We have collated a list of Brexit related FAQs from customers and stakeholders to address queries such as what is Brexit, the Brexit agreement, consequences and how it will impact Northern Ireland.
FAQs have been categorised according to: ‘What is the impact of Brexit?’, ‘What can businesses be doing to prepare for Brexit?’ and ‘Sectors most likely to be impacted by Brexit’. Both questions and answers are subject to change and will be updated as appropriate as more information and clarity about Brexit becomes available.
We have collated a list of FAQs that our customers and stakeholders have asked us around the topic of Brexit, which we hope you will find helpful. These have been categorised into three headings which are outlined below. Both the questions and answers are subject to change and will be updated as appropriate as more information and clarity about Brexit becomes available.
Explore the range of guidance we offer through the links below.
Britain exiting the European Union (EU), or Brexit in shorthand, was the result of the 23 June 2016 referendum vote by the British public when 51.9% voted to leave.
On 29 March 2017, the UK Prime Minister (PM) triggered the withdrawal process (Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty), formally beginning the UK’s exit from the EU. Under this treaty, the UK’s exit from the EU was scheduled to occur exactly two years later – 29 March 2019. In April 2019 the UK and EU27 agreed a further extension of Article 50 until 31 October 2019.
When considering whether a ‘Deal or No Deal’ has been agreed for the UK to exit the European Union (EU), it is important to clarify that this refers to whether or not the ‘Withdrawal Agreement’ has been agreed and ratified.
This Agreement aims to set out the arrangements for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. The key areas of focus within the ‘Withdrawal Agreement’ include, issues of citizens’ rights, financial contributions and the Irish border. Additional information on the transition period and a high level statement on the overarching trade deal is included within the agreement. Note, the UK’s future relationship with the EU is being negotiated in a separate agreement which will be entered into once the UK has left the EU.
It is important to highlight that both a ‘Deal’ or ‘No Deal’ outcome are substantial changes compared with the status quo of the UK being part of the Single Market and Customs Union.
This market allows the free movement of goods, services, money and people within the EU which helps boost trade, create jobs and lower prices. In practice, it requires significant regulation to make it work as, for example, products must be made to the same technical standard and general level playing field rules have to be imposed across each Member State.
This union ensures that all EU Member States charge the same import duties to countries outside the EU. This allows Member States to trade freely with each other, without customs checks at borders.
Securing a ‘Deal’ will bring certainty for citizens and transition for businesses. However, as outlined earlier, it will not resolve the nature of the future economic partnership and involves major change from the status quo. The spectrum of future arrangements is likely to lie between the ‘Chequers Plan’ and the ‘Canada-Style’ partnerships.
This plan was created by Theresa May’s Cabinet in July 2018 and is the Government's preferred way forward. It includes proposals for the UK to mirror EU rules on goods, to have joint jurisdiction between the UK and EU, for borders between the UK and EU to be treated as a combined customs territory and for the free movement of people to end and be replaced by a ‘mobility framework’.
This framework would allow UK and EU citizens to travel to each other’s territories, and apply for study and work. In addition, the UK would be free to strike its own trade deals with countries around the world - something it is currently unable to do as a member of the EU.
The EU judges that because the UK is leaving the Single Market and Customs Union, what it can offer is a Free Trade Agreement similar to the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which was signed in 2016.
CETA removed 99% of customs duties on EU exports to Canada and vice versa, and allows EU companies to bid for public contracts in Canada. But, under the deal, Canada is not obliged to pay into the EU budget, sign up to free movement or abide by European Court of Justice (ECJ) rulings.
This ‘Canada-Style’ arrangement is very different to our current situation as we currently don’t incur custom duties with the EU.
Without a withdrawal agreement the UK would immediately move from being in the Single Market and Customs Union to trading under World Trade Organisation rules. This very significant change would result in customs checks, tariffs on goods, a regulatory block to trading with the EU in some areas, denied access to EU research/ funding programmes and the end of free movement between the UK and EU.
