| 9.8°C Belfast

A practical guide to what Brexit means for people in Northern Ireland

Prof Katy Hayward


Feeling blue: Home Secretary Priti Patel displays the new blue passport UK citizens will use after Brexit

Feeling blue: Home Secretary Priti Patel displays the new blue passport UK citizens will use after Brexit

Feeling blue: Home Secretary Priti Patel displays the new blue passport UK citizens will use after Brexit

Most of the focus on preparing for Brexit has so far centred upon business, as needs be.

But just as EU membership was about more than the movement of goods, being outside the EU will have consequences for people as well as for trade.

As the transition period ends Brexit will begin to have a real impact.

That impact will be a little different here in Northern Ireland compared to the rest of the UK, and not just because of the Protocol.

For starters, most people born in Northern Ireland have a birthright to claim Irish citizenship.

This means that many of us will still have that means of accessing freedom of movement, i.e. the right to live, work and study in an EU country.

However, the right to work may be somewhat restricted by the fact that UK-earned professional qualifications won't automatically be recognised in all EU countries.

Those on British passports will face additional inconveniences.

First, to even enter an EEA country we'll need six months left on our passports, and, come next year, an ETIAS document.

Any visits to the EEA will be restricted to less than 90 days in any 180-day period.

And British-only citizens will lose those freedom of movement rights, just as citizens from EU countries have lost them in the UK. EU26 (i.e. not Irish) citizens wishing to study or work in Northern Ireland after July will need to apply for visas and work permits to do so, and NI businesses will need a sponsorship licence to employ them.

The Common Travel Area (CTA) between Britain and Ireland is nearly 100 years old, but it is not a comprehensive fix.

Although British citizens still have the right to work, live, vote and study in Ireland (and vice versa), much of what we came to take for granted as part of the CTA was actually developed through EU membership.

This means that there are gaps in the CTA (e.g. recognition of qualifications) that the governments may need to work rapidly to fill, and other gaps that will remain because they are EU rather than national competences.

We won't have to move far for Brexit to impact us in some mundane (but pricey) things.

For example, mobile phone companies will again be able to charge roaming fees for texts, calls and data used in the EU (or, as is so often the case, in the vicinity of the Irish border).

For those cross-border journeys, we should also check the terms of our motor insurance to make sure we have the necessary cover for EU travel (i.e. a green card).

And if driving in the wider EU, we'll also need to check whether we need an international driver's permit.

Our EHIC cards for emergency health care are valid until their expiry date, after which they can be replaced by either the UK Global Health Insurance Card or an EHIC card provided through the Irish Government.

That said, when travelling becomes an option once more in happier, post-pandemic times, some heavy-duty insurance might well become the traveller's accessory of choice.

Katy Hayward is Professor of Political Sociology, Queen's University Belfast, and Senior Fellow UK in A Changing Europe think tank

Belfast Telegraph