24 hours set aside to discuss emergency Brexit legislation this week

By Elaine Loughlin
Political Correspondent

Politicians are to spend almost 24 hours discussing emergency legislation for a no-deal Brexit this week.

As the Government intensifies work to deal with a hard Brexit, private veterinary practices are being asked to apply for posts at ports and airports where inspections will be significantly increased if Britain crashes out of the EU.

The omnibus legislation published by the Government last Friday is to come before the Dáil tomorrow evening where just over five-and-a-half hours have been set aside for debate.

Large blocks of time have also been made available on Wednesday and Thursday and the Dáil will sit past 11pm every day to get through the massive Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union Bill.

The Bill, which aims to mitigate as much damage as possible from a no-deal Brexit, takes in nine Departments from health, to business, to education and agriculture and it is expected it will take a number of weeks and considerable Oireachtas time to pass.

The Government is under a tight timeframe and hope to have the Brexit Bill through committee, report and final stage in the Dáil by the week of March 4.

The emergency measures will then be sent to the Seanad for scrutiny.

Areas covered under the emergency legislation include facilitating continued access to cross-border health services, securing the all-island electricity market, providing special supports to vulnerable businesses, keeping buses and rail services running across the border and enabling the ongoing availability of grants and insurance products.

Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture will need to use private vets at border inspection posts and have invited practices to register as part of the Department’s Brexit contingency planning.

While the Department will be able to redeploy some staff, extra vets will be needed at Dublin and Rosslare port in the case of a hard Brexit and depending on evolving import and export patterns, there may be potential for engagement at further border inspection posts in the future, for example at Shannon or elsewhere.

"Everyone in Government and beyond would wish that no-deal Brexit plans and contingencies remain on the shelf. It is appropriate however that solutions are put in place that can address all potential contingencies," the Department said.

As the Brexit clock ticks down to the March deadline, the Government has also launched customs training workshops across the country.

Speaking at the first workshop which took place in Cootehill, Co Cavan, Business Minister Heather Humphreys said: "While there is still a lot of uncertainty around what will happen next month, the skills and mentoring provided by these workshops will stand to firms long into the future.

As a small island, importing and exporting are key for our companies, and we will ensure that they have the supports they need to continue doing this from the end of March and beyond.

The workshop was attended by 25 business people from around the region who may be directly affected by Brexit and included those involved in manufacturing, food, logistics and service companies, all of whom will need to deal with customs on import and export of goods or materials after the March 29 if the UK leaves the Customs Union and Single Market.

The next customs training workshop will take place on the March 8 in Cork, followed by events in Dublin and Portlaoise.