QUESTION ON PROMISED LEGISLATION
RE: CUSTOMS AND BORDER POLICING AND CUSTOMS READINESS
27/03/2019 – 13:00
Deputy Declan Breathnach: Under the programme for Government regarding effective policing, while recognising the emergency response unit has been deployed both to Dundalk and to Cavan and the ongoing issues in terms of An Garda Síochána responding to policing of the Border counties, be it due to the threat of dissidents, smuggling, organised crime or road policing, the Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, this week said that zero work has been done around the implementation of a hard border. While I respect that is the Government’s agenda and that it is in line with Government policy, Commissioner Harris went on to say he envisages increased demand to counter the impact of economic crime leading to further leakage of duties to the Exchequer. What are the Taoiseach’s plans to ensure the issue of loss of revenue, regardless of a deal, no deal or no hard border, is dealt with?
The Taoiseach: That is a roundabout way of asking a question that I get asked almost every day at the moment. That is really going to depend on what happens in the next few weeks, whether we have a deal, and if we do not have a deal, what shape that takes. We are increasing the size of the Garda force, which is now more than 14,000. Civilians are being brought in to free up Gardaí, and we are taking and have taken on more Revenue staff and more customs inspectors. We have the additional staff we may need in certain circumstances.
I notice it has become part of the commentary in London at the moment that I, as Taoiseach, have somehow said that special arrangements would solve all our problems and that all of these concerns about a hard border and the need for a backstop do not matter because the Taoiseach has talked about there being special arrangements. Let there be no doubt in this House or in Westminster that when I talk about special arrangements, I mean treating Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the United Kingdom, and it is the UK Government’s proposal to do exactly that, not in four of five years if the backstop ever has to be implemented but in a few weeks in the event of no deal.