Your questions answered

What is the Government’s plan for Brexit?

What are the Government’s priorities?

How can you keep in touch with the Government regarding Brexit?

What structural arrangements are in place to deal with Brexit?

Who is our team for these Brexit negotiations?

Why do we not have a Minister for Brexit?

Has the UK now left the EU?

Is Ireland still a member of the EU?

What happens next?

How long will these negotiations take?

Can Ireland block the UK’s exit deal?

What about our bilateral relationship with the UK?

What about the future of the EU?

Will the EU still use the English language?

How will a UK exit impact on our economy?

What are the opportunities for Ireland with the UK leaving the EU?

What about customs posts along the border?

What are the implications for Northern Ireland and the Peace Process?

What about triggering a Border Poll?

What will happen to the Common Travel Area?

What about using my passport and travelling to and from the UK?

I have social welfare payments that come from the UK, what about them?

What happens if no agreement is reached?

Can a Member State apply to re-join after it leaves?

What is the Government’s plan for Brexit?                                                                                                                 

The Government is determined that all possible preparations are made ahead of the UK leaving the EU, including for the upcoming negotiations. We are focused on protecting and advancing Ireland’s interest at every turn.

The Government on 2 May published a comprehensive document on Ireland and the negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. This document reflects the findings and outcomes of the extensive preparatory work and consultations undertaken to date and demonstrates how these will be brought to bear in Ireland’s approach to the negotiations in the weeks and months ahead.

All Departments and Agencies have been charged with making Brexit a priority. Brexit has been their priority since before the UK vote in June 2016 and we have been planning accordingly.

With the Cabinet Committee on Brexit leading the co-ordination, our Brexit planning comprises:

Analysis & prioritisation

Pre-vote contingency planning has been developed into deeper analysis, across all key issues and sectors. This work involves:

  • Six overarching Government workstreams, with supporting workgroups, analysing the major national priority issues for economic, political and social impacts.
  • Departmental own internal analysis identifying major risks and mitigation measures for their sectors.  
  • Identification of possible opportunities that may arise from the UK leaving the EU.

As part of this work, a series of research analyses have been commissioned. All publicly available reports can be found here

Given that the EU’s initial negotiating position is now clear, the Government will intensify its focus on the economic implications of Brexit, including on domestic policy measures to reinforce the competitiveness of the Irish economy, to protect it from potential negative impacts of Brexit, and to pursue all possible opportunities that might arise.

Consultation

The Irish Government has undertaken a number of different types of consultations regarding Brexit. These include:

  • The All-Island Civic Dialogue is a series of meetings held by Ministers to hear directly about the all-island implications of Brexit, from a variety of stakeholders from across a wide range of sectors. This process has so far included fourteen sectoral meetings and two plenary sessions. Click here to find out more about this process.
  • Ministers have also been convening other established sectoral meetings – such as the Export Trade Council, the Better Outcomes, Better Futures Council and Food Wise 2025 High Level Committee – to hear from other industry representatives about their views.
  • Ministers have also been speaking at key industry events and taking views from a range of meetings held over the last number of months as part of Government business, where the issues of Brexit have been raised.
  • There has been ongoing Oireachtas engagement with Ministers and senior officials appearing in front of Committees and as part of Oireachtas business to answer questions regarding our priorities and work to date.

Get further information on consultations here

Engagement

The Government has undertaken a programme of extensive engagement, both with our EU partners, the EU institutions, and further afield.  

Brexit is top of the agenda for all meetings with our European Union counterparts, both our fellow member states and also with the representatives of the EU Institutions.

Led by the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, and with the Minister of State for European Affairs playing a key role, our EU engagement has involved:

  • Bilateral meetings
  • Meeting with fellow EU Ministers at Council meetings
  • Ongoing engagement with European Council, European Commission, including the Brexit Task Force, and European Parliament 
  • Extensive engagement by Irish diplomats in EU capitals
  • There have been over 400 engagements in total

It is useful to note that there are well-established arrangements for bilateral engagement with UK counterparts, such as through structures established under the Good Friday Agreement and as a result of the 2012 Joint Statement between the Taoiseach and the UK Prime Minister. Under this Joint Statement, there is ongoing engagement to progress agreed areas of joint co-operation. Discussions on the impact of Brexit take place in this context. The two Governments also continue to work closely as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, including in the context of current political developments.

