EU Referendum Results: Frequently asked questions

We have complied a list of frequently asked questions our customers and stakeholders have asked us, which we hope you will find helpful.

We will add to this list as we get more clarity of the current situation, so please check back from time to time.

1. What is the current level of trade between the UK and the EU?
About 44 per cent of UK exports in goods and services went to other countries in the EU in 2015. This works out at £220 billion out of total exports valued at £510 billion.

53 per cent of imports into the UK came from other countries in the EU in 2015. That proportion has not changed that much over the past 16 years.

The rest of the EU exported approximately £290 billion to the UK. What this means is that the rest of the EU sells more to the UK than we sell to them.

The £220 billion exports of goods and services to other EU countries was approximately 12 per cent of the value of the British economy in 2015. It has stayed around 13 per cent to 15 per cent over the past decade.

Exports from the rest of the EU to the UK were worth about 3 per cent to 4 per cent of the size of the remaining EU’s economy in 2014.
2. What is the current level of trade between Northern Ireland and the EU?
Whilst it is far too early to know what the future trading relationship between the UK and EU will look like, as the EU sells more to the UK than we do to them, we are positive that mutually beneficial trading arrangements will ensure continued access to the EU market, whilst also having the freedom to develop new bi-lateral agreements in emerging markets and other geographies.

However, we acknowledge that in the short term there may be challenges and are proactively engaging with all of our key exporters to understand their specific issues and see if they can be addressed.
3. What will be the impact of the EU Referendum on Northern Ireland exporters?
The EU remains a key trading partner with approximately 55 per cent of all Northern Ireland manufacturing exports going to European markets. According to the Regional Trade Statistics: HMRC (2015/16), 75 per cent of Northern Ireland’s manufacturing exports goes to three countries: the Republic of Ireland at £2.1 billion, Germany at £337 million and France at £296 million.

EU Member Trade Agreements between Northern Ireland and the EU remain in place and will continue for at least two years, with good opportunities for Northern Ireland exporters across a wide range of sectors.

Invest NI will continue to provide a wide range of support in Europe to deliver increased capability to new exporters, and increased export capacity to help existing exporters exploit current markets and open up new markets.
1. What will be the impact on the freedom of movement for workers?
Leaving the EU calls into question the position of UK nationals living and working in Europe as well as EU citizens working in the UK.

The EU will be able to decide the terms on which it will allow British nationals to work in the EU but it is likely that the UK would negotiate separate agreements allowing both UK and EU nationals to work flexibly.
2. What will be the impact on the Common Travel Area?
The Common Travel Area refers to administrative arrangements providing a special immigration control regime, such as between the UK and the Republic of Ireland, which has been in place for the most of the period since 1922.

In practice, the aims of these arrangements have been to ensure relative freedom of movement between the two states, and to establish forms of co-operation between the two states’ immigration authorities.

It is to be presumed that the underlying reasons for the Common Travel Area will continue to apply.

