Tuesday 22 October 2019

Brexit: From online shopping to jobs - how it will hit the Irish pocket

Sinead Ryan

Sinead Ryan

The UK's decision to leave the EU is possibly the biggest shock to its economy since the Second World War.

As its closest neighbour and largest trading partner the ripple effect will be felt more in Ireland than anywhere else.

This week I'm looking at where, and how, you will see that manifested, in your pocket and lifestyle. It's not all negative news - with many of the ramifications, both good and bad, depending on your viewpoint.

Here are 10 areas were Brexit will affect Irish consumers:

1. Trade Forty-five per cent of all UK trade is with the EU, and most of it with Ireland. UK/Irish trade is worth €1.2bn every week. The ESRI predicts a 20pc slump, costing around €3bn over two years, as a result of Brexit.

Nobody fully understands the consequences, but it is imperative that business heads work together. Business negotiated under EU tenders will be reassessed.

One thing is certain: everybody on both sides of the Irish Sea wants to continue the strong trade between our two countries.

2. Travel We've enjoyed a common travel area with Britain since 1920, and they want that to continue.

However, many 'Leave' voters cited immigration as their number one concern and want borders re-established as a result. They're not worried about Irish visitors per se, but it's hard to keep an open border with one nationality and a closed one with others.

It's certainly likely that you'll need to show your passport again travelling to the UK, and the Short Stay Visa, introduced in 2011 to allow foreign tourists freedom of travel between the UK and Ireland, will now be reassessed.

3. Health At present, Irish citizens enjoy free NHS emergency treatment in hospitals under the European Health Insurance Card (EIHC).

After Brexit, we will be classed as 'international' visitors, without the same rights. If you get ill while in the UK, it is unclear if you can now be treated in a British hospital without incurring costs.

4. Sterling The UK currency plummeted to a 31-year low post-Brexit, to a rate of stg£1 = €1.19. It rebounded slightly last week, to around €1.21, but some commentators suggest it could drop again. And this was a pound that was worth €1.43 this time last year.

It's bad for exporters but great for shoppers, so now is the time to get online to UK stores and buy.

Irish retailers haven't yet caught up, with stock pre-bought, so it's only good value if you shop directly off UK sites or in the North.

Our table shows the post-Brexit difference of recent days, but in time, Irish branches of British chains should reflect the decrease.

5. Pensions It's bad news for those nearing retirement. Some 25pc of the €109 Billion in Irish pension funds is held in EU and UK stocks and shares, which have taken a huge hit following Brexit.

While they will rebound in time, that's not much use if you're expecting a pension in the next couple of years.

6. Jobs With freedom of movement, UK and Irish citizens were free to pursue work in either country. That won't be the case anymore.

There may be sanctions imposed on Irish people working in the UK, but on the upside, Ireland is now the only English-speaking EU country, making us attractive to multi-nationals.

A number have already indicated they may seek to move their bases from the UK to Ireland as a result, which can only be good for our economy.

7. Students Irish students enjoy access to UK universities as EU citizens, with fees either covered under the SUSI scheme, or at lower cost. This will change.

Irish students will now be considered 'international' and third-level fees will range from stg£10,000-£15,000 per annum, as a result.

8. Shoppers The European Consumer Centre has already started receiving complaints from online shoppers who are being refused the 14-day cooling-off period mandated under EU law.

This is wrong, but a sign of things to come.

The actual 'divorce' from the EU will take up to two years. In that time shoppers are protected but it won't stop online retailers from opportunistic activities.

9. Products The EU brought in directives to ensure green targets are met, including banning things like certain high wattage lightbulbs, vacuum cleaners etc.

The UK can now begin to use whatever it likes. We can too, if we buy them online.

10. EU jobs To work in EU Parliament or Commission offices, you must be an EU citizen. UK workers may now be booted out, leaving the way open for English-speaking Irish workers to take their positions.

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