Brexit and Ireland

Introduction

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 entered into force on 1 May 2021. 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.

Article 16 of the Protocol

Article 16 allows either the EU or the UK to take ‘safeguard measures’ if the Protocol leads to serious and persistent economic, social or environmental difficulties. If the EU or UK take safeguard measures (commonly called ‘invoking Article 16’), the other party could decide to implement ‘rebalancing measures’ to counteract the effect of the change.

Effects of Brexit

British citizens wishing to stay in Ireland

British citizens continue to have the right to live and work in Ireland as part of the Common Travel Area. You can read about residence rights of UK citizens.

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 set up an EU Settlement Scheme, under which EU citizens and their family members living in the UK could apply to continue living there after 30 June 2021.

EU citizens (except for Irish citizens) and their family members living in the UK had to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme for settled status if they wish to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021. If you did not have 5 years’ continuous residence in the UK, you got 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 most people applying was 30 June 2021. Some people can apply after this date.

You can get more information on applying for settled status in the UK, and the details of the EU Settlement Scheme on gov.uk.

Frontier workers

A frontier worker (also called a cross border 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.

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 from 1 July 2021.

Between 1 January 2021 and 30 June 2021, a Frontier Work Permit was not necessary for other EEA and Swiss citizens who:

  • Currently work or have recently worked in the UK before 31 December 2020 and
  • Have a valid passport or nationality card

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.

Social security

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.

Cross border healthcare

You can no longer use the Cross-Border Healthcare Directive to access healthcare in the UK.

The Northern Ireland Planned Healthcare Scheme is a temporary scheme that allows you to receive healthcare in Northern Ireland in a similar way to the Cross-Border Healthcare Directive. The healthcare must be publicly available in Ireland. You must pay for the healthcare and then claim the cost from the HSE.

The Scheme is available until a permanent statutory scheme is approved. Residents of Northern Ireland can access healthcare in Ireland under the Republic of Ireland Reimbursement Scheme.

If you have started your healthcare in the UK and began to receive that healthcare before 2021, you may still be able to apply for reimbursement under the Cross- Border Healthcare Directive.

Data protection

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 permitted on the basis of a formal decision (called an adequacy decision) made by the European Commission on 28 June 2021. That adequacy decision will remain in place for four years unless the UK makes changes to its data protection legislation.

Consumer Rights

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.

Further information

You can find further information on dfa.ie about the expected effects of Brexit. Read about the Background to Brexit.

There is guidance for UK nationals about living and travelling in the EU on gov.uk.

Page edited: 25 November 2021