The UK Government has outlined that it remains confident that a ‘Deal’ can be reached and ratified through respective Parliamentary processes. On Sunday 25 November, the UK Prime Minister and EU 27 leaders have ratified the terms of the ‘Withdrawal Agreement’. However, it is important to note that this is yet to be ratified by the British Parliament, with a vote expected in December.
The Government has also produced guidance on how to prepare for Brexit if there is a ‘no deal’ outcome – documentation that we would encourage all NI businesses to review in more detail.
In April 2019 the UK and EU27 agreed a further extension of Article 50 until 31 October 2019 but with the possibility of leaving earlier if the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified by both parties before this date.
The Withdrawal Agreement has yet to be approved by the UK Parliament and it is now up to the new Prime Minister to resume talks with the EU on the current Withdrawal Agreement and any potential amendments.
No-deal Brexit is still the default outcome if a Withdrawal Agreement cannot be ratified and there are no further extensions put in place.
Negotiations could be restricted as both Brussels and Parliament in the UK effectively shuts down for August, not returning until September. Parliament again goes into recess in the middle of September for the party conference season. At the moment, there is no timetable in place for a further phase of negotiations.
If the current Withdrawal Agreement is not approved or renegotiated by the UK Parliament, the new government could ask for additional time - perhaps to hold another vote, a general election or to allow more preparations for a no-deal Brexit. There's no legal obstacle to a further delay however it is not clear whether the EU would agree. It would also have to be approved unanimously by all of the other EU Member States.
Trade between Northern Ireland (NI) and the Republic of Ireland (ROI) is significant, with the value of goods exported from NI to ROI reaching £2.9bn in 2017, with imports from ROI into NI accounting for £2.1bn (HMRC).
The border between NI and ROI has been one of the major issues of discussion during the Brexit negotiations. The Centre for Cross Border Studies estimates that up to 30,000 people are cross-border workers, in that they live and work on different sides of the border. Both the UK and European Union (EU) are in agreement that they want free cross-border flow of trade and people. However, both parties have yet to agree on how to achieve this outcome.
A contingency plan has been proposed called the ‘Backstop’ arrangement which would avoid a hard border between NI and ROI. A ‘Backstop’ has been included within the ‘Withdrawal Agreement’ which has been ratified by the EU 27 at Sunday 25 November’s EU Summit. This Backstop, however, would only come into effect should the UK and EU fail to agree a future, overarching deal.
The Financial and Professional Services industry in Northern Ireland (NI) supports 52,000 jobs (NISRA), with Belfast being ranked as the 10th most important Financial Services city in the UK outside of London ('TheCityUK').
Of particular importance for this sector will be the volatility of financial markets e.g. currency and interest rates which are both sensitive to the nature of the decisions being made in relation to Brexit. Markets, and in particular the currency markets, will react to any level of uncertainty which can create an instant financial impact on businesses.
It is not possible to predict with any certainty what will happen to Sterling as we approach Brexit. However, it is important to be aware of the impact of different Brexit scenarios on the markets. For example, companies should understand their currency exposure i.e. look at what they buy and sell in Euro and identify if contracts allow for currency fluctuations, and if not, how can they manage this risk. Consulting with financial advisers and banks will provide some insight into how to manage potential risks even if they cannot be fully mitigated.
Highly regulated sectors such as Financial Services, Agri-Food and Life and Health Sciences need to be more alert to regulatory changes that may arise from Brexit.
NI businesses operating within such regulated sectors should assess how Brexit may impact their business, specifically focusing on how the regulatory environment, which is currently largely driven by the European Union (EU), may change. Time is of great importance for this sector given the perishable nature of the products, so even small changes in customs arrangements may cause significant impact.
The ongoing alignment to EU standards or how the UK rectifies differences in standards over time are the key issues which will be resolved through the UK and EU developing a future economic partnership. Some important EU regulations to monitor as Brexit progresses include:
According to HMRC’s Regional Trade Statistics for the year ending 2017, Northern Ireland (NI) exports were valued at £8.7bn, with the European Union (EU) accounting for 57% in terms of destination markets.
