75. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if officials in his Department have briefed him on the status of Brexit negotiations and the preparations being made for March 2019. (Question 18808/18 asked on 01 May 2018)

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): In addition to my personal engagement on Brexit issues, which are a top priority for me and my Department, I have weekly meetings with my senior officials in relation to the Article 50 negotiations. We discuss both Irish specific issues as well as those on the discussion with regard to the EU’s future relationship with the UK, which are also vitally important for Ireland. I am also kept informed of the progress of domestic preparations for Brexit. As this is a fast moving process, I often discuss the negotiations with my officials between those meetings, and I am in any case kept continually briefed.

Co-ordination of the whole-of-Government response to Brexit is being taken forward through the cross-Departmental coordination structures chaired by my Department, including the Inter-Departmental Group on the EU and Brexit, which meets on a fortnightly basis.

Contingency planning for a no-deal or worst-case outcome in March 2019, bringing together the detailed work being undertaken by individual Ministers and their Departments on issues within their policy remits, is very well advanced. Its focus is on the immediate regulatory and operational challenges which would result from such an outcome. It assumes a trading relationship based on the default WTO rules, but also examines the possible effects on many other areas of concern. This work is therefore providing baseline scenarios for the impact of Brexit across all sectors, which can then be adapted as appropriate in light of developments in the EU-UK negotiations, including in regard to transition arrangements and the future relationship. It also takes account of the planning being undertaken at EU level by the new Commission Preparedness Unit, which is issuing information notes aimed at different business sectors.

Before the summer the Government will finalise a paper, building on that published in May 2017, on our approach to the negotiations and our latest assessment of the economic and sectorial challenges posed by Brexit and our responses to them.