Thursday, 17 December 2020
Brexit Readiness for the End of the Transition Period: Statements
I add my voice to what Deputy Gould has said. I wish all Members and Oireachtas staff a happy Christmas. I thank the Minister, Deputy Coveney, the Minister of State, Deputy Byrne, and the officials in the Department for the work they have done. There have been significant difficulties and they have always made themselves available to this House.
Regarding what the Minister said about how we cannot mitigate every problem related to Brexit and that there will be significant difficulties rather than just hiccups, I welcome that we have preparations in place. We accept that when problems occur, from a governmental point of view, the entire resources of the State, in conjunction with the European Union, will focus on dealing with those problems. We are in the middle of what we hope is a narrow path that will bring us to a deal. My fear is that this may be a skinny deal which will lead to further negotiation after negotiation and leave a degree of uncertainty. It was said to me that if Boris Johnson and the British Government are considering doing a deal, the only way they will be able to sell the deal at home politically is to leave it to the last minute. If the British Government is considering not doing a deal, it has to go right to the wire too. We have had deadline after deadline and we are back in this place. Logic would dictate that Britain, with 45% of its exports going to the European Union, needs a deal, and that it would be catastrophic for it to have a no-deal Brexit. I agree with Deputy Kenny that if a deal does not happen within the timeframe we would like, which is straightaway, there will have to be a deal in the near future, out of necessity.
In the last while, we have had certain difficulties thrown at us. We accept that significant work has been done on Brexit by many stakeholders to ensure we can bridge the gaps. We have worries about fisheries and farmers. We welcome the financial supports that are being talked about. There are still worries about the prospect that the French, and President Macron, might take a grab at the Brexit adjustment fund of €5 billion. We accept that this is a fund for the whole of Europe, but nowhere in the European Union will be impacted more by Brexit than Ireland. We had no hand, act or part in Brexit.
We have spoken about the difficulty with the land bridge. We welcome the new direct ferries to the Continent. I accept that there are difficulties in that some of these services take a long time and we have just-in-time deliveries. I listened to Liam Lacey of the Irish Maritime Development Office speak to the Joint Committee on European Union Affairs. He was a bit more relaxed than I would have liked and basically stated that the market would sort out any problems. Appearing before the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications Networks, Eugene Drennan of the Irish Road Haulage Association explicitly stated that there are still significant problems anticipated not only in Britain, but also here, for hauliers at the ports. There are difficulties with regard to ferries arriving at the same time to deliver goods for businesses. This State still has a requirement to call together all those stakeholders, including ferry companies, port companies, hauliers and those who represent the businesses that require goods to be moved. We also have to look at using air transport more for cargo. We need to do this as quickly as possible.
We welcome that Britain has put to one side the Internal Market Bill, which undermines the Irish protocol, but we are still apprehensive. It is fair to say that Brexit will not be good for us. As this is my final time speaking before the recess, I will reiterate, in case anyone has not noticed me saying it previously, that a united Ireland is a solution that would mitigate some of the problems.