Outside the EU, we have maximised our international trade missions and other international trips. Through our network of Irish diplomats, Enterprise Ireland and IDA specialists, we have confirmed Ireland’s strong ongoing commitment to our membership of the EU and the Eurozone, and our priorities for the Brexit negotiations.

What are the Government’s priorities?                                                                                                                        

Our headline priorities are:

  • Minimising impact on trade and the economy
  • Protecting the Northern Ireland Peace Process
  • Maintaining the Common Travel Area
  • Influencing the future of the European Union 

The European Council Negotiating Guidelines recognise Ireland's unique concerns regarding the withdrawal negotiations.

In particular, they highlight the paramount importance of continuing to support and protect the achievements, benefits and commitments of the Peace Process.

They acknowledge that flexible and imaginative solutions will be required, including with the aim of avoiding a hard border.

They provide that existing bilateral agreements and arrangements between the United Kingdom and Ireland, which are compatible with EU law, should be recognised.

PM May’s letter, the EU guidelines and the European Parliament’s resolution show that the UK, Ireland and the EU all want to find a way forward on this together.

To read the Government's Information Booklet Brexit: Ireland's Priorities, click here

To read the Taoiseach's keynote address on Brexit, click here

To read the Government statement on Ireland's Brexit preparations, click here

How can you keep in touch with the Government regarding Brexit?                                                               

We have established a Brexit Update email system so you can stay up-to-date with the Government’s engagement work on Brexit. You can sign up to this service here.

This section on Merrionstreet website is also regularly updated with the latest information. You should also follow @merrionstreet and @dfatirl on Twitter for further updates.

What structural arrangements are in place to deal with Brexit?                                                                         

Immediately after the vote in June 2016, a series of structural changes were required to ensure an effective whole-of-Government response to the challenges ahead.

  • The establishment of a new Cabinet Committee on Brexit, chaired by the Taoiseach, to oversee the overall Government response. This Cabinet Committee co-ordinates our preparations. It meets to discuss the economic impact of Brexit, the planning for the negotiations, and our programme of engagement with EU partners, EU Institutions, and with the administrations in London and Belfast.
  • After the vote, a Second Secretary General was appointed to lead a new integrated division within the Department of the Taoiseach. This division has the responsibility for supporting the Taoiseach in his work on International, EU and Northern Ireland Affairs. This includes Brexit co-ordination across Government.
  • A Brexit team was established in each Department and key agencies. These teams work as part of a network for Brexit co-ordination across Government and meet regularly.
  • The EU policy role for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was strengthened, and our diplomatic teams in a number of EU embassies were expanded to ensure our voice is being heard in key European capitals.  
  • Enterprise Ireland and IDA also received additional staff members to help advise companies at home and abroad affected by the vote.

All of this work was complemented by pre-existing structures. They include the Cabinet Committee on EU Affairs and the EU Senior Officials Group which supports it.       

Who is our team for these Brexit negotiations?                                                                                                        

As head of Government and chair of the Brexit Cabinet Committee, the Taoiseach is coordinating overall preparations in relation to Brexit. He will represent Ireland at the European Council (meetings of the EU Heads of State and Government), which will guide and have ongoing political oversight of the Brexit negotiations.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade will coordinate our input and engagement, with the Minister of State for European Affairs also playing a key role, with a view to advancing Ireland’s interests with our EU partners and the UK.

This is a Government-wide issue and each Minister has an important role to play. As mentioned above, every Government Department has a Brexit team and has developed thorough analysis of the critical issues which need to be addressed in their sectors. Ministers will continue to work with their EU counterparts – both in EU capitals and within the EU Institutions – to understand the issues, outlining Ireland’s position and feeding that information into the negotiations. 

Supporting the Taoiseach and Ministers in these complex negotiations is a team of experienced Government officials and diplomats, at home and abroad.

