Brexit and Ireland


On 23 June 2016, the United Kingdom (UK) voted to leave the European Union (EU) in a referendum. You can read about how this happened in our Guide to Brexit.

After a number of delays and extensions, the UK left the European Union at 11:00 pm on 31 January 2020. The UK is now in a transition period, which will cease on 31 December 2020.

During the transition period, the UK maintains EU free movement principles, which means that UK citizens, along with its goods and services, can move freely throughout the EU. EU citizens also continue to have the same right to live and work in the UK as beforehand.

The UK and EU will use the transition period to negotiate a permanent arrangement to determine the future relationship between the UK and the EU.

Ireland and the UK have stated their continued commitment to the 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’.

Budget 2021

Budget 2021 was prepared on the assumption that there will be no bilateral trade deal between the UK and EU. This would mean that the UK and the EU will trade on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms in 2021.

The Budget provides €340 million for Brexit measures.

Funding will be provided to put in place the controls and checks required for agri-food exports to, and imports from, Britain from 1 January 2021.

Compliance funding will be available to carry out work at ports and airports. An additional 500 staff will bring the total number of staff to 1,500 for carrying out checks.

Expenditure of €100 million has been provided to Departments for Brexit supports including:

  • €8m for new market surveillance and certification
  • €15m to help businesses respond to changes to customs and tariffs
  • €7m to help the food processing industry adapt
  • €11m for Local Enterprise Offices to work with local businesses
  • €675,000 for InterTrade Ireland to provide practical help to businesses trading cross-border

The Withdrawal Agreement and transition period

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 the main document 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.

Read more about:

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 has been 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.

The Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland is scheduled to legally come into effect at the end of the transition period. However, the terms of the Protocol can be overridden or disapplied in any further agreement between the UK and the EU.

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 should have the same customs checks as if the goods were going to any other non-EU country
  • Goods moving from another part of the UK to Northern Ireland will have customs duties and checks unless there is no risk that the goods will stay in Northern Ireland and not travel on to Ireland

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

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.

Recognition of UK divorces

The Irish Government has announced that it will legislate to continue to recognise UK divorces after the transition period on the same basis as it currently does if no EU-wide agreement is reached on this issue.

Status of driver licences

The status of UK driving licences in Ireland and throughout the EU after the transition period is uncertain. The National Driver Licencing Service (NDLS) recommends that you exchange your UK licence for a local one before the end of 2020.

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.

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 Employment Affairs and 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.

Further information

You can find further information on about the expected effects of Brexit. Read more in our documents Guide to Brexit and Brexit information and supports.

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

Page edited: 8 October 2020