Department of Foreign Affairs seeks €14m for Brexit

The Department of Foreign Affairs looked for a Brexit war chest to manage Ireland’s interests as the UK prepares to leave the EU.

In a pre-budget plea, the department said it would need €14m in extra funds for managing the fallout from the Brexit process, which it said was “without precedent in [its] complexity”.

From increased travel expenses to postage costs, and from heightened diplomatic efforts to foreign birth registrations, a long wish-list was prepared by officials where the extra money was needed.

In a letter to the Department of Public Expenditure, Foreign Affairs secretary general Niall Burgess said they were “critically under-resourced” in some of the most strategically important countries in the world.

Following that, a 12-strong list of “the most significant areas of challenge” was prepared by officials.

Among the issues was a three-fold increase in foreign birth registrations because of Brexit where people inBritain and the North are ensuring they will be able to access an Irish passport.

To deal with the “substantial volume increase” in registrations, officials said they would need €900,000 for a team of clerical officers to process the applications.

Another €1.1m was needed so that diplomatic efforts could be targeted at new markets in Asia, the Pacific, and the Americas.

“An initial short-term and phased approach would be to target opening new missions in New Zealand, Colombia, and Chile toward the end of 2018,” said the officials.

Around €500,000 was needed to deal with the increased level of mostly Brexit-related travel by government ministers and officials.

There was also an upsurge in postage and telephone costs — linked mainly to spiralling numbers of passport applications and €300,000 was needed for that.

For the passport service itself, the department said it needed €2.25m as applications continued at a “higher than anticipated pace”. The officials said: “This is putting serious pressure on the non-pay operating costs … e.g. passport books, passport cards, application forms, ICT, and other consumables.”

Another area that the department was being hit with higher costs was in renting accommodation for staff overseas. Officials looked for an increase in their 2018 allocation of €2.5m.

They said: “This is mainly driven by rental costs and school fees. Both these areas are experiencing cost pressures driven by the changing demographic of posted staff [i.e. younger families] and increasing overseas costs.”

Around €2m was sought for the department’s ongoing management of Brexit talks.

This involved “significant resources” in Dublin, and in key cities such as London, Brussels, Berlin, and Paris.

The department looked for another €1.5m for Brexit co-ordination along with promotion, public engagement and outreach.

The officials said: “We are allocating further resources to the Brexit response covering a wide range of areas including additional policy coordination, enhanced communications, additional resources focused on the Northern Ireland impacts, public and stakeholder engagement, EU alliance enhancement, [and] trade promotion.”

A further €450,000 was needed to hire staff in crucial European cities to focus on “key strategic relationships” in the aftermath of Brexit. These would be local staff based in Rome, Madrid, The Hague, Warsaw, Brussels, Helsinki, Oslo, Stockholm, London, and Lisbon.

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