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Publication

Brexit and You: Northern Ireland

Published: 31 January 2020
From: Department of the Taoiseach

The UK left the European Union on 31 January 2020 on the basis of the Withdrawal Agreement which was agreed by the European Council on 17 October 2019.

The Agreement includes a transition period until the end of 2020.

During this time, EU rules and regulations will continue to apply to the UK and the UK will remain part of the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union. There will be no immediate changes for citizens and businesses in their day-to-day dealings.

The EU and the UK will start negotiations on a new future relationship agreement which, if agreed, is due to come into effect from 1 January 2021.

No matter what the final shape of Brexit looks like, the decision of the UK to leave the EU will result in some changes, which we continue to prepare for.

Whether you're a concerned citizen or wondering how Brexit may affect your business, the aim of this government website is to help you prepare. Many of these concerns will be shared across this island and the factual information available on this website will be relevant no matter where you live. We are working to keep this website up-to-date.

Check back regularly, as information will be updated as it becomes available.

Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland

The Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland is an integral part of the Withdrawal Agreement. It recognises the unique situation on the island of Ireland and provides important safeguards that the Good Friday Agreement will be protected in all its parts, including avoiding a hard border and protecting the all island economy. It also protects the integrity of the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union and Ireland’s place in them.

The Protocol also contains provisions on a number of other important areas, including provision for the maintenance of the Common Travel Area, that North South cooperation can continue and develop, and that the Single Electricity Market will be maintained on the island of Ireland. It also includes commitments to ensure no diminution of rights, safeguards and equality of opportunity as set out in the Good Friday Agreement and confirms that the people of Northern Ireland can continue to enjoy their rights as EU citizens.

The detail of a number of operational aspects of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland will be clarified during the transition period by the EU and the UK, working together, in the Joint Committee.

The Government of Ireland continues to place priority on the protection of the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts, maintenance of the Common Travel Area, Ireland’s place in the EU, and our relationship with the UK.

The Common Travel Area, the question of both fundamental rights and benefits derived from EU citizenship in respect of Northern Ireland, and the future of North South Cooperation are among the issues that will be of particular concern for many people living in Northern Ireland.

Common Travel Area

In a lot of the information on practical issues like living, working, studying and accessing services like health and education, including cross-border on the island of Ireland, you’ll hear about the Common Travel Area (CTA).

Under the Common Travel Area , Irish and British citizens move freely and reside in either jurisdiction. Irish and British citizens enjoy associated rights and privileges, including the right to live and work, as well as to access healthcare, education, social benefits, and the right to vote in certain elections.

On 8 May 2019, the Irish and British Governments entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) reaffirming the joint commitment of both Governments to the Common Travel Area in all Brexit scenarios, and to maintaining the associated rights and privileges of Irish and British citizens under this long-standing reciprocal arrangement.

The Common Travel Area is not reliant on membership of the EU, and dates back to before either the UK or Ireland were EU members.

Living, working and travelling on the island of Ireland, North and South, isn’t going to change a lot because of the Common Travel Area and the rights it gives to Irish and British citizens.

Business

The Protocol provides a legally operative solution that avoids a hard border on the island of Ireland, protects the all island economy and safeguards the integrity of the single market. Northern Ireland will remain aligned to a limited set of rules related to the EU’s Single Market in order to avoid a hard border: legislation on goods, sanitary rules for veterinary controls (SPS rules), rules on agricultural production/marketing, VAT and excise in respect of goods, and state aid rules.

The detail of how some aspects of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland will work in practice will be clarified during the transition period by the EU and the UK, working together, in the Joint Committee.

For those trading on a cross-border basis, InterTrade Ireland’s Brexit Advisory Service provides a range of practical advice, support and information for business on Brexit related issues.

Travelling

The way in which Irish and British citizens enjoy the right to travel freely across the border will not change after Brexit.

Cross border bus and rail transport services will continue.

Travelling and Visas

Irish and British citizens will continue to enjoy the right to travel freely North South and between Ireland and Britain in the same manner as before.

There is no requirement for Irish and British citizens to carry passports when travelling within the Common Travel Area .