Why do we not have a Minister for Brexit?                                                                                                                

Brexit is a job for the entire Cabinet, led by the Taoiseach from the centre of Government. He represents Ireland at the European Council, which will have overall political oversight of the negotiations. All Ministers have responsibility for Brexit within their own respective portfolios and all have their part to play. 

Has the UK now left the EU?                                                                                                                                              

No. Until it formally withdraws from the Union, the UK remains a full Member, with all of its existing rights and obligations.

Businesses can continue to trade as normal and people can continue to travel as normal between Ireland and the UK, including Northern Ireland.        

Is Ireland still a member of the EU?                                                                                                                                

Yes. Ireland remains fully committed to our membership of the EU and the Eurozone, and we will be very much part of the EU team in the negotiations ahead.

EU membership remains central to the success of our open, competitive economy and has been the foundation for much of the social progress we have made over the last four decades. The Irish people have consistently endorsed our membership of the EU, including recently when we faced our most difficult economic challenges since independence.

Membership of the European Union has brought great benefits to our country and remains profoundly in our interests. We value our access to the single market and the benefits our exporters derive from EU trade agreements with other countries.

More broadly, we value being part of a Union with other like-minded democracies which share our values and interests.               

At the meetings of European Heads of State and Government  in Bratislava in September and in Valletta in February, the Taoiseach outlined Ireland’s vision for the renewal and future direction of the European Union. We will continue to participate in that ongoing discussion so that the EU can respond to the challenges we face and to the needs of our citizens.

What happens next?     

There will be two sets of negotiations.

The first set of negotiations will be for the UK to exit from the EU.  These negotiations are called ‘the Article 50’ negotiations, sometimes referred to as ‘the Exit’ or ‘the Divorce’. 

Prime Minister Theresa May formally notified the European Council (which includes the Taoiseach and his fellow EU Leaders) of the UK's intention to leave the EU on 29 March. This means that the two-year exit process has now commenced.

The European Council convened on 29 April at which the negotiating guidelines were agreed; these will define the framework for the negotiations. The General Affairs Council – Foreign Affairs and/or EU Affairs Ministers from the 27 EU Member States - will then adopt more detailed negotiating directives and will authorize the opening of the negotiations. 

The day-to-day negotiations on behalf of the Union will be led by the European Commission Task Force, under Michel Barnier. The Commission Brexit Taskforce will report regularly to the European Council who will be taking all final decisions regarding these negotiations.

The European Parliament will be kept fully updated of the negotiations and will of course have a final vote on the Exit Deal.

The second set of negotiations will be to agree the future relationship between the EU and the UK. These can be commenced only after the Article 50 negotiations are underway.

To read the Government's information note on the next steps for Article 50, click here.

How long will these negotiations take?                                                                                                                               

According to the EU Treaties, the Article 50 exit negotiations should be completed within two years.  This could be extended if all members of the European Council unanimously agree to do so.  

Can Ireland block the UK’s exit deal?                                                                                                                             

According to the Treaties, the exit agreement should be approved by a majority vote in the European Council, which includes the Taoiseach and his fellow EU leaders.  No one member state could block that exit agreement. It is also worth pointing out that, even if a deal could be blocked, that does not mean that the UK would not leave – Under Article 50, it would simply mean that the UK would depart without appropriate arrangements in place.

What about our bilateral relationship with the UK?                                                                                                

It will be a priority for the Irish Government to maintain and build on the strength of our bilateral relations with the UK Government.

There is already a clear framework in place for bilateral co-operation between the Irish and UK Governments under the Joint Statement the Taoiseach signed with the then UK Prime Minister in 2012. Prime Minister May and the Taoiseach reaffirmed our Governments’ commitment to this co-operation when we met in July.  The PM and the Taoiseach review progress at our regular Summit meetings, such as the one held most recently in Dublin on 30 January.

This provides a framework for co-operation on a Joint Ireland/UK Work Programme covering issues such as the Common Travel Area; Energy & Climate Change; Economic & Financial Issues and Trade & Investment.

