As part of our Brexit Contingency Action Plan, the Government published today the general scheme of proposed primary legislative measures required in the event of a no deal Brexit. While ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement is still the Government’s preferred outcome, this publication is the next step in a series of measures that the Government is taking, both nationally and in conjunction with the EU, in preparation for the possibility that the UK fails to agree a deal for their departure from the European Union on 29 March.
The draft Omnibus Bill focuses on measures protecting our citizens and supporting the economy, enterprise and jobs, particularly in key economic sectors. As the timelines are tight for the necessary ratification, the Government will work very closely with all Opposition parties in the Oireachtas and all members of the Dáil and Seanad in ensuring that the necessary no deal Brexit related legislation will be in place before the 29 March.
This Bill will complement the steps currently underway at EU level to prepare for the UK’s withdrawal, notably as regards the implementation of the European Commission’s Contingency Action Plan and the associated legislative measures. The draft Omnibus Bill may need to be adjusted in light of ongoing developments.
The Government, as well as the EU and the UK, have consistently made clear that protecting citizens is a priority.
This proposed legislation makes provision for continued access to healthcare, social security protection, student support and protection of consumers.
Protecting and maintaining the Common Travel Area and the associated rights and privileges is a key part of our contingency planning and preparations. This is vital in the context of the Good Friday Agreement and the Northern Ireland Peace Process, as well as broader UK-Ireland relations. Both the Irish and British Governments are committed to maintaining the Common Travel Area in all circumstances, and have committed to undertaking all the work necessary, including through legislative provision to ensure that the Common Travel Area rights and privileges are protected.
Consistent with our commitment to provide for the rights and privileges of the Common Travel Area, the proposed legislation would allow the Minister for Health and the HSE, as appropriate, to cover cost of healthcare provided in the UK under the same conditions as currently e.g. where treatments are not provided under our own healthcare system or for an Irish person who becomes ill while on a visit to the UK and needs immediate health care there.
It also makes provision for eligibility for healthcare in Ireland for a range of different cases including people living in Ireland and working across the border or elsewhere in the UK and for UK residents on a temporary visit here or UK students studying here.
Currently student support SUSI grants are paid to eligible students who are studying elsewhere in the EU. Consistent with our commitment to provide for the rights and privileges of the Common Travel Area, the purpose of this legislation is to make sure that, even after the UK leaves the EU, these arrangements can continue to apply to eligible Irish students studying in the UK, as well as the payment of SUSI grants to UK students in Irish higher education institutions.
- Social Protection
Consistent with our commitment to provide for the rights and privileges of the Common Travel Area, this legislation focuses on allowing arrangements facilitated through the Common Travel Area to continue in a no deal scenario. It provides for the continued payment of 21 social protection benefits, including payments such as old age pensions, illness benefits and child benefit. Workers whose UK-based employer becomes insolvent will also be protected under this legislation.
- Consumer Protection
The main focus here is on financial services where the primary responsibility for contingency preparations is with individual firms. Most have made the necessary preparations but to minimise the risk, the aim of this legislation is to ensure that there is an adequate degree of consumer protection in place for consumers who have already bought financial service products before the date of Brexit. Time-bound measures are proposed to allow run-off of current contracts.
Key economic sectors
As part of the Government’s sector specific plans which identified major challenges associated with a no deal Brexit, the following legislative measures are now proposed for the following areas:
The proposed legislation provides a statutory basis for cross border rail services (the Dublin-Belfast Enterprise) and bus services, in order to ensure continued service provision for passengers and commuters on the island of Ireland. The draft Omnibus Bill contains powers for the National Transport Authority to regulate aspects of bus and coach travel. The Railway Safety Act 2005 will also be amended to address the situation where bus and rail operators from Northern Ireland will no longer be operating within the EU.
The proposals are designed to allow for the continued operation of the all-island Single Electricity Market in the context of a no deal Brexit, pending longer term provisions in this area. Specifically they will ensure that the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities has the necessary powers to make changes to licence conditions of participants in the Single Electricity Market to facilitate Ireland meeting its obligations under the EU energy acquis.
The proposed measures to adjust Income Tax, Capital Tax, Corporation Tax and Stamp Duty legislation seek to ensure continuity for business and citizens in relation to their current access to certain taxation measures. This includes reliefs and allowances as well as the retention of a number of anti-avoidance provisions in the event that the UK is no longer a member of the EU/EEA.
Supports to Business
Further progressing the ongoing supports that the Government has been providing to a range of business sectors, the following legislative measures are now proposed:
- These provisions will give additional enabling power to Enterprise Ireland to further support businesses through investment, loans and RD&I grants so as to assist Irish businesses in remaining competitive and resilient in a no deal Brexit context.
Justice and Security
Parts 14-17 of the draft Omnibus Bill deal with a number of issues including measures to ensure that effective extradition arrangements are maintained between Ireland and the UK and to facilitate ongoing immigration cooperation arrangements when the UK leaves the EU, including in areas which support the Common Travel Area.
Preparing for the Withdrawal Agreement
One element of the proposed legislation relates to an amendment required in the case of ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement and in that case would also need to be in place for 29 March 2019. It proposes an amendment of the definition of the term ‘Member State’ as set out in the Interpretation Act 2005 to address the position of the UK during the transition period.