Continuing with Common Travel Area arrangements appears to be compatible with EU law. The political consensus in support of the Common Travel Area in Northern Ireland would probably be a significant factor in future negotiations.
3. What other employment issues are likely to arise for businesses in Northern Ireland?
Whilst there is no clear indication of how employment law and regulations may be impacted, most commentators feel that the following areas that are unlikely to change.
  1. National Minimum Wage
    1. This is very much a UK Government initiative and regulations are not required by European law.
    2. Furthermore, the UK National Minimum Wage is significantly higher than that in similar European systems and the UK Government recently introduced the National Living Wage.
    3. You can find out about the national minimum wage and national living wage rates and your main responsibilities regarding the national minimum wage on our business information website,
  2. Transfer of Undertakings (TUPE)
    1. On 6 April 2006, the revised Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 and the Service Provision Change (Protection of Employment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 came into operation.
    2. The UK has gone further than the EU in terms of TUPE and when it applies, so there are unlikely to be any changes.
    3. You can find out about TUPE legislation in Northern Ireland on our business information website,
  3. Unfair dismissal and tribunals
    1. Legislation relating to unfair dismissals and tribunals will almost certainly remain the same. Much of it did not originate from the EU, for example the fees system which was introduced to stop spurious claims.
    2. You can find out more about the types of dismissal, unfair dismissal and employment-related tribunal claims on our business information website,
  4. Discrimination
    1. While many of the UK laws regarding discrimination derive from the EU, it's unlikely that there would be any major overhaul. Many UK discrimination laws were developed before the formation of the EU.
    2. There would be much criticism, and potentially wider social implications, if these laws were to be repealed. When it comes to issues such as the gender pay gap it is impossible to know how they will be shaped. However they will probably remain unchanged for the foreseeable future.
    3. You can find out about equality law and the types of discrimination, employment protection rights in relation to industrial tribunal claims and how you can monitor and promote equality and diversity in the workplace on our business information website,
  5. Data Protection Act
    1. This is a bit of an unknown area as it came about from an EU law and it is difficult to predict exactly how it will be affected. However, echoing the approach to discrimination laws, it is unlikely that the Data Protection Act would be repealed.
    2. You can find out how rules on data protection are likely to affect your business and how your business can assess its compliance with the Data Protection Act on our business information website,
However, the following areas are likely to change:
  1. Working Time Regulations
    1. The Working Time Regulations (1998) has long been a point of contention with politicians campaigning for the UK to opt out. They influence weekly working hours, rest periods, paid annual leave and extra protection for night workers. While it is difficult to say how each of these points will be affected, it is more than likely that they will be restructured beyond current recognition but it is unlikely that they will be completely repealed.
    2. You can find out more about the Working Time Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2016 on our business information website,
  2. Agency Worker’s Rights (AWR)
    1. The AWR is expected to be high on the list of legislation to be amended or fully repealed. AWR was introduced to comply with the EU's agency workers’ directive and is almost universally unpopular. It has been heavily criticised and is expected to be completely repealed.
    2. This document will give you more guidance on the Agency Workers Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011.
4. What about the impact on EU-US Privacy Shield?
The EU-US Privacy Shield is a framework for transatlantic data flow, and replaces the previous framework, Safe Harbor.

This new arrangement was announced on 2 February 2016 and provides stronger obligations on companies in the US to protect the personal data of Europeans and stronger monitoring and enforcement by the United States Department of Commerce and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The question will now be, will the UK be required to develop its own guidance on how to deal with data transfer requests to the US to ensure UK and American companies have the legal certainty and clarity they need to continue their operations?
Corporation tax  
1. What impact will the decision have on the plans for the Northern Ireland Executive to set a lower rate of Corporation Tax?
The Fresh Start agreement and Draft Programme for Government Framework 2016-21 emphasise the commitment by the Northern Ireland Executive to realise the goal of rebalancing our economy.

Corporation Tax is a significant tool will help us deliver on that goal. The new situation could offer Northern Ireland an opportunity to deal with some of the state aid issues that are likely to be removed.

The reduction in Corporation Tax will play an invaluable role in creating a business-friendly environment to support job creation, based on the combination of tax, talent and value.
Inward investment  
1. In your statement you say “all factors remain” that make Northern Ireland a great place for business. Surely being part of the EU is one of those factors?
Our talent, our tax and our value proposition for inward investment remain very resilient and Invest NI will continue to sell Northern Ireland on that basis.
2. Was easy access Europe for trade not also a key selling point? Does the decision to leave EU not risk this?
At present, Invest NI predominantly targets cost centre opportunities as Northern Ireland cannot offer a tax and profit advantage. Cost centres are mainly offshore service centres for their parent operations, and the majority of them are based in the USA or Great Britain, so market access is not a key issue for them.

The two key factors of talent and cost have not changed so we expect to continue to drive forward on our plans for foreign direct investment into Northern Ireland. The majority of those investors and those in our pipeline for first time investment, are not looking for market access, nor will they be impacted by a change in that position.

We do acknowledge that some investors have raised longer term concerns regarding the movement of people and managing regulation between the UK and the EU and will continue to work with the Northern Ireland Executive and UK Government to ensure these are addressed.
3. Will the period of uncertainty over our relationship with Europe not have a negative impact on potential investment?
Having seen the number of new investors grow by 40 per cent over the past five years, we are confident that Northern Ireland will continue to succeed as an attractive location for investment, in particular from our largest target market, the USA.

Our highly educated people, and our cost effectiveness, are the two main themes of our sales message, and it is these two factors that have attracted the majority of investors over the past few years. They in turn, serve their home markets in USA, so EU market access is not always an issue.

However, we recognise that, for those internationally owned companies who do export to EU, the current uncertainty will be a difficult time. We are proactively engaging with all of our key customers to understand their specific issues and see if they can be addressed.
Funding from the EU  
1. What is the latest position regarding EU funded programmes?
Following his announcement in August, which guaranteed funds for projects signed up until the Autumn Statement, the Chancellor has now extended this guarantee to the point at which the UK departs the EU. In a statement on 03 October the Chancellor confirmed that the government will guarantee EU funding for structural and investment fund projects, including agri-environment schemes, signed after the Autumn Statement and which continue after we have left the EU.

