Budget allocation of €2m for Brexit is inadequate, says FF

Ambitious plan to ‘deepen Ireland’s global footprint’ by 2025 will need more investment

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has announced that new diplomatic missions would open in Chile, Colombia, Jordan, Vancouver and Mumbai on a phased basis throughout 2018 and 2019. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has announced that new diplomatic missions would open in Chile, Colombia, Jordan, Vancouver and Mumbai on a phased basis throughout 2018 and 2019. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

The budget money allocated to the Department of Foreign Affairs to mitigate the economic impact of Brexit has been described as inadequate by Fianna Fáil.

The expenditure document produced by Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe showed €2 million had been granted as “an initial targeted response to both new and mature markets to mitigate the economic impact of the British withdrawal from the EU”.

The figure appeared in the document under the headline, “Deepening of Ireland’s global footprint”.

Fianna Fáil’s spokesman on foreign affairs and trade Darragh O’Brien said the “modest” budget allocation would do little to help meet Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s “very bold commitment to double Ireland’s global footprint by 2025”.

Mr O’Brien said he welcomed the announcement by Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney on Tuesday that new diplomatic missions would open in Chile, Colombia, Jordan, Vancouver and Mumbai on a phased basis throughout 2018 and 2019.

There will be embassies in Santiago, Chile; Bogotá, Colombia and Amman, Jordan and consulates in Vancouver, Canada and Mumbai, India.

“My concern, however, is that it is clear that significantly more investment will be required in the years ahead if the Government is to deliver on their ambitious target,” he said.

“The €2 million announced in this budget is modest, even more so when we consider the €5 million ring-fenced to fund the Government’s spin unit.”

‘Grave challenges’

Mr O’Brien said Brexit would impose “grave challenges” and it was important that Ireland moved to increase its presence across Europe.

He said the degree of capital announced on Tuesday “will simply not fund an adequate response to diplomacy overseas”.

The Government has increased its presence in key European capitals including Brussels, Berlin, Paris and London.

There is an acceptance that opportunities were lost during the economic downturn when funds to promote Ireland abroad were cut, but Mr Coveney has spoken of his department being “in expansion mode again”.

Meanwhile, a pilot programme has seen commercial attachés – locally hired specialists who work with Embassies to develop opportunities – operating in Mexico, Brazil and Argentina.

The programme is also operating in Nigeria, Nairobi, Hanoi, Jakarta and Romania.

The expenditure allocations announced on Tuesday included €3.5 million for the management of Article 50 negotiations and the negotiation of subsequent agreements.

Funding of €1.5 million was allocated to meet the increasing demands for passports and citizenship applications.

Compared to the 2017 allocation, an extra €18 million in current expenditure and an extra €2 million in capital expenditure is being allocated to the Department of Foreign Affairs, according to the document.