The Department of Agriculture has confirmed that it will be the new year before more vets are recruited to deal with the customs and veterinary issues that could arise in the wake of Brexit.
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar gave a commitment in July this year that up to 1,000 additional customs officials and vets would be recruited by 2021 to handle any fallout from Brexit.
We will continue to prepare for a no-deal [Brexit]
It was understood that up to 300 vets would be recruited as part of the 1,000 positions outlined by An Taoiseach.
While he admitted at the time that that it would not be “possible to have 1,000 people in place” in the event of a hard Brexit scenario by March 2019, he said that “we will make contingency arrangements in the event that might arise”.
No hard border
However, with the confirmation that a veterinary recruitment drive has yet to commence, there may be concerns that the Department is underprepared to cope with any implications from Brexit.
The Department stated that it was working under the so-called “central base” scenario.
“This envisages no hard border on the island of Ireland, a transition period to the end of 2020 and an EU-UK Free Trade Agreement from 1 January 2021, in accordance with stated UK commitments and red lines,” the Department stated.
“DAFM has sanction to commence recruitment of an additional compliment of staff in 2019 across a number of grades and disciplines, including the veterinary sphere.
“Provision has been made in this regard in the 2019 budget.”
Given that just roughly 80 vets qualify from UCD every year, it's also unclear where the additional 300 vets would be recruited from.
While the current draft arrangement for Brexit outlines a transition period, it has yet to be agreed upon by the European Council.
The most worrying area of Brexit from an Irish perspective is trade practicalities between the north and south of Ireland.
In a statement, the European Commission outlined that the draft text “means that Northern Ireland will remain aligned to a limited set of EU rules that are indispensable for avoiding a hard border.”
These include:Sanitary rules for veterinary controls ("SPS rules").Rules on agricultural production/marketing.
However, the British prime minister has not ruled out the possibility of a hard Brexit scenario and told the House of Commons on Thursday 15 November that, “we will continue to prepare for a no-deal [Brexit].”
Negotiations on a Brexit deal are still at a delicate stage in the UK, with both the Brexit secretary Dominic Raab and the Work and Pension Secretary Esther McVey resigning this morning after draft proposals were published yesterday.
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