Brexit and Ireland
On 23 June 2016, the United Kingdom (UK) voted to leave the European Union (EU) in a referendum.
After a number of delays and extensions, the UK left the European Union at 11:00 pm on 31 January 2020. The UK was then in a transition period, which ceased on 31 December 2020.
Despite the UK’s departure from the European Union, Ireland and the UK remain in a Common Travel Area, which gives residency and travel rights (among other things) to Irish citizens in the UK, and British citizens in Ireland. You can read more about ‘Residence rights of UK citizens in Ireland.
The Withdrawal Agreement, transition period and the Trade and Cooperation Agreement
The Withdrawal Agreement between the EU and the UK was published in October 2019 after two and a half years of negotiations.
The Withdrawal Agreement is one of the main documents governing the relationship between the EU and the UK, but it does not resolve all of the issues between the EU and the UK.
The transition period was put in place to allow agreements to be reached between the EU and the UK without major disruption.
A Trade and Cooperation Agreement has been agreed between the EU and the UK and is being provisionally applied from 1 January 2021 until it has been fully reviewed by the European Commission. This governs some of the matters which previously dealt with under EU law such as trade in goods.
The Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland
The UK’s only land border with the EU is the one between Northern Ireland and Ireland. There was a lot of debate about how to balance the need for an EU border, with the historical arrangements that are in place between the UK and Ireland.
As a result, a Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland was contained in the Withdrawal Agreement. It came into effect on 1 January 2021 and has been supplemented by a further agreement between the EU and the UK on its implementation, including the introduction of a trusted trader scheme.
The Protocol sets out the following:
- The Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK continues to be recognised along with the rights it grants to Irish and British citizens
- Goods moving between Ireland and Northern Ireland will not have any customers, tariffs, or other restrictions placed on them
- Goods moving from Northern Ireland to another part of the UK and vice versa now require additional paperwork and checks
The long term application of the Protocol is up to the Northern Ireland Assembly. Every 4 years after the end of the transition period, the Assembly can vote on whether it wants EU law on things like custom, duties and regulations, to continue or not.
If they vote to end any part of the Protocol, the decision will come into effect 2 years later.
The Protocol continues to recognise the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK and the rights it grants to Irish and UK citizens in each country
Effects of Brexit
British citizens wishing to stay in Ireland
Irish citizens wishing to stay in the UK
If you are an Irish citizen and you want to continue living in the UK, you do not need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. Your rights to live, work and access public services in the UK are protected under the Common Travel Area arrangement. However, even though you do not need to apply to the scheme yourself, your family members from outside of the UK and Ireland will need to apply.
Non-Irish EU citizens wishing to stay in the UK
The UK has set up an EU Settlement Scheme, under which EU citizens and their family members living in the UK can apply to continue living there after 30 June 2021.
EU citizens (except for Irish citizens) and their family members living in the UK must apply to the EU Settlement Scheme for settled status if they wish to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021. If you do not have 5 years’ continuous residence in the UK, you may get pre-settled status instead.
- Settled status means that you can live in the UK for as long as you want. You will have access to public funds and services (if you are eligible) and you can apply for British citizenship. Any children born in the UK after you get settled status will automatically be British citizens.
- Pre-settled status means that you can live in the UK for a further 5 years. When you have had 5 years’ continuous residence, you can then apply to change to settled status. You must do this before your pre-settled status expires.
The deadline for applying is 30 June 2021.
You can get more information on applying for settled status in the UK, and the details of the EU Settlement Scheme on gov.uk.
A frontier worker is a person who lives in one country, but works in another country. For instance, if you live in the Republic of Ireland and work in Northern Ireland, you are a frontier worker.
A Frontier Work Permit or visa may be necessary to work in the UK from 1 January 2021.
Irish citizens do not have to apply for a UK Frontier Work Permit but can still apply. The entitlements of Irish citizens to live, work and to access other benefits in the UK are protected by the Common Travel Area.
Other EEA and Swiss citizens who live in Ireland but work or have recently worked in Northern Ireland (or another part of the UK) must apply for the UK’s Frontier Workers Permit Scheme to continue working there after Brexit.
Between 1 January 2021 and 30 June 2021, a Frontier Work Permit is not necessary for other EEA and Swiss citizens who:
- Currently work or have recently worked in the UK before 31 December 2020
- have a valid passport or nationality card
However, a Frontier Work Permit is mandatory from 1 July 2021. It is advisable though to apply as soon as possible, if you are eligible, to ensure you have one by then.
Other EEA and Swiss citizens must have worked in the UK before 31 December 2020 to qualify for this scheme. If you have not, you will need to apply for a visa to work in the UK from 1 January 2021.
Having a Frontier Work Permit may also entitle you to rent and to access benefits and services in the UK, including NHS healthcare, if you meet the relevant eligibility requirements.
You can read about how to apply for a Frontier Workers Permit on gov.uk.
The Irish Department of Justice has made provision for British citizens living in the UK and working in Ireland to obtain a Frontier Withdrawal Agreement Beneficiary Card, if they so wish. This card is free of charge and can be obtained by making an appointment with their local immigration office. However, British citizens do not need to do this to continue working in Ireland as they are also covered by the Common Travel Area.
The current arrangements for social security between Ireland and the UK have not changed. All social welfare payments made by the Department of Social Protection, including pensions and Child Benefit, continue to be paid as normal.Social security arrangements between the UK and the EU27 are also unchanged at present.
Before the end of the transition period, any personal information received by any company or organisation in the UK from companies and administrations in other member states was covered by the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).
Transfers of personal data to the UK continue to be temporarily permitted to the UK on the basis that UK does not make any changes to its data protection legislation. The European Commission is currently examining whether the UK’s safeguards are sufficiently similar to the GDPR and will then make a formal decision (called an adequacy decision) If an adequacy decision is made, data transfers can continue from the EU to the UK. If it is not made, additional safeguards will have to be put in place by companies and organisations if they wish to continue to transfer data. It is expected that an adequacy decision will be made before the end of June 2021.
From 1 January 2021, you should be aware of the following changes:
- Additional import charges and Value Added Tax (VAT) apply when you buy from websites in the UK (depending on the value of the items and where the product is manufactured)
- EU consumer protection legislation may no longer apply, instead your consumer rights will be set down in UK law
- It may be more difficult to resolve a dispute with a UK business
You can read about Buying online from the UK after Brexit.
Recognition of UK divorces
The Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Consequential Provisions) Act 2020 (pdf) provides for the continued recognition in Ireland of most divorces, legal separations and marriage annulments granted in the UK.
Status of driver licences
You can continue to drive on a UK driving licence in Ireland if you live in the UK (including Northern Ireland) and are visiting Ireland. If you live in Ireland, you cannot drive on a UK driving licence from 1 January 2021. You should exchange your licence for an Irish licence.
Extradition to and from the UK
At 11pm on 31 December 2020, the prior European Arrest Warrant regime stopped applying to the UK in its current form. The regime continues to apply though to persons validly arrested under a European Arrest Warrant prior to that time.
The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement does however contain similar extradition rules and procedures to the European Arrest Warrant regime and these rules continue to allow extradition to Ireland from the UK and vice versa. These rules apply to extradition requests made after 11pm on 31 December 2020 and prior requests where the person sought had not been arrested at that time.
There is guidance for UK nationals about living and travelling in the EU on gov.uk.