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Northern Ireland Office: Leaving the EU

Oral Answers to Questions — Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th December 2016.

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Photo of Liz McInnes Liz McInnes Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 12:00 am, 7th December 2016

How many civil servants in his Department have been assigned to work on issues relating to the UK leaving the EU; and how many additional civil servants his Department estimates it will need over the period leading up to the UK leaving the EU.

Photo of Kris Hopkins Kris Hopkins Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office)

Officials across the whole Department are working to ensure that the interests of Northern Ireland are protected and advanced as the UK prepares to leave the EU. We will continue to monitor what further support is required.

Photo of Liz McInnes Liz McInnes Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

The Northern Ireland Office did little preparation for Brexit, and it appears from the response to a written question that I tabled that several private consultancy firms are profiting from this lack of preparation. How many contracts have been awarded to consultancy firms and external organisations?

Photo of Mike Wood Mike Wood Conservative, Dudley South

Will my hon. Friend update the House on what action his Department is taking to promote business and community engagement ahead of Brexit?

Photo of Kris Hopkins Kris Hopkins Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office)

There is constant dialogue between business, local government and the voluntary sector, and the NIO has been used as a conduit to make sure that Cabinet members and colleagues fully understand the implications for Northern Ireland, and that we get the best possible deal for Northern Ireland.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Equality)

The agricultural and fishing sector in Northern Ireland creates some 70,000 jobs. It also produces 3.25% of Northern Ireland’s gross value added, which equates to £1.1 billion at basic prices. Could the Minister confirm that civil service personnel will be in place in sufficient numbers to ensure a smooth transition for the UK out of the EU?

Photo of Kris Hopkins Kris Hopkins Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that question. We do recognise the importance of that sector in Northern Ireland. There is a good dialogue between the sector and the Department. Cabinet members have met leading food manufacturers and members of the agricultural sector, and that dialogue will continue.

Photo of David Anderson David Anderson Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland

Recent reports in the United States show that advice given by our civil servants to the US State Department prior to the referendum was that it need not do any preparatory work, because “Brexit can’t possibly happen, so don’t worry about it.” Was the same crass advice being given by the NIO to our partners, and especially to the Irish Government?

Photo of Kris Hopkins Kris Hopkins Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office)

I do not recognise the comments that have just been made. We have an extremely good relationship with the Irish Government. We will continue that dialogue and work with them.