Bill published detailing Irish preparations for no-deal Brexit
Legislation covers issues ranging from social welfare to immigration controls
A ‘No Border, No Brexit’ sticker on a road sign in front of the peace statue entitled ‘Hands Across the Divide’ in Derry. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters
The Government has published the general scheme of the bumper piece of legislation that will be needed to prepare Ireland for the consequences of the UK crashing out of the European Union without a deal at the end of March.
It covers areas such as the single electricity market, education supports, taxation, financial services, transport safety and regulation, amendments to EU regulations, social welfare provisions, as well as the areas of extradition and immigration.
It encompasses legislation from the Departments of Health, Transport, Finance, Social Protection, Business, Communications, the Taoiseach and Justice.
The General Scheme of the Miscellaneous Provisions (Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union on 29 March 2019) Omnibus Bill has 17 parts which are focused on the broad theme of protecting the citizen, and supporting the economy, enterprise and jobs.
While a Government statement said the ratification of the Brexit withdrawal agreement was still its “preferred outcome”, it added: “This publication is the next step in a series of measures that the Government is taking, both nationally and in conjunction with the EU, in preparation for the possibility that the UK fails to agree a deal for their departure from the European Union on 29 March.”
On healthcare, the legislation allows the Minister for Health and the HSE “to cover cost of healthcare provided in the UK under the same conditions as currently”.
An example is “where treatments are not provided under our own healthcare system or for an Irish person who becomes ill while on a visit to the UK and needs immediate healthcare there”.
Student grants are currently paid to eligible students who are studying across the EU.
“Consistent with our commitment to provide for the rights and privileges of the Common Travel Area, the purpose of this legislation is to make sure that, even after the UK leaves the EU, these arrangements can continue to apply to eligible Irish students studying in the UK, as well as the payment of Susi grants to UK students in Irish higher education institutions,” the Department of Foreign Affairs statement says.
Common Travel Area
Protecting the Common Travel Area between the UK and Ireland, with its associated rights and privileges, is also described as a “key part” of the State’s contingency planning.
“Both the Irish and British Governments are committed to maintaining the Common Travel Area in all circumstances, and have committed to undertaking all the work necessary, including through legislative provision to ensure that the Common Travel Area rights and privileges are protected,” the statement says.
“This co-operation brings tangible benefits to the daily lives of people in the Border region and contributes to economic opportunity and development,” the introduction states.
“It is also a very practical outworking of the peace process which allows for the normalisation of relationships between people across the island, to mutual benefit.”
The legislation outlines how 21 social welfare benefits – such as pensions and illness benefits – will continue to be paid to Irish and UK citizens living in each other’s country under a no-deal scenario.
Consumer protection measures to ensure there is an “adequate degree of consumer protection” for those who purchased financial services products before Brexit day are also included.
In the transport sector, the legislation provides a statutory basis for cross-border rail and bus travel. The continued operation of the all-Ireland single electricity market in the case of a no-deal Brexit is also catered for.
Taxes – such as income tax, capital gains tax, corporation tax and stamp duty – will also be adjusted where needed “to ensure continuity for business and citizens in relation to their current access to certain taxation measures”.
“This includes reliefs and allowances as well as the retention of a number of anti-avoidance provisions in the event that the UK is no longer a member of the EU/EEA.”
Business supports are also included, such as giving “additional enabling power to Enterprise Ireland to further support businesses through investment, loans and RD&I grants so as to assist Irish businesses in remaining competitive and resilient in a no-deal Brexit context”.
Appropriate measures will also be taken to ensure that “effective extradition arrangements are maintained between Ireland and the UK” as well as ongoing co-operation on immigration.
The Government says in the introduction to the 95-page Bill that any kind of Brexit will mean change and “managing a no-deal Brexit would particularly be an exercise in damage limitation”.
“It would be impossible in a no-deal scenario to maintain the current seamless arrangements between the EU and UK across a full range of sectors, which is currently facilitated by our common EU membership,” the introduction says.
The single omnibus Bill comprises 17 parts prepared by nine Ministers. The proposed legislation may be updated or adjusted further, the Government says, “in light of ongoing developments, including in respect of EU legislative measures currently under consideration” and any additional measures taken collectively by EU member states.
The Government says that it intends to work closely with all Opposition parties and Oireachtas members to seek their co-operation to ensure the necessary Brexit-related legislation passes “in a timely manner”.
The chief whip will work with the Dáil business committee to agree the best approach “for progressing this unprecedented omnibus Bill which ranges across so many sectors,” the introduction says.