The question on everybody’s lips is, Brexit and Ireland – what’s going to happen?
After over three years of uncertainty, the United Kingdom is finally set to leave the European Union on Friday, January 31, 2020 at 11pm.
UK citizens originally voted for the country’s withdrawal from the EU back in June 2016. Since then, however, failed negotiations and policy debates have affected the withdrawal dates, and even caused another election to be called in 2019, which only reaffirmed UK citizens’ desire to leave.
But what does all of this mean? More importantly, what does Brexit mean for Ireland?
What is Brexit?
The term “Brexit” comes from “Britain’s Exit” referring to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. Back in 2016, then-prime minister, David Cameron, called a referendum vote on whether or not the UK should remain or leave the EU. On June 23, 2016, the UK voted to leave. A short time later, David Cameron resigned as prime minister, leading to the election and appointment of Theresa May.
On March 29, 2017, the UK gave official notice to the European Council of its intention to formally leave the EU. They were then given a period of two years for negotiations with the EU to reach a formal arrangement. So, this put the original Brexit date on March 29, 2019.
However, by the time that day came around, no arrangement had been reached. The European council provided an extension for negotiations, this time making the deadline October 31, 2019. But, two days before the deadline, after negotiations among those in Westminster had still not resulted in any agreement, another extension was given, this time until this Friday, January 31, 2020.
In between that time, the then Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who replaced Theresa May after he won the Conservative Party’s leadership election in July 2019, called a general election in order to acquire a majority for the Conservative’s in Parliament. The election slid overwhelmingly in the Conservatives’ favour, reaffirming British citizens’ desire to leave the EU.
So, what is happening on Friday?
On Friday at 11pm GMT, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will be leaving the EU.
The UK will no longer be represented in any EU institutions and Northern Ireland’s three MEPs will no longer sit in the EU parliament.
But, even though this means that Brexit will have technically happened, it doesn’t mean that things are over. There won’t really be any immediate impact because the UK will then move into a one year transition period until the end of this year.
Wait, a transition period?
This transition period begins as soon as the UK withdraws from the EU on Friday and will last until the end of the year on December 31.
This transition is basically a standstill period that gives everyone time to get their affairs in order because there is still a lot that needs to be worked out.
During this time, while the UK will no longer be part of the EU in name, it will still comply by EU rules and contribute to the EU budget. It provides a little relief of pressure, so that there is still enough time to negotiate the new relationship between the UK and EU that will include a trade deal.
The current trade relationship will remain unchanged for the next year. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised that the transition period will end in December without an extension. Most of the focus will be on negotiating a trade deal, and also on negotiating what will happen to Northern Ireland.
What will happen to Northern Ireland?
After the official Brexit on Friday, Northern Ireland will be outside of the EU, as it is part of the United Kingdom. The UK and the EU have already agreed and stated that this should not lead to new controls on goods crossing the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This is because Northern Ireland will continue to follow EU rules on the control of agricultural and manufactured goods, while the rest of the UK will not. The UK is leaving the EU customs union, but Northern Ireland will continue to enforce the EU customs code.
So, there will be new customs checks and processes for goods travelling between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
As of right now, the UK and the EU haven’t really agreed how this is all going to work out. The prime minister has said that there will not need to be checks on goods, but the EU said that there needs to be checks, especially on food products. This will all be part of the trade deal negotiations.
In regards to Northern Ireland, customs is the trickiest issue so far. If no deal is reached, the UK (England, Scotland, Wales) will face tariffs in trade with the rest of the EU, while Northern Ireland will not. This, in turn, could lead to significant trade barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
What will happen to UK citizens living in Ireland?
Unlike UK citizens living in the rest of Europe, UK citizens that are living in Ireland can rest easy. They are protected under the Common Travel Area (CTA) agreement, that was created in 1922. It is also not impacted by Brexit in any way.
UK citizens can continue to live, work, and study in Ireland without worry or need of applying for a visa.
The same is to be said for Irish citizens living and working in the UK. They can continue to do so without a visa.
UK citizens living in the rest of Europe will have to apply for a visa in order to stay residing in their country by 2021. The same goes for EU citizens living in the UK. Through the newly established EU Settlement Scheme, EU citizens wishing to remain in the UK after June 30, 2021, must apply for a visa.
Brexit has been a mainstay in the news cycle for over three years, causing a lot of confusion over the future of the UK, especially in regards to Northern Ireland.
We hope that this has cleared things up for you. If you have any more questions regarding Brexit, ask us in the comments section!