As part of this, the annual Summit of Secretaries General with UK Permanent Secretaries took place in London, on 5/6 October.  This well established forum served as a valuable vehicle for discussion and exploration of Brexit implications, impacts and options, in addition to providing for consideration of the broad areas of co-operation under the Joint Work Programme.

We will continue to use existing channels of communication, including summit meetings between the UK Prime Minister and the Taoiseach.

The structures established under the Good Friday Agreement for managing relations on these islands still exist and we will ensure that the British Irish Council and the North South Ministerial Council are utilised to best effect to ensure that we all work together to safeguard the peace process and maintain strong relations on these islands.

We will also work bilaterally with the UK to ensure that our interests are protected, though in many cases they will have to be managed through EU-UK frameworks.

What about the future of the EU?                                                                                                                                    

Though the referendum outcome was disappointing for the EU, the 27 other Member States are continuing to  work closely together.

The outcome of the UK referendum, as well as a number of other challenges facing the Union, has led to a period of reflection about our renewal and future direction. Rather than setting new goals, the Union needs to communicate better and deliver concrete results in areas which directly affect the lives of its citizens -  such as the single market, jobs, growth and investment, as well as  security. The Taoiseach outlined Ireland’s vision for the future of the European Union in recent informal meetings of  EU leaders in Bratislava and in Valletta,  and he will continue to take part in discussions on this important issue.

It is important to remember the enormous achievements of the Union over very many years. For all its flaws, the EU remains the best structure for advancing prosperity, promoting peace, and confronting the many and complex challenges presented by the twenty first century.

Will the EU still use the English language?                                                                                                                  

Yes. This was confirmed by the European Commission on 28 June 2016

How will a UK exit impact on our economy?                                                                                                               

The Government is confident that our economy is resilient. While negotiations are ongoing, the Irish Government will continue efforts to prepare the economy and enterprise sectors.

We are not under any illusions about the complexity of these negotiations and are engaged in detailed planning to prepare for these.  Brexit undoubtedly poses major challenges for us. We know that because of our close economic ties, any negative impact on the UK economy in the medium term will have implications for the Irish economy. Much will depend on the new arrangements, including on trade, to be agreed with the EU.

Our absolute preference is to maintain the closest possible trading relationship based on a level playing field between the UK and the EU, including Ireland.

But also be clear that Ireland’s economic interests lie firmly in a strong and well-functioning EU with continued and unfettered access to the single market.

There is a lot of negotiation to be done around trading arrangements and, by extension, the customs regime that might apply.

Our contingency work is examining all scenarios and we cannot preempt the outcome at this stage.

Given that the EU’s initial negotiating position is now clear, the Government will intensify its focus on the economic implications of Brexit, including on domestic policy measures to reinforce the competitiveness of the Irish economy, to protect it from potential negative impacts of Brexit, and to pursue all possible opportunities that might arise. 

In order to underpin this, Government will prepare a further paper on economic implications of the Brexit challenge.  This will draw on the work to date across Departments and will reflect the core economic themes of the Taoiseach's speech to the IIEA on 15 February last including:

  • sustainable fiscal policies to ensure capacity to absorb and respond to economic shocks, not least from Brexit;
  • policies to make Irish enterprise more diverse and resilient, to diversify trade and investment patterns, and to strengthen competitiveness;
  • prioritising policy measures and dedicating resources to protect jobs and businesses in the sectors and regions most affected by Brexit;
  • realising economic opportunities arising from Brexit, and helping businesses adjust to any new logistical or trade barriers arising;
  • making a strong case at EU level that Ireland will require support that recognises where Brexit represents a serious disturbance to the Irish economy.

Policy decisions in support of these objectives arise across a wide range of areas, including the annual Budgetary process; the forthcoming National Planning Framework 2040; the new 10-year National Capital Plan; the Review of Enterprise 2025 Policy, and sectoral policies and investment decisions in areas such as agriculture, enterprise, transport, communications and energy.

The undertaking of this work underlines the fact that we are at the beginning, rather than the end, of what will be a long and complex process.