However, it is the case that airline carriers in many instances require all passengers to have a passport in their possession before allowing them to board aircraft. This is not an immigration requirement.

Immigration requirements, as appropriate, will continue to apply to non-Irish and non-British citizens.

For journeys on the island of Ireland, British and Irish citizens do not require any travel documents when crossing the land border.

Non-EEA nationals should be in possession of a valid travel document and, if required, an Irish entry visa or transit visa for the State. Further information can be found on the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration website .

Driving Licences

UK, including Northern Ireland, licences continue to be valid when driving in Ireland during the transition period.

After Transition

If you are resident in the South and hold a British or Northern Ireland driving licence, you should apply to exchange your licence for an Irish issued licence before the end of the transition period (31 December 2020).

When visiting the South from Northern Ireland, it will be possible to drive on a British or Northern Ireland-issued driving licence for up to one year provided the driving licence is current and valid.

Contact the National Driver Licence Service for more information.

Driving in Northern Ireland on an Irish licence: The UK Government advises that arrangements for EU licence holders who are visiting or living there will not change after the UK leaves the EU. Therefore, visitors to Northern Ireland with driving licences from EU Member States, including Ireland, should continue enjoy the same arrangements.

International Driving Permits

Drivers from Northern Ireland travelling across the border will not be required to carry an International Driving Permit.

Proof of insurance

At present, all motor vehicles from any EU country (including the UK) may travel within the EU without carrying special documentation to prove that they have insurance in the country they are visiting. This will change following the transition period.

Following the transition period, and in the event that no further arrangement is agreed, a certificate called a ‘Green Card’ which is issued by your insurer, and proves that the vehicle is insured, may be required for vehicles from the UK, including Northern Ireland, being driven in Ireland or other EU Member States.

This means that, following the transition period, UK and Northern Ireland registered vehicles may require a Green Card for cross-border journeys, including North to South, on the island of Ireland.

A Green Card is a document that proves you have motor insurance cover when driving in another jurisdiction.

Mobile phone and data usage

At present, mobile users in the border region have certainty that they will not be charged additional roaming charges should their device automatically connect to a provider in the neighbouring jurisdiction.

After the transition period, mobile operators may no longer be legally required to offer roaming at no additional charge to customers travelling to/from the UK when they exit the EU. Unless an arrangement is made between the EU and the UK, that is a commercial decision for mobile operators.

However, Brexit does not mean that mobile operators will necessarily apply new charges. The three main mobile providers here have indicated that there will be no changes to the current roaming arrangements for their customers. Either way, all operators must make customers well aware of any roaming charges they could incur. If you have any concerns, you should contact your provider directly.

UK mobile operators have indicated their intention not to reintroduce mobile roaming chargers after Brexit.

The Irish Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) will continue to liaise with its UK counterpart (OfCom), including in relation to roaming issues arising from Brexit.

Studying

Many students on the island of Ireland, North and South, receive some or all of their education in the other jurisdiction. This is one of the rights of the Common Travel Area that is enjoyed by students both North and South and which will continue in all circumstances.

Primary and post-primary education that includes cross border travel

Every day, children and young people cross the border to attend school in either jurisdiction. This will continue to be facilitated under the Common Travel Area following the departure of the UK from the EU.

Higher education

After the UK leaves the EU, students from Northern Ireland will continue to be able to study in the South and vice versa.

Should you pursue your further and higher study in the UK, your fees will be set at the same level as citizens in the UK for the 2020/2021 academic year, and will continue on that basis for the duration of the programme for which you have registered. The Common Travel Area (CTA) means Ireland and the UK will take steps to ensure Irish and British citizens can continue to access further and higher education on the same fee basis into the future.

Applications: For those wanting to study in the South, the CAO and State Examinations Commission are working with their Northern Irish and British counterparts to ensure smooth continuity of the applications process. Further information will be provided as it becomes available.

Fees: Students from Northern Ireland will still be eligible for the same fee structures as Irish students.

Student supports: After the UK leaves the EU, the usual SUSI student grant rules will continue to apply for both British and Irish students.

The Government of Ireland has introduced legislation to ensure that these arrangements can continue to apply to eligible students studying in Northern Ireland, as well as the payment of SUSI grants to students from Northern Ireland studying in higher education institutions in the South.

Further education

Further education training and opportunities will continue to be available to students and trainees from Northern Ireland, and vice versa, under the Common Travel Area.

Erasmus+

The EU’s Erasmus+ 2014-2020 programme provides funding for a range of international education and training projects, including student and staff mobility and exchanges, job shadowing, teaching assignments, and strategic partnerships between organisations.

The programme will continue to operate fully for all remaining EU Member States after the UK leaves the EU.

The precise details of UK participation in Union programmes, such as the Erasmus + programme, will be subject to the final outcome of the Future Relationship discussions.

The Political Declaration between the UK and the EU provides that the Parties will establish general principles, terms and conditions for the United Kingdom's participation in Union programmes, subject to the conditions set out in the corresponding Union instruments, in areas such as education, overseas development and external action, defence capabilities, civil protection and space.

The Government made commitments on making arrangements for continued access to Erasmus + for students of relevant institutions in Northern Ireland, in the event of a no deal Brexit (this was the potential absence of a Withdrawal Agreement). The Government of Ireland continues to recognise the importance of continued access to the Erasmus+ programme for students and staff of relevant institutions in Northern Ireland, and will monitor developments on this throughout the discussions on the future relationship.

Professional qualifications

Professional qualifications are specific qualification requirements that a person needs to possess by law in order to access or pursue a regulated profession or to engage in regulated activities in a given country. Qualification requirements vary between professions and are covered within a series of EU Directives. Once the UK leaves the EU, these will no longer apply, which may have implications for those working in an EU Member State who obtained professional qualifications in Northern Ireland, and seek to have that qualification recognised. However, if you have already had these qualifications recognised by the relevant regulator, there will be no change and you can continue to practice anywhere in the EU.

The Government of Ireland has encouraged regulatory authorities in Ireland, some of whom operate on an all island basis, to engage with their counterparts in Northern Ireland and Britain in order to manage the process of continued recognition.

If you have a query about your professional qualification, you should contact the relevant regulatory body for your profession.

Please see the Studying section for further information on education and related matters.

Living and working

The decision of the UK to leave the EU will result in some changes. While there is still a lot of uncertainty, it’s important for everyone to be aware of what Brexit may mean for your daily life.

Social welfare rights and entitlements

After Brexit, if you are an Irish citizen living in Northern Ireland, or a British citizen living in the South, your social welfare rights will not change.

You will continue to be entitled to social assistance schemes, including pensions and child benefit payments, in either jurisdiction.

This also includes social insurance entitlements where British and Irish citizens living in the South maintain the right to benefit from social insurance contributions made when working in Northern Ireland or Britain, and to access social insurance payments if living in Northern Ireland or Britain and vice versa.

For more information on your rights and entitlements under the Common Travel Area, please see here .

Voting

Irish citizens resident in Britain, and British citizens resident in Ireland, have the right to vote in local and national parliamentary elections. This will continue to be the case after Brexit.

For more information on your rights and entitlements under the Common Travel Area, please see here .

Making or receiving financial payments

SEPA is the Single Euro Payments Area which enables payment transfers in euro between accounts in SEPA countries.

The UK Government has committed to keep its payment rules in line with SEPA in order to continue its access after Brexit. Continued access has now been approved and Brexit should not affect transfers in euro moving between accounts in the UK and accounts in the EU.

Customers should contact their finance provider if they have any further queries.

Tax

During the transition period, existing arrangements for income tax and related payments will continue.

Health

Both the Irish and UK Governments are committed to maintaining the current healthcare arrangements under the Common Travel Area . Under the Common Travel Area, Irish citizens and British citizens who live in, work in, or visit the other State have the right to access healthcare there.

In addition, existing North South cooperation arrangements will also continue on the island of Ireland.

The Government is working to ensure that new arrangements will provide for continued access to the health services between Ireland and the UK, including on the island of Ireland, which patients in both jurisdictions currently access.

For more information on healthcare arrangements after Brexit, please visit the Department of Health .

Cross border access to health services

Cross border health services (like the cardiology and cancer treatments in Altnagelvin Hospital and paediatric cardiology and maternity services in Dublin) are managed by service level agreements. These services and others like them will continue.

European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

If you hold a European Health Insurance Card issued by the UK, this will remain valid until the end of the transition period.

The Government of Ireland made commitments to make arrangements to provide for continued access to the benefits of EHIC for residents of Northern Ireland, in the context of a no deal Brexit.

The Government of Ireland continues to recognise the importance placed on continued access to the European Health Insurance Card by residents of Northern Ireland and will monitor developments on this throughout the discussions on the future relationship.

Fundamental rights and EU citizenship benefits

UK withdrawal from the European Union has given rise to concerns for people living in Northern Ireland about what it might mean for their rights, citizenship and entitlements.

Throughout the negotiations, the Government of Ireland has prioritised the protection of the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts, including the rights and citizenship provisions which are central to it. This is reflected in the Withdrawal Agreement and in the Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland.

It is also important to note:

Irish citizens will continue to have EU citizenship wherever they live. They will continue to enjoy the right to travel and live and work anywhere in the EU and the right not to be discriminated against on the grounds of nationality. Irish citizens do not need to take any action to protect their EU citizenship.

Neither Irish citizens nor British citizens are required to take any action to protect their status and rights associated with the Common Travel Area.

In relation to the provisions on human rights, safeguards and equality of opportunity of the Good Friday Agreement, the UK Government has committed that these will be upheld in all circumstances.

This is reflected in the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, which provides that the UK shall ensure that no diminution of rights, safeguards or equality of opportunity results from its withdrawal from the Union, including in the area of protection against discrimination. The Protocol also recognises that Irish citizens in Northern Ireland, by virtue of their Union citizenship, will continue to enjoy, exercise and have access to rights, opportunities and benefits.

North South cooperation

In any scenario, the commitment of the Government of Ireland to the Good Friday Agreement, in all its parts, including North South Cooperation and the work of the North South Implementation Bodies, will be upheld.

The Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland includes the maintenance of the necessary conditions for continued North-South cooperation, including in the areas of environment, health, agriculture, transport, education, tourism, energy, telecommunications, broadcasting, inland fisheries, justice and security, higher education and sport.

Energy

The Withdrawal Agreement upholds measures to maintain the Single Electricity Market.

The Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland provides for the continuance of the Single Electricity Market on the island of Ireland. The Political Declaration calls for both parties to cooperate to support the delivery of cost efficient, clean and secure supplies of electricity and gas, based on competitive markets and non-discriminatory access to networks.

The Government is also working to increase interconnectivity with other EU Member States.

Cross-Border legal matters

Ireland and the UK both have a common law system, enjoy a Common Travel Area , which includes certain legal rights, and currently both adhere to EU rules and regulations.

Issues arising in relation to matters of justice cooperation will be dealt with in the context of discussions on the future relationship.

Rights and privileges (for those in Common Travel Area including Northern Ireland)

Because of the Common Travel Area and the rights it gives to Irish and British citizens, living, working and travelling on the island of Ireland, North and South, isn’t going to change a lot.

Immigration requirements, as appropriate, will continue to apply to non-Irish and non-British citizens. You can read more about the Common Travel Area here.

EU funding

The precise details of UK participation in Union programmes will be subject to the final outcome of the Future Relationship discussions.

The Political Declaration between the UK and the EU provides that the Parties will establish general principles, terms and conditions for the United Kingdom's participation in Union programmes, subject to the conditions set out in the corresponding Union instruments, in areas such as education, overseas development and external action, defence capabilities, civil protection and space.

However, the EU has introduced a legal mechanism for the current PEACE and INTERREG programmes for Northern Ireland and the border region to continue.

PEACE PLUS

The Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland acknowledges the EU and UK commitment to the North South PEACE and INTERREG funding programmes under the current multi-annual financial framework and to the maintaining of the current funding proportions for the future programme.

The EU Commission has tabled a proposal for a special new PEACE PLUS programme to build on and continue the work of successive PEACE and INTERREG programmes. In addition, the UK Government has signalled its commitment to the PEACE PLUS Programme.

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