Seanad debates

Monday, 29 March 2021

Matters Arising from the Withdrawal of the UK from the EU: Statements


10:30 am

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I welcome the Minister to the House and wish him well in his job. He has had very difficult work to do over the last number of years and when dealing with Brexit over the last four years. I certainly never thought there would be a pandemic thrown in on top as well. The Minister is to be congratulated. I also join with him in congratulating the Revenue Commissioners, the shipping companies and all the transport agencies throughout the country for keeping this country going and keeping trade going under very difficult circumstances with Brexit, and with the pandemic thrown in as well. They have done a marvellous job. When I was on the finance committee we had the Revenue Commissioners in over quite a number of meetings and they told us all the details of what they had to go through and the changes that would be made due to Brexit going forward. They have worked tremendously hard over the last number of years in that regard and they have to be congratulated.

Like previous speakers, I raise the issue of the price of bread. There was a time when nearly every county in Ireland had a company milling wheat for the production of bread. Now, there is no milling at all in the country. This is an opportunity to bring back the milling industry but it will require some initiative. There should be cross-party and intergovernmental support and Departments should work together to do this. Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland should take more risks in providing industries and helping industries like this to rise to the challenge, because it will be a challenge to bring that back. As Senator Conway said, this will take time. We need to have some type of milling here in this country and there is an opportunity.

We have a common travel area with the UK, including Northern Ireland. Previously, anybody who came into the UK from outside the EU could come to Ireland as well if they had a visa. What is the position now as regards those people who are coming into the UK from outside the EU? Can they come into Northern Ireland and then southern Ireland with just the visa they have to come to the UK? I would like some clarification on that. They might be coming here for work or holidays or they might want to stay for a while.

Regarding the cable from Killala to New York, I understand that the NTMA had quite a big shareholding in that, which it has sold in the last number of days. This is a retrograde step. The State would have had a stake in that cable, which is a vital piece of infrastructure for this country, particularly now that the UK is gone out of Europe. I ask the Minister to investigate the situation because it is a vital piece of infrastructure from Ireland to New York.

Senator Ahearn alluded to the €1.2 billion we were getting from Europe's Brexit fund. I understand that the French are trying to renegotiate that and that we could lose anywhere between €300 million and €400 million of it. We were to get €1.2 billion out of over €5 billion. I ask the Minister to confirm whether that is true. If it is, what countries will benefit from that extra €300 million or €400 million, which would be our great loss? I also ask him to outline what areas might get that money. Would agriculture, fisheries, industries or tourism benefit from the €1.2 billion? As Senator Ahearn said, small businesses are in dire straits. Some of them will never open again.Any assistance that they could get would be greatly appreciated. The reduction of €300 million or €400 million from the €1.2 billion fund is sizeable. I hope it is speculation rather than the truth. I would like to know the areas that will suffer in that regard because it is a considerable sum that the State would miss out on.


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