with our friends in the UK as part of that. Individuals and businesses in Ireland also have a role to play. In that context, gov.ie/brexitis the starting point for those - particularly businesses - who have questions on this matter. This week alone, 11 events are being held in five different counties and 80 events have been run to date.
The Minister of State is aware of the concerns of those in the agricultural sector, particularly beef farmers. I have also raised the very serious concerns of our highly valuable horse racing and breeding sector with her. This sector is important to the economy of Kildare but also across the country. The tripartite agreement allows for the free movement of horses between Ireland, France and the UK without the veterinary checks that apply in respect of third countries. In a week when we cheer on Irish horses trying to beat English horses in Cheltenham, that is key because racing at Aintree takes place in the first week after the end of the March deadline with racing at Punchestown taking place soon after that. These are the elements we need to keep to the forefront, which is why I welcome the statement by Commissioner Hogan this evening that Europe has our back and the Taoiseach's comments from the US about putting citizens first and keeping all these topics to the fore in the coming weeks.