13. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the status of his Department’s preparations for Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20213/18 asked on 10 May 2018)
Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): The outcome of the vote of 23 June 2016 in the UK will have implications across all aspects of the business of the European Union. While the vote does not give rise to fundamental strategic issues for Defence Forces operations or for Ireland’s continuing engagement within the EU in the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), it is expected that Brexit will have an impact on future developments in the Defence sphere.
Structures have been put in place in the Department of Defence to address the potential challenges arising from Brexit including the assignment of responsibility to a senior official at Assistant Secretary General level in relation to Brexit related matters. The senior official is leading the Department’s input to deliberations within the framework established across Government and is supported in their role by a number of branches in the Department. The senior official represents the Department on the Interdepartmental Group on EU-UK Affairs which is chaired by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and is engaged with the identification of key strategic, operational and policy issues arising from Brexit. In addition, the Management Board is acting as a clearing house for Brexit and maintains oversight on an ongoing basis.
In respect of the border, the potential implications in this regard will emerge during the course of the negotiations. It is this Government’s stated goal to try to ensure that the current on-island border arrangements are maintained to the greatest extent possible. Responsibility for the security aspect of border control rests with An Garda Síochána, while the Revenue Commissioners also have responsibilities relating to their particular mandate. Among the roles assigned to the Defence Forces in the White Paper on Defence is the provision of Aid to the Civil Power which, in practice, means to provide support to An Garda Síochána when requested to do so. The Defence Forces also provide support to the Revenue Commissioners on request. The Defence Forces at all times keep operational plans under constant review and there will continue to be ongoing close liaison between An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces regarding security matters, including through regular coordination and liaison meetings.
My Department, together with the Naval Service and the Air Corps are working closely with the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), who are the competent authority on this matter, in relation to Brexit. Ongoing liaison with the European Fisheries Control Agency and with other Member States, will continue as appropriate.
In addition, the Government Task Force (GTF) on Emergency Planning has been briefed on potential emergency planning implications/issues that may arise from Brexit. The GTF will continue to monitor any future impacts on emergency planning that may arise as the Brexit negotiations unfold.
The Government is under no illusions about the complexity of these negotiations. In that regard, I wish to reassure the Deputy that my Department is monitoring the ongoing situation to ensure that my Department and the Defence Forces are fully prepared to address any potential issues arising in the defence area on foot of Brexit.