What are the opportunities for Ireland with the UK leaving the EU?                                                               

There will be opportunities for Ireland, arising from Britain’s decision to leave the EU and we will seek to take those opportunities.

We continue, through the IDA, to promote the attractiveness of Ireland as a location of choice for those companies and talented people who are looking to establish or expand operations in what will be the only English-speaking country within the EU and the Eurozone.

We will continue to implement our clear strategy for driving growth in the financial services sector and maximise any opportunities that might arise. The Government has also decided to bid for the relocation to Ireland of the two EU agencies currently based in the UK. The European Medicines Agency, with nearly 1000 staff and the European Banking Authority, will need to leave the UK once it departs from the EU. 

What about customs posts along the border?                                                                                                            

The Government’s position is very clear – we want the closest possible trading relationship with the UK and in particular for trade between North and South. There is a lot of negotiation to be done around trading arrangements and, by extension, the customs regime that might apply.

The British and Irish Governments agree that they do not want to see the imposition of a hard border on the island of Ireland.

As stated by the Taoiseach, any manifestation of a hard border would have very negative consequences.  A key priority is to ensure the continued free flow of trade on the island and the need to avoid a hard border.

Our contingency work is examining all possible scenarios, taking into account the serious political implications of any return to a physical border on the island. 

What are the implications for Northern Ireland and the Peace Process?                                                       

The continued stability of Northern Ireland remains a priority for this Government. Contact is ongoing with the UK Government and the Northern Ireland Executive as co-guarantors of the peace process. These relationships are key.

The Government will seek to ensure that future EU-UK and Ireland-UK negotiations give priority attention to the Northern Ireland dimension, including issues relating to the border and EU funding and ensuring that the Good Friday Agreement remains fully in place and respected.

During negotiations we will actively seek to avoid the introduction of any new measures that could negatively impact on the Border region, either North or South.

It is vital that the benefits of the peace process are safeguarded and built upon for future generations, in whatever arrangements are negotiated.

What about triggering a Border Poll?                                                                                                                            

The provisions for a Border Poll are clearly laid out in the Good Friday Agreement. This is an international agreement and it will not change as a result of the referendum outcome.

The Good Friday Agreement provides that the consent of a majority of the people in Northern Ireland is necessary to change the status of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom.

The relevant provision sets out that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland shall direct the holding of a poll if “it appears likely to him / her that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland.”

There is no convincing evidence at present to suggest that a majority of the people of Northern Ireland would opt for a change in its constitutional status.

The Government is pleased that the European Council statement of 29 April highlights the paramount importance of continuing to support and protect the achievements, benefits and commitments of the Peace Process and states EU Treaties would apply to the entire territory of a united Ireland, if brought under the Good Friday Agreement.

What will happen to the Common Travel Area?                                                                                                        

The rights of EU citizens currently in the UK and UK citizens currently in the EU will be a key issue for the negotiations. Until the UK leaves the EU, which will not be before 2019, it remains a full member and therefore subject to the same Treaty obligations as other EU Member States, including with regard to the free movement of people and the rights of EU citizens.

In any case, both the British and Irish Governments have made clear their determination to maintain the Common Travel Area, which predates EU membership. This allows the freedom of movement of people within the two islands as well as the rights to reside, work and access public services. The value and significance of the CTA have been recognised by EU partners and institutions.

There is therefore no immediate change to the Common Travel Area. People can still travel as normal between Ireland and the UK, including Northern Ireland.

There is no desire to limit the freedom of people on both sides of the Irish Sea to live, work and travel freely across these islands.

What about using my passport and travelling to and from the UK?                                                                  

For answers to a range of questions you may have regarding travel and passports, please see this dedicated page on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website

I have social welfare payments that come from the UK, what about them?                                                 

For answers to a range of questions you may have on social welfare, please see Department of Social Protection's website

What happens if no agreement is reached?

The EU Treaties simply cease to apply to the UK two years after notification.

Can a Member State apply to re-join after it leaves?

Any country that has withdrawn from the EU may apply to re-join. It would be required to go through the accession procedure.