Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Brexit Lisa Chambers says while she welcomes the fact that the government is finally acknowledging the need to prepare for Brexit and is at last putting plans in place she is questioning why this information could not have been shared with the Dáil last week.
Deputy Chambers commented, “Yesterday the government announced that it plans on hiring 700 additional customs officials to be deployed at ports and airports, and 300 additional veterinary inspectors to carry out checks on agricultural produce and animals travelling between Ireland and the UK after Brexit.
“While I welcome the fact that it is preparing for Brexit, it is surprising that the government could not supply this information to me last week. Fianna Fáil has been asking these questions for months now, and only last week I put a number of questions to the Minister for Finance on this very issue. Minister Donohoe informed me that given the uncertainty that exists with the ongoing Article 50 negotiations and the future customs arrangements that may apply, it is too early to be definitive on the potential resources that may be required.
“I would therefore like to know when and how the figure of 1,000 additional staff was arrived at.
“It is essential that the government is more transparent in its preparations for Brexit. Businesses, SMEs and the public in general need greater clarity. The Taoiseach has said that the EU has assured him that there will be no need for physical checks at the Border, even in the event that the UK exits without a deal. While this is welcome, it is second hand information and we need to hear directly from Michel Barnier and the EU Commission and get guarantees that there is a unanimous backing of this position from the EU Council.
“We simply cannot rely on the word of the Taoiseach who still has not explained how that will work in terms of dealing with Britain who will be a third country if they are operating under WTO rules.
“Will Northern Ireland be afforded a special status? Will the additional customs officers only be deployed at ports and airports? These are the questions we need answers to.
“My colleague Niall Collins has written to the Clerk of the Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee requesting that the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney be invited to appear before the Committee to discuss the government’s preparations for Brexit. Given that March 2019 is less than a year away, it is imperative that the government provides answers on the approach and preparations going forward”.