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Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney says businesses need to prepare. Leah Farrell via

'This is not a drill': Big national effort needed in the next three months to prepare for Brexit

The action plan outlines the vital preparations that businesses should be taking in advance of 31 December.

LAST UPDATE | 9 Sep 2020

THE GOVERNMENT HAS today approved its 2020 Brexit Readiness Action Plan, as it says there is still time for business to prepare, but that they do need to do so. 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, Minister Eamon Ryan and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney launched the plan today. 

The government announced additional measures to help businesses prepare for Brexit. 

Enterprise Ireland will shortly launch a new “Ready for Customs” grant through which businesses can claim grants of up to €9,000 per eligible employee hired, or redeployed within the business, to a dedicated customs role.

Free custom training online and and custom insight courses are also on offer from Enterprise Ireland.

“This is not a drill,” said the Tánaiste, who said Brexit will happen whether a trade agreement is signed off on or not.

Coveney said preparations for Brexit “are in good shape”, but added that a “big national effort” is needed now by businesses.

Revenue will be writing to tens of thousands of businesses in the coming days to remind them to get their affairs in order. “Do not ignore that letter,” said Coveney.

The action plan outlines the vital preparations that businesses should be taking now in advance of 31 December 2020, when the transition period ends. 

A statement issued by the Department of the Taoiseach today said that regardless of the outcome of the ongoing negotiations between the EU and the UK, “the end of the transition period will bring substantial and lasting change”. 

“The UK’s departure from the Single Market and Customs Union has profound and immediate implications for every business that moves goods to, from or through Great Britain,” it said. 

The statement said business “must take steps now to understand what these changes are and assess their impact”. 

Irish businesses trading with Great Britain or using the UK land bridge are being asked to “intensify” their preparations for 1 January 2021. 

“In the worst case scenario, the nw rules will prevent them from trading with Great Britain or could lead to significant delays in moving goods,” the statement said. 

We recognise that preparing for these changes is extremely challenging for many businesses already severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, and will try to support them as much as possible over the coming months. 

“Above all, we will face the challenge of the end of the transition period as an EU Member State, with the support, solidarity and strength this brings.”

Brexit deal change

The publication of the Irish government’s action plan comes as the UK government sets to introduce the Internal Market Bill later today, which aims to ensure goods from Northern Ireland continue to have unfettered access to the UK market while making clear EU state aid rules – which will continue to apply in Northern Ireland – will not apply in the rest of the UK.

Concerns have been raised that key parts of the Withdrawal Agreement, which sealed the UK’s departure from the EU in January, will be overridden by the legislation.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis yesterday told MPs that he expects the UK would “break international law” with its proposals to change how a key agreement with the EU operates.

Lewis said it would be in a “very specific and limited way”, adding there are “clear precedents” for the UK and other countries which need to consider their international obligations as circumstances change. 

Yesterday evening, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said his concerns about reports of UK plans to override elements of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement have been “exacerbated” after hearing comments from the House of Commons.

Coveney said in the Dáil: “If those comments represent the considered view of the British government, then I find them gravely concerning.

“While we still await publication of the legislation, earlier this week we raised the media reports and briefings on this issue with the UK through diplomatic and official channels to express our concerns.

“However, rather than being reassured, my concerns have been exacerbated by additional comments deliberately made in the House of Commons today – openly committing the UK government to legislate to break international law in relation to the Withdrawal Agreement.”

Coveney said that “progress of the future partnership is inextricably linked to the full implementation of the withdrawal agreement”. 

“Any unilateral departure from the terms of the withdrawal agreement would be a matter of considerable concern, and a very serious step.

Such a departure could seriously erode and damage political trust, not only in the Brexit negotiations, but also within Northern Ireland, at a time of real sensitivity.

“Northern Ireland does not need this further uncertainty in relation to Brexit.” 

Coveney added that “it is surely not too much to ask” that the UK government implement legislation “in full respect of its international obligations”. 

With reporting by Orla Dwyer, Christina Finn and Press Association 

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