Funding for projects will be honoured by the government, if they meet the following conditions:
  • they are good value for money
  • they are in line with domestic strategic priorities

As a result, businesses, farmers and other organisations will have additional certainty over future funding and should continue to apply for EU funding while the UK remains a member of the EU.

In addition, the Minister of Finance, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has stated that business should continue as usual for both the INTERREG VA and the PEACE IV programmes. The message from officials in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), which leads on EU Structural Funds for the UK Government, is also that programme implementation should continue.

Whilst we do not draw down from these schemes, this guidance may give us an indication of how our own use of EU funding may be treated.

The Northern Ireland Executive will contribute to the UK Government position for future negotiations with the EU. Issues such as programme duration and, if required, potential exit strategies, could be expected to form part of these negotiations. It may be that, for example, phasing of projects, and associated spend, will have to be considered.

However, in the interim, and until instructed otherwise by Ministers, we must continue to implement the programmes as agreed and aim to maximise drawdown of the available EU funding.
2. What is the latest position on State Aid Case handling?
The State Aid position is consistent with the UK Government’s central position:
  • There will be no immediate change to our relationship with the EU.
  • While the UK is still a member of the EU, all rights and obligations will apply.
  • The UK will continue to participate in decision making.
  • The legal position is that the state aid rules continue to apply and all the UK’s rights and obligations remain until we leave the EU. This means that we still must:
    • notify aid and follow all the normal processes, including completing the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER) forms;
    • respond fully and promptly to European Commission information requests and produce evaluation plans if necessary;
    • complete our annual reports, and crucially continue with the implementation of the transparency requirements required under State aid modernisation; and
    • continue with normal compliance work.
The situation with the European Commission on case handling remains fluid. However, current indications are that it will largely be business as usual, and cases will pass through the system.

The European Commission will act professionally towards us and our cases. It does however mean that there will be virtually no scope to seek special treatment. This includes asking for cases to be expedited or automatically seeking to escalate cases.

Any decision to escalate cases must be cleared by the United Kingdom Permanent Representation to the European Union (UKRep), the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the European and Global Issues Secretariat (EGIS).
3. Can I still participate in Horizon 2020?
Yes. On 13 August, the UK Government issued a statement that, where UK organisations bid directly to the European Commission on a competitive basis (such as Horizon 2020), it would underwrite the funding for projects, even when specific projects continue beyond the UK’s departure from the EU.

Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU research and innovation programme with nearly €80 billion of funding available over seven years, from 2014 to 2020, in addition to the private investment that this money will attract.

The UK economy is fundamentally strong and Northern Ireland’s research and innovation is world leading. The UK’s decision to leave the EU has no immediate effect on those applying to, or participating in, Horizon 2020 as the UK is still an EU member state. UK participants can continue to apply to the programme in the usual way.
4. Will applications to Horizon 2020 be discriminated against if they include the participation of UK organisations?
There is no immediate change. UK organisations can continue to participate in Horizon 2020 under the same terms and conditions as they currently do.
5. Can I still coordinate or lead a Horizon 2020 project?
There is no immediate change. UK organisations can continue to participate in Horizon 2020 under the same terms and conditions as they currently do.
6. What is being done to reassure other Member States that including UK organisations in Horizon 2020 proposal consortiums is not a risky thing to do?
There is no immediate change. UK organisations can continue to participate in Horizon 2020 under the same terms and conditions as they currently do, and should not be discriminated against during the evaluation of proposals.
7. What will it mean for UK participants in funded Horizon 2020 projects if the UK leaves the EU before the project finishes?
On 13 August, the UK Government issued a statement that, where UK organisations bid directly to the European Commission on a competitive basis (such as Horizon 2020), it would underwrite the funding for projects, even when specific projects continue beyond the UK’s departure from the EU. UK organisations should ‘continue to bid for competitive EU funds while we remain a member of the EU’. Some more clarity is needed as to when the cut-off is and whether it is applications submitted by the time the UK leaves the EU or agreements signed.

For Structural Fund projects, where signed contracts or funding agreements are already in place or where the agreement is signed in the ordinary course of business before the Autumn Statement (usually November), projects will be fully funded, even when these projects continue beyond the UK’s departure from the EU.

