Today in Dáil Éireann, during Priority Oral Questions with the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Deputy Tommy Broughan called on the Minister to ensure that Irish jobs are protected, promoted and preserved throughout Brexit preparations and negotiations. While Budget 2017 provided for a 10% increase in capital expenditure for the Department of Jobs and a target to create an additional 40,000-45,000 jobs in 2017 against the most uncertain economic environment in recent years with Brexit, Deputy Broughan questioned whether the extra 50 posts in the Department and its agencies will be sufficient and whether additional funding should be provided to IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, InterTradeIreland to assist them in their mammoth tasks ahead.
Brexit represents one of the biggest challenges to the State since 1922. As I said in the first debate we had in the House just after the vote in the UK, there should be a Minister for Brexit here. Fianna Fáil has now taken a similar position. The issue is so important and critical to our future that we should adopt that position. The Minister has allocated certain moneys in the budget to address Brexit, including the farmers’ loan and the continuation of the 9% VAT rate, which is very expensive. Tourism from the UK is already down 12% in recent months. However, the actual figure the Minister has allocated for Brexit per se is very small. How does the Minister interact with the Taoiseach’s committee and what kind of funding will be needed in the next few years?
Today, in his speech in Dáil Éireann, Deputy Broughan called for significant reform of European Union (EU) institutions following the shock result of the UK referendum to leave the EU. Deputy Broughan hoped for, and expected, the Remain side to win the referendum but by a small margin. He had hoped that this would serve as a wake-up call to EU governing bodies leading to reform. Now that a ‘divorce’ is certain, Deputy Broughan is urging all sides to proceed cautiously to ensure the best outcome for all involved while also introducing serious changes required to address the accountability and transparency issues with EU institutions.
I am grateful for the opportunity to make a brief contribution to the discussion on the summer economic programme. Unfortunately, it is another prime example of Government spin and window-dressing, without placing any real emphasis on the major challenges facing our country, which has been deprived of significant capital investment for the majority of the past decade. There is no attempt in the statement to address the decline in living standards and suffering of much of our population, to which previous speakers alluded.
Today, during Statements in Dáil Éireann on UK/EU Relations, Deputy Broughan stated that while he is hopeful that the UK electorate choose to remain as part of the EU in their referendum on June 23rd, he also welcomes the opportunity for discussions on overall EU reform. It is widely believed that a ‘Brexit’ will have a detrimental impact on Ireland’s economy as a large proportion of our service and merchandise exports are to the UK (at 18% and 15% respectively), we have very high numbers of migratory flows between the two countries and over 90% of our imported energy products were from the UK in 2014 (totalling €6.5billion and equating to 3.6% of GDP). However, discussions around the UK’s membership of the EU has brought an opportunity for serious debate around reforms needed to increase the accountability of Europe and the role of MEPs in their own national parliaments.
I thank the Chair for giving me the opportunity to briefly discuss the Brexit issue. A Brexit would not be in our national interest and there are so many areas where it would make our economic and political future much more difficult than it might be otherwise. However, the debate in the UK is valuable and the British people must be commended on their courage in considering all aspects of the European Union at this time. If they decide to vote for a Brexit, it would bring fundamental change, but it is valuable at least to have the general debate on how Europe operates and particularly the accountability and transparency of European institutions.
Throughout the 31st Dáil, and in the last 12 months especially, Deputy Broughan has highlighted a wide range of issues and challenges facing Ireland on the international stage. Tommy has attempted to clarify Ireland’s position on a number of key issues and has tried to impress upon the Minister, the importance and urgency of some of the challenges facing Ireland today, in an increasingly globalised world.