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.
Link to General Scheme of the Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2019
Notes for Editors:
A no deal Brexit would mean that the UK, in addition to being outside the Single Market and Customs Union, would no longer be part of the framework of EU law, becoming a ‘third country’. A number of proposed measures are focused on the need to address this legal change in the UK’s status.
The Bill is focused on those areas that need to be addressed urgently and immediately through primary legislation. Many other issues can and are being addressed through policy and economic responses, on an administrative basis and through targeted Brexit related resources. Ireland’s Contingency Action Plan, published on 19 December, sets out the areas in which Ireland is taking action, including as part of a co-ordinated response at EU level, to mitigate the risks associated with a no deal Brexit.
The General Scheme being published today focuses on those areas that need to be addressed urgently and immediately through legislation. It is a single Omnibus Bill, known officially as the Miscellaneous Provisions (Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union on 29 March 2019) Bill, and is made up of 17 Parts prepared by 9 Ministers.
A number of measures across the General Scheme, in particular in the areas of Healthcare, Transport, Education and Energy will support North-South cooperation arrangements. This cooperation brings tangible benefits to the daily lives of people in the border region and contributes to economic opportunity and development. It is also a very practical outworking of the peace process which allows for the normalisation of relationships between people across the island, to mutual benefit.
Table 1: Summary of Parts of Bill
|Part 1|| ||Preliminary and General|
|Short title of the Bill and note in relation to commencement provisions.|
|Part 2||Health||Health Arrangements Bill||Enable necessary healthcare arrangements to be maintained between Ireland and the UK in a no deal Brexit.|
|Part 3||Business, Enterprise and Innovation||Industrial Development (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill – amending Industrial Development Acts, 1986/1995/1998||Provide EI with further powers to support companies involved in R&D and to permit EI to lend, participate in certain types of follow-on investments and ensure they apply for Government approval for individual investment amounts or loans in excess of €7.5 million.|
|Part 4||Communications, Climate Action and Environment||To amend Section 8A of the ERA (Single Electricity Market Committee)||Power to modify licence conditions concerning the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities, to facilitate the operation of the Single Electricity Market in the context of Brexit.|
|Part 5||Education and Skills||Amendment to Student Support Act 2011|
|Minister for Education can effect SUSI payments to (a) Irish students in the UK, and (b) UK students in Ireland.|
|Part 6||Finance||Taxation||Technical changes to legislation in areas of direct taxation, indirect taxation.|
|Part 7||Finance||Financial Services: Settlement Finality (Third Country) Bill ||To ensure continued access to central securities depository (CSD). |
|Part 8||Finance||Amendments to EU (Insurance and Reinsurance ) Regulations 2015, and the European Union (Insurance Distribution) Regulations 2018||To ensure contract continuity for current insurance policyholders.|
|Part 9-10||Transport, Tourism and Sport||(i) Railway Safety (Amendment) Bill (one Head) and (ii) Public Transport Regulation Amendment Bill||To ensure national law provision that recognises international rail services and operation of bus/coach services |
|Part 11||Employment Affairs and Social Protection||Amendment to the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 2005 (as amended)||To provide for social protection measures including ongoing payments in a no deal scenario.|
|Part 12||Employment Affairs and Social Protection||Amendment of Protection of Employees (Employers’ Insolvency) Act 1984 (as amended)||To protect outstanding wage related entitlements owed to employees in the event of the insolvency of their UK based employer.|
|Part 13||Taoiseach||Amendment to the Interpretation Act 2005||To include the UK in the definition of a Member State during the transition period set down in the Withdrawal Agreement.|
|Part 14||Justice and Equality||Amendments to the Extradition Act 1965 to apply the provisions of the 1957 Council of Europe Convention on Extradition||Provide for an amendment to section 14 (Irish citizens) of the Extradition Act 1965 to enable extradition of Irish citizens to the UK and to provide for electronic transmission of documents.|
|Part 15||Justice and Equality||Amendments to the Immigration Acts 1999 and 2003||To give legislative effect to the positive application of consideration of refoulement.|
|Part 16||Justice and Equality||Amendments to the Data Protection Act 2018||General Scheme of Immigration and International Protection provisions required in the event of a no-deal Brexit.|
|Part 17||Justice and Equality||Exchange of immigration data with the UK||Providing for exchange of immigration data with the UK|
As set out in the Government’s Contingency Action Plan and in the Update provided on 15 January 2019, work is progressing in parallel on the required secondary legislation. On 15 January, Government approved the drafting of 28 Statutory Instruments covering a wide range of issues where secondary legislation is needed from recognition of driver licences to recognition of qualifications.
Next steps for the Omnibus Bill
The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney TD, is the lead Minister for the overall Bill and will lead the Second Stage Debate on it in the Dáil. While Second Stage for all Bills is always taken on the floor of the Dáil, Committee Stage is usually taken by the relevant sectoral committee. Given the very wide range of issues in the omnibus Bill, ranging across the remits of nine Government Departments and almost as many Oireachtas Committees, it may be agreed that Committee Stage would be taken on the floor of the House where all sectoral spokespersons and Deputies can participate.
The General Scheme, or Heads of the Bill, have been sent to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to Government (OPC), the legislative drafting side of the Office of the Attorney General. OPC is staffed by specially trained Parliamentary Counsel who will draft the various Parts of the Bill on foot of the instructions provided by individual Departments contained in the Heads of Bill for those Parts and further instructions and clarifications of the policy objectives sought to be achieved. Parliamentary Counsel are experts who will carefully draft the Bill to ensure that it is compliant with the Constitution and EU law, and to ensure that it is consistent with the thousands of Acts already on the statute book. OPC and the staff in the various Departments who prepared the parts of the scheme will liaise continuously throughout this process to clarify any questions which arise about the policy intention and the approach to be taken in the Bill to capture and give effect to that policy intention. The staff in the Departments who work on legislation (known as legislative instructing officers) are senior staff with experience in policy development, legislative instruction and parliamentary procedures. Where any significant questions of law arise, advice will be sought from Advisory Counsel, in the other main part of the Office of the Attorney General. Advisory Counsel, under the direction of the Attorney General, Mr Seamus Wolfe S.C., provide expert legal advice to OPC and Government Departments.
Given the scale and breadth of the General Scheme of the Miscellaneous Provisions (Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union on 29 March 2019) Bill 2019, the overall process of drafting and progression of the Bill is being coordinated by a special Senior Official’s Group (SOG) made up of officials from all Departments with Parts in the scheme. The Chief Parliamentary Counsel to the Government attends and advises the Group along with Advisory Counsel. The SOG is co-chaired by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of the Taoiseach.
The Chief Whip, Sean Kyne TD, will discuss with Business Committee of Dáil Éireann (Chaired by the Ceann Comhairle with membership from all parties and Groups) how this exceptional omnibus Bill will be best progressed through the House. Under Standing Orders of the Dáil Government Bills must undergo Pre-Legislative Scrutiny (PLS) by the relevant Joint Oireachtas Committee unless PLS is waived by the Business Committee. PLS involves the Committee scrutinising the General Scheme or Heads of the Bill before the formally drafted Bill is published. Given the wide ranging nature of the Bill, it would be a challenge for any one committee to undertake scrutiny. The Chief Whip today began discussions with the Business Committee on how best to approach this challenge.
Government Contingency Action Plan:
For more information about the Common Travel Area see: