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Publication

Brexit & You: Northern Ireland

Last updated: 5 April 2019
Published: 29 March 2019
From: Department of the Taoiseach

People living in Northern Ireland will have concerns about how their lives will be affected in practical terms, in the event of a no deal Brexit. 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 is updated as it becomes available.

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.

The Common Travel Area is a long-standing arrangement between Ireland and the UK. 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.

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. It is based on domestic legislation and bilateral agreements between Ireland and the UK.

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

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, including in the event of no deal.

Cross border public transport services

Cross border bus and rail transport services will continue. The Government of Ireland is working to ensure continuity of these services. Further information will be provided as it becomes available.

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 are no requirements for passport controls for Irish and British citizens travelling between Ireland and Britain and this will not change after Brexit.

However, as regular passengers know, all air and sea carriers require some form of identification and some carriers regard a passport as the only valid identification.

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

After Brexit, there may be longer customs checks at airports and ports when travelling between Ireland and Britain. Further information will be provided as it becomes available. Please see travelling and visiting for further information on travelling and related matters.

Driving Licences

Driving in the South on a British or Northern Ireland-issued licence:

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 – even in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a negotiated deal.

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 UK leaves the EU. Contact the National Driver Licence Service for more information.

If there is no deal, and you are already resident in the South and holding a British or Northern Ireland driving licence, you will need to apply for an Irish licence from the National Drivers Licence Service.

Arrangements will be put in place for the future exchanges of driving licences.

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 enjoy the same arrangements as today.

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 Brexit.

The Motor Insurers’ Bureau of Ireland and the Association of British Insurers have advised drivers travelling across the border to obtain a ‘Green Card.’

Therefore, drivers making cross-border journeys on the island of Ireland will be required to carry a Green Card.

A Green Card is a document that proves that you have motor insurance cover when driving in another jurisdiction. Not having a Green Card, if stopped, could lead to difficulties in proving that you are insured to drive.

Some insurance companies have begun issuing Green Cards to drivers who are currently renewing or signing up to new insurance policies. Anyone who requests a Green Card from their insurer will receive one. You should contact your insurance provider for further information.

Mobile phone & 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.

In the event of no deal, mobile operators will no longer be legally required to offer roaming at no additional charge to customers travelling to/from the UK once the UK leaves the EU. However, a no deal Brexit does not mean that mobile operators will necessarily apply new charges on the island of Ireland. Irish mobile operators have not indicated any plans to change current arrangements on roaming under the EU Roam Like at Home regime.

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 & 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 Brexit in any circumstance.

Higher education

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

Applications: For those wanting to study in the South, the CAO and State Examinations Commission are working with their Northern Ireland 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 EU students.

Student supports: After Brexit, 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.

In the event of a no deal Brexit, the EU is preparing legislation to ensure that students from other EU Member States who are on mobility schemes in the UK, or UK students on mobility schemes in other EU Member States, on the date of withdrawal will be able to complete them. Further information will be provided as it becomes available.

The Government of Ireland understands the importance placed on continued access to the Erasmus+ programme for students and staff of relevant institutions in Northern Ireland. The Government is committed to achieving continued access to Erasmus + for relevant institutions in Northern Ireland, including through making necessary arrangements domestically as well as with the EU, and where appropriate with the UK. Further information will be provided as it becomes available.

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.

After Brexit, there may be implications for those working in an EU Member State who obtained professional qualifications in Northern Ireland, and seek to have that qualification recognised after the UK withdrawal from the EU. 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, many of which 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. This website will be updated with any new information as it becomes available.

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 & 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 & 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 even in the case of no deal.

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.

In the event that the UK is excluded from SEPA, some additional costs may arise for transfers in euro moving between accounts in the UK and accounts in the EU, and it may take longer than you are used to.

You should contact your finance provider if you have any further queries.

Tax

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 of Ireland is working to ensure that new arrangements will provide for continued access to the health services on a North-South basis, as is currently the case.

This will apply regardless of whether there is a deal or not. For more information on healthcare arrangements after Brexit, please visit 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 not be valid if the UK leaves the EU without a negotiated deal. If you are travelling to EU countries other than Ireland after the UK leaves the EU, you should purchase travel insurance to cover your health care needs just as if you were visiting a non-EU country.

The Government of Ireland understands the importance placed on continued access to the European Health Insurance Card by residents of Northern Ireland and is keen to provide assurances in relation to the continued availability of key healthcare benefits.

The Government of Ireland is committed to making arrangements to provide for continued access to the European Health Insurance Card for residents of Northern Ireland. Further information will be provided as it becomes available.

Fundamental Rights & 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, particularly in a no deal scenario.

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 was reflected in the Withdrawal Agreement and in the Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland.

However, even in the event that there is no negotiated deal:

Irish citizens will continue to have EU citizenship wherever they Iive. 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 human rights, safeguards and equality of opportunity set out in the Good Friday Agreement, the UK Government has committed that these will be maintained in all circumstances as required under the Good Friday Agreement.

There are, however, certain EU programmes and benefits where access for EU citizens, including Irish citizens and others living in Northern Ireland, would be affected in the absence of an agreement on UK withdrawal from the EU and where the Government of Ireland is committed to ensuring continuity (see references to Erasmus+ and to the European Health Insurance Card above).

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.

Energy

The Government of Ireland has introduced legislation to ensure continuity of the Single Electricity Market on the island in the event of no deal. It is also working to increase interconnectivity with other EU Member States.

The Irish energy market is governed by a combination of national and EU legislation. The Government of Ireland is working with the UK Government and our EU partners to ensure that there is minimal disruption to the energy market as a consequence of Brexit.

Cross-Border legal matters

When the UK leaves the EU, the Government of Ireland will work with the UK Government to ensure minimum disruption and will continue to cooperate on a range of justice issues.

Rights & 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.

Family law

In the event of a no-deal Brexit, one of the areas affected would be family law, e.g. matters such as custody and access to children and foreign divorce recognition. If you are likely to be involved in a cross-border dispute, you should seek legal advice on how the UK withdrawal may impact your particular case. You can find more information below.

Marriage recognition

Marriage recognition is a matter for national law and is not governed by EU law.

Divorce recognition

It may be more difficult to have a UK divorce recognised in Ireland in the event of a no deal Brexit. However, this will depend on the circumstances of each individual case, and you should seek legal advice to clarify what impact Brexit may have.

The Government of Ireland is exploring the fall-back mechanisms provided by existing international conventions.

Maintenance cooperation

The Government of Ireland is exploring fall-back mechanisms provided by existing international conventions. If you have a child support or family maintenance arrangement with someone who is living in Northern Ireland or Britain or is a British citizen, you should consult with your solicitor.

Parental responsibility

There are a number of international instruments that will cover parental responsibility in the event of a no deal Brexit. These include:

• Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (1980)

• Hague Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable law, Recognition, Enforcement and Cooperation in Respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children (1996)

• European Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of Decisions concerning Custody of Children and on Restoration of Custody of Children (1980).

Extradition

There will be a functional extradition arrangement in place in the event of a no deal Brexit through the Council of Europe Convention on Extradition.

EU Funding

When the UK leaves the EU, funding that is only available to EU member states may no longer be available.

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 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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