Government ‘sleepwalking’ towards Brexit ‘disaster’ with vet recruitment

The Government is “sleepwalking” into a major disaster relating to Brexit, according to Fianna Fail spokesperson for agriculture Charlie McConalogue.

The Donegal TD made the comments after the Government confirmed that it does not know how many additional veterinary and controls officials will be operational after March 29 when the UK leaves the EU.

Deputy McConalogue was speaking following comments from Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed, who said that he couldn’t confirm how many of the additional 116 veterinary inspectors to be recruited in the event of a hard border would be recruited and in place by March 29.

This was downsized last month from the original 300 roles announced by the Taoiseach, the deputy added.

“The lack of Brexit preparedness by Minister Creed for Ireland’s most exposed sector will worry rural communities that are dependent on cross-border agri-trade.

“The impact on Irish agriculture arising from a doomsday-type hard Brexit cannot be overstated – yet Minister Creed simply has no plans in place,” the TD said.

“Minister Creed has now confirmed to me in writing that ‘the precise number of staff across the various work streams that will be in place by 29 March, 2019, is not yet known’.

“This is an astonishing acceptance and smacks of poor contingency planning for the agri-food sector,” the spokesman said.

“The question must be asked why the minister cannot provide the same data. More worryingly, the minister confirmed that the first intake of new inspectors will only begin in early 2019 – less than 10 weeks out from a potential hard Brexit.

Additionally, it is disturbing that both the Department of Agriculture and Office of Public Works have confirmed that no expenditure has been spent to date on upgrading infrastructure at Dublin and Rosslare ports in order to prepare for the possibility of the UK becoming a third country.

“This will require additional export certification and SPS controls.

“Minister Creed must come before the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee and explain the current state of preparedness,” deputy McConalogue concluded.