In addition, 33% (£2.9bn) of NI’s total exports are destined for ROI. The top 3 exporting sectors in NI were, ‘Machinery and Transport’ (33% share of total exports), ‘Chemicals and Related Products’ (16% share of total exports) and ‘Food and Live Animals’ (15% share of total exports).
For the year ending 2017, NI Imports were valued at £7.4bn with 64% coming from the EU. 28% (£2.0bn) of NI’s total imports come from the ROI. From a sector perspective, the top 3 importing sectors were ‘Machinery and Transport’ (25% share of total imports), ‘Food and Live Animals’ (20% share of total imports) and ‘Manufactured Goods’ (17% share of total exports).
In the period between 2013-14 and 2017-18 inward investment projects secured by Invest NI averaged at 276 projects per year, with a peak in 2014-15 of 340 projects. These projects included job creation, R&D, skills and trade development activities. Invest NI research shows that almost ¾ of new inward investors have reinvested in NI.
For NI to be outside both the Single Market and Customs Union means that goods crossing any border would need to have duties and VAT applied, meet country of origin criteria and satisfy regulatory standards. Finding a way to achieve this level of regulation without physical checks at border points may be difficult.
An important regulation supporting trade within the EU is the Mutual Recognition Regulation. This regulation is defined by NI business info as, “the principle of EU law under which member states must allow goods that are legally sold in another member state also to be sold in their own territory”.
The UK Government has provided guidance on the impact to this principle in a ‘No Deal’ Brexit scenario, stating that the UK would “no longer fall within the scope of the mutual recognition principle”. For NI businesses exporting non-harmonised goods to the EU market they will need to meet the national requirements of the first EU country they export to.
From a trade perspective, Brexit will impact all businesses. Those most affected will include businesses that;
NI businesses should assess their exposure to Brexit through understanding how trade will be impacted and implementing plans to reduce risks and seize linked opportunities.
A Social Market Foundation report, published in 2016 outlined that 7% of all Northern Ireland (NI) employees were born in the European Economic Area (EEA), which makes NI second behind London (12%) in terms of reliance on the EEA for employees.
The Common Travel Area (CTA), which is the arrangement between the UK and Ireland that permits ease of travel amongst other reciprocal rights in each other’s countries, will remain. The associated rights and entitlements of the CTA includes access to employment, healthcare, education, social benefits, as well as the right to vote in certain elections.
These will not change as a result of Brexit. Employers should note that Irish nationals will not need immigration permission to work in the UK and British nationals will not need immigration permission to work in the ROI.
Generally, EEA nationals and their family members are permitted to enter the UK for up to three months without restriction. They may remain in the UK with their family members for more than three months provided they become a: worker, self-employed person, self-sufficient person or student.
Permanent residence status, can be acquired followed five years of continuous residence.
The EU Settlement Scheme will allow European Union (EU) citizens and their close family members to continue to live and work in the UK beyond 31 December 2020. There are an estimated 3.8 million EU citizens who reside in the UK.
The Scheme is gradually being phased in, and will open to all potential applicants by 30 March 2019. There will be no fee to pay when the scheme fully opens and anyone who has already applied or applies during the public test phase and paid the trial fee of £65, will have their fee refunded.
Every EU citizen, and if applicable, their non EU family members, residing in the UK, must make an application to remain in the UK by 30 June 2021, or 31 December 2020 if the UK leaves the EU with no deal.
Anyone who does not apply by this deadline when they should have, will no longer be living in the UK legally. The EU Settlement Scheme: employer toolkit, equips employers with the right tools and information to support EU citizens and their families to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.
Successful applicants will be given either settled or pre-settled status, depending on their circumstances, and the length of time they have lived in the UK.
Settled status is generally granted when a person has lived in the UK for a continuous period of five years or more, meaning that for five years in a row, the person has been in the UK for at least six months in any 12 month period.