Read the letter from the Treasury setting out the detail (PDF).
8. What happens to the schemes Invest NI operates that are funded by the EU?
Invest NI will continue to write new business and draw down EU funding until such times as we are made aware of any changes and the terms for the future of EU funding are renegotiated. It is very much business as usual.
9. How many Invest NI staff are funded through EU support and what impact will there be on them?
Invest NI has 26 members of staff who currently work directly on EU funded programmes. Their employment status would not be directly affected by future changes to funding. We will continue to align all of our resources to ensure that we meet our organisational goals, and prepare for the opportunities within the new Programme for Government for Northern Ireland.
10. How much funding does Invest NI draw from EU on an annual basis?
Between £20 million and £30 million per annum of our budget is EU-funded, depending on our expenditure profile and exchange rate variations.
11. How much funding did Invest NI draw from EU in the current Programme for Government period?
Over the previous Programme for Government period (2011-2015), £105.9 million of our funding came from the EU Sustainable Competitiveness Programme (EUSCP) which is part of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
12. How much funding does Invest NI anticipate drawing from the EU in next two years?
Invest NI expects to draw down approximately £75 million through to April 2018 from the EU Investment for Growth and Jobs Programme.
Enterprise European Network (EEN)  
1. What is EEN?
The Enterprise Europe Network is an initiative funded through the COSME and Horizon 2020 programmes. It promotes excellence in innovation and international collaboration for SMEs and operates in over 60 countries globally, including in many of the world’s major economies.

In England, Northern Ireland and Wales (ENIW), Innovate UK leads a single EEN consortium of 21 organisations. This is the largest single EEN consortium globally.

The Enterprise Europe Network’s current six-year cycle began in January 2015 and runs until 2020. Its formal contractual basis is a Framework Partnership Agreement (FPA) for the 6 years to which all 21 ENIW partners are signatories. The FPA involved an open tendering process held across Europe.
2. What is the impact on EEN?
EEN remains open for business to support ambitious UK companies to innovate and grow internationally.

EEN will continue to play an important role with an increased requirement from businesses for information, support and guidance on -
  • Access to finance, market access, regulations, etc.
  • Seeking new markets and partners – most likely outside of Europe.
  • Understanding a different funding and support environment in the UK.
  • Achieving business growth.
The Network operates in over 60 countries and can continue irrespective of the UK’s relationship with the EU.

EEN enters a new two-year programme delivery period from 01 January 2017. Beyond the end of 2018 EEN will need to take into consideration the UK’s status in the EU at the time and the funding for the operation of the Network.
Offers of support to Invest NI customers  
1. I have an existing Letter of Offer of financial support from Invest NI that has not yet been completed. Is there now a risk that I will not receive the promised funds?
No. For offers which are expected to be drawn down up to the point of the UK’s exit, there will be no issue. For offers which extend beyond the point to the UK’s exit from the EU, we would expect additional funding to be made available from baseline.
2. I am currently negotiating a new Letter of Offer for financial support from Invest NI. Can I depend that it will be delivered?
Yes, Invest NI will continue to write new business and draw down EU funding until such times as we are made aware of any changes.
Role of Invest NI  
1. What are you saying to your customers and stakeholders?
We recognise that many of our customers and stakeholders may have questions or queries regarding the potential impact of the UK leaving the EU. As a trusted business partner it is important that we engage with our customers, listen to their feedback and questions and respond where we can.

We have been proactively contacting our customers to understand the immediate concerns and to provide whatever support and guidance we can. Internationally, our overseas teams will also be proactively engaging with potential investors to reiterate our strong value proposition and address any concerns which may exist.

Read the statement from our Chief Executive, Alastair Hamilton following the EU Referendum result.
2. What impact will Brexit have on the future role and function of Invest NI?
Clearly we have a big job to do, helping businesses in export markets all around the world and increasing our sales and marketing effort to continue to grow investment and support job creation.

It is important to remember that the majority of our funding is not drawn from EU sources, so we will continue to utilise every tool available to us to deliver the support businesses need to grow and we will fully explore all potential new opportunities that may emerge following the EU Referendum result.

We do not foresee any immediate changes in our main support mechanisms, particularly for inward investment which is primarily around selective financial assistance and skills. These are not reliant of EU funding and remain unaffected.

Read the statement from our Chief Executive, Alastair Hamilton following the EU Referendum result.

If you would like to raise any particular concerns regarding the EU Referendum result, please contact your Invest NI Client Manager or our Business Support Team on 0800 181 4422, who are available 8.30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

If you have any questions or queries regarding the potential impact of the UK leaving the EU, complete our enquiry form and we will do our best to answer them.

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