Speaking Points by Minister Humphreys at Brexit Sectoral Dialogue, Cavan, Monday February 6th 2017
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Deputies, Senators, Councillors, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.
Thank you for taking the time to be here today to participate in what I hope will be a very fruitful discussion on the implications of Brexit for stakeholders across the sectors served by my Department.
I know many of you have travelled long distances to be here, and I would especially like to welcome those who have travelled from Northern Ireland to contribute their perspective.
The Government understands the deep concern of communities, both North and South of the border, at the prospect of Northern Ireland being outside the EU.
This is especially true when you consider how much the EU has delivered for political stability, peace, reconciliation and economic prosperity.
I think we can all agree on the importance of ensuring that the benefits of the peace process are safeguarded and built upon for future generations, in whatever arrangements are negotiated.
As the Taoiseach has made clear, Brexit presents major challenges for Ireland, given the potential implications for Northern Ireland and North-South relations, our strong economic ties with Britain, and our common positions on so many issues at EU level.
Some commentators have suggested that the opportunities which may arise will be predominantly in the major urban centres such as Dublin and Cork, and that the negative consequences will impact disproportionately on rural communities and particularly on those in the Border areas.
It is fitting, therefore, that we should gather here in the heart of the border region to hear from those, who will be most affected by the challenges of Brexit.
Of one thing we can be sure – the UK is now on a course that will fundamentally change its relationship with the European Union.
Its implications will form the greatest economic and social challenge to be faced by the people of this island over the coming years.
The Government has been preparing for this challenge since long before the Brexit referendum took place and, following Prime Minister May’s confirmation of her intention to trigger Article 50 next month, we have been intensifying our preparations on all fronts.
One of our key objectives is to ensure that our EU partners understand the nature and scale of our unique circumstances and priorities.
The Taoiseach, my Government colleagues and I will continue to emphasise the peace process and the future of the border and the Common Travel Area in our interactions with our EU counterparts, as well as the importance of our economic and trading relations with the UK, and our concerns for the future direction of the European Union.
A key element of the Government’s preparations has been engagement with all elements of the community across the island.
The first session of the All-Island Civic Dialogue was hosted by the Taoiseach on 2nd November last.
This presented an opportunity to hear directly from people from all parts of the Island, representing a broad range of civic society groups, trade unions, business groups, non-governmental organisations and representatives from political parties.
Following the constructive discussions at the Dublin Dialogue, I decided to host my own public forum in Monaghan last November, to hear from the businesses along the border who are understandably most concerned about the impact of Brexit on their livelihoods.
Key Government Departments are now undertaking a series of sectoral dialogues such as the event here today.
It is difficult to overstate the complexity of the issues raised by Brexit and the many ways in which these impact on all sectors of our economy and society.
The Government’s approach is based on a programme of:
- Analysis and prioritisation; and
We have been very clear on our headline, which remain:
- Minimising the impact on trade and the economy
- Protecting the Northern Ireland Peace Process
- Maintaining the Common Travel Area
- Influencing the future of the European Union
The process of consultation on the broad range of policy responses that will be needed to cope with the challenges and opportunities of Brexit, and the changed EU framework which will follow it, will continue over the coming weeks and months.
Today our discussions will focus on:
- Culture & Irish Language;
- Heritage & Outdoor Recreation
- Regional SMEs
- Impact on Border Communities
- Impact on other rural communities.
Two weeks ago the Taoiseach and I launched the Action Plan for Rural Development.
The Plan will act as an overarching structure for the co-ordination and implementation of initiatives right across Government which will benefit rural Ireland.
It will also be a key support in our collective response to the challenges posed by Brexit.
Actions under the plan include supporting the creation of 135,000 new jobs in rural Ireland by 2020, investing €50m in job creation in the regions, increasing Foreign Direct Investment in regional areas by up to 40%, and assisting over 4,000 projects in rural communities to boost economic development under the LEADER programme, investing in 600 towns and villages over the next three years and providing services to people living in remote areas.
The Plan reflects the importance that we are giving to the regions and the rural communities which are the backbone of this country.
As set out in the Action Plan, my Department will be commissioning specific research on the impacts of Brexit on rural areas, particularly those in the Border regions.
Today’s discussions represent an opportunity to shape and guide the focus of that important work.
Before Christmas the Taoiseach and I also launched Creative Ireland, the Government’s ambitious five year strategy to put culture and creativity at the centre of public life.
I am very interested to hear from the members of the arts community today on how you feel the Brexit process will affect your work and your sector.
So I would like to once again thank you all for being here today, and encourage you to be honest and forthright in your views.
The Government is committed to continuing to engage with the wider community as the negotiating process on Brexit progresses.
Today’s event is just one element of a process that is still in its early days and I am confident that together we can identify a positive and proactive response to the challenges ahead of us.
I look forward to hearing your views on what we in Government can do to help you in preparing for Brexit and what you see as the key priorities for us as a Government in the negotiations that will commence later this year.
Go raibh maith agaibh.