The exceptions are: one period of up to 12 months for an important reason (for example, childbirth, serious illness, study, vocational training or an overseas work posting), or compulsory military service of any length. Successful applicants can stay in the UK as long as they like and are able to apply for British citizenship if eligible.
Pre-settled status is usually granted if a person does not have five years’ continuous residence when they apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. If a person is applying for pre-settled status, they must have started living in the UK by 31 December 2020, or by 29 March 2019 if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
They can then apply to change this to settled status once you have five years’ continuous residence. Successful applicants can stay in the UK for a further five years from the date they get pre-settled status.
If a person reaches five years’ continuous residence at some point before 30 December 2020, they can choose to wait to apply until they reach five years’ continuous residence. This means that if their application is successful, they will get settled status without having to apply for pre-settled status first.
Irish citizens do not have to make an application, but can do so if they wish. Cross border workers, for example, those who live in ROI but work in NI, will need to apply under a different scheme. We will publish more guidance as it becomes available.
Brexit does feel very uncertain. That's in its nature, but so are technological advances, and businesses don't know exactly where technology might end up in the future, but it doesn't stop them thinking about it.
Brexit does feel very uncertain. That's in its nature, but so are technological advances, and businesses don't know exactly where technology might end up in the future, but it doesn't stop them thinking about it.
For example, we know that freedom of movement will come to an end. Therefore, if Northern Ireland (NI) businesses currently rely on European Union (EU) workers a lot at the moment, and also rely on being able to move people around Europe, this is one change that is going to take place within the next few years.
While uncertainty remains on the specifics, there are a range of preparations businesses can be implementing regardless of whatever eventuality emerges – with a summary of some of the key suggested actions covered below.
Firstly, your business might not trade with the European Union (EU), but what does the workforce look like? Most businesses across Northern Ireland (NI) are going to have some employees who are originally from the EU.
Or what about your supply chain organisations? Perhaps they do. Any delays and costs incurred through supply chains could well become delays and costs for your business too.
Regardless of which Brexit scenario materialises, there are a number of actions which Northern Ireland (NI) businesses should be considering now to lay the groundwork for their future trading post-Brexit. These include:
Northern Ireland (NI) businesses should consider the following 4 areas in relation to getting ready for Brexit:
How will Brexit affect the UK economy and market demand?
What impact will changes on trade have on cost, administration and time within your business?
How will changes to immigration impact your business?
How are you organising your response to Brexit?
Commodity codes classify goods for import and export so you can fill in the correct declarations and other paperwork, check if there’s duty or VAT to pay and find out about duty reliefs.
The UK Trade Tariff tool allows you to find the right code by narrowing your search using information such as what your product is, what it is made from, how it works and how it is packaged.
If the UK leaves the European Union (EU) with no deal, you may need to pay different rates of customs duty. These rates would only be applied if the UK were to leave the EU with no deal. The UK government would set temporary rates which would:
Under the temporary tariff plan, the majority of UK imports would be tariff-free. The UK temporary tariff schedule would not apply to goods crossing the land border from the Republic of Ireland (ROI) into Northern Ireland (NI). The tariffs will apply equally to imports from all countries with which the UK does not have a trade agreement or any other preferential arrangement.
In a no-deal scenario, this would include the EU (excluding ROI). In certain sectors, tariffs would be maintained to support the most sensitive agricultural industries, the automotive sector, vulnerable industries exposed to unfair global competition, and to maintain the UK government’s commitment to developing countries.
Following the 12-month temporary tariff plan, the UK Government would introduce a long-term tariff regime. This would be developed following a full public consultation process.
Check temporary rates of customs duty on imports after EU Exit if the UK leaves the EU with no deal, if the UK leaves the EU with no deal when you know the commodity codes for your goods.
If you are a business in Northern Ireland (NI) trading with the European Union (EU), you will need a UK issued Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number to continue trading if the UK leaves the EU with no deal.
If the UK leaves the EU with no deal you will need to apply the same processes to EU trade that apply when trading with the rest of the world. You’ll need to have a UK issued Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number if you:
Having an EORI number allows you to:
You do not need an EORI number if you only import or export:
You can apply for an EORI number online the process takes five to 10 minutes.
There are different ways to apply depending on whether you’re VAT-registered, not VAT-registered and you’re an importer - including if you import and export, or not VAT-registered and you only export. You may get the number immediately, but it could take up to three working days if HMRC needs to make more checks.
The Agri-Food sector is a significant contributor to the health of the Northern Ireland (NI) economy from both an employment and exports perspective.
Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) statistics show that in 2017 there were nearly 25,000 farms in NI supporting over 48,000 jobs. In addition, NI’s food & drink processing sector turned over £4.5bn in 2017 reflecting the importance of this sector to the NI economy.
In relation to trade, the UK and Ireland Agri-Food sectors are interconnected, with each being the others largest export market for food and drink. ‘Bord Bia’ (Irish Food Board), outlined that 37% of ROI’s food and drink exports are to the UK.
From an NI perspective, each year 680,000 tonnes of food flow into NI from GB, and 680,000 tonnes flow in the opposite direction, NI to GB. In addition, InterTradeIreland statistics show that in 2016 within the food, drink and tobacco sector, trade from NI to ROI accounts for £640m and from ROI to NI £508m.
The Agri-Food sector relies on European Union (EU) subsidies given largely through the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) scheme. Agriculture in the UK datasets outline that in 2016 NI received €379m in CAP payments with DAERA reporting that CAP payments provided 60% of cash income to NI farms in 2014-15.
The House of Commons report on the Pharmaceutical Sector published in 2018 outlined that within the UK this sector has a turnover of £41.8bn, employees greater than 113,000 and contributes 7.7% of Manufacturing GVA.
In 2016, the UK exported £24.9bn of pharma products, of which 48% went to the European Union (EU). The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) outlined that on a monthly basis, 37m packs of medicine arrive in the UK from the EU, with 45m moving the other way.
ABPI report that this sector employs 8,400 people across 170 companies within Northern Ireland (NI).
The Financial, Insurance and Professional Services Sectors within Northern Ireland (NI) supports around 52,000 jobs, accounting for approximately 7% of jobs across the region.
A large proportion of these jobs are concentrated around Belfast. In addition, the most recent GVA data released by the ONS stated that these sectors collectively generated £2.9bn to the NI economy in 2016, which is around 8% of total regional GVA.
For NI the recent expansion in the Financial, Insurance and Professional Services Sector in particular can be explained by the region’s strategic position and close proximity to London, as well as acting as a supporting hub for financial activity along the East Coast of America through to Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Supporting hub activities for example include professional services firms in Belfast holding a large proportion of back-office jobs for London based companies.
A significant regulatory change within this sector focuses on the potential loss of ‘Passporting’. ‘BBA’ (British Bankers Association) outline that this regulation enables firms that are authorised in any EU or EEA state to trade freely in any other with minimal additional authorisation. When the UK leaves the EU it will no longer be covered by these Passporting frameworks and it is important that businesses within these sectors firstly recognise this and secondly prepare for the impact of this change on their business.
In 2018, Northern Ireland's (NI's) manufacturing sector supported around 86,500 jobs, accounting for approximately 11% of employee jobs.
ONS estimate the sector contributes around £5.9bn to the NI economy, which is around 15% of total GVA. From an exporting perspective, HMRC data in 2017, highlighted that NI’s manufacturing sector exported goods to the value of £5.0bn, with £2.6bn destined for European Union (EU) countries and £2.4bn to Non-EU.
In 2016, it is estimated that the Northern Ireland (NI) service sector had external sales (sales made outside of NI) of £5.3bn with £1.8bn of those sales being exported (sales made outside of Great Britain and NI).
Given the importance of services trade to the NI economy, the Department for the Economy commissioned Developing Trade Consultants to undertake research on the potential impacts on NI’s tradable services sector as a result of the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU). The research was completed using the OECD’s Services Trade Restrictiveness Index (STRI) methodology as a basis. It concludes: