Will I still be able to get my medical prescriptions filled? Yes. Last week Michael Gove, the UK minister in charge of planning for a no-deal Brexit, suggested medicine shortages would hit Ireland if Britain leaves Europe without a deal.
The Department of Health says significant work has been undertaken to identify potential vulnerabilities in medicine supplies and to put contingencies in place.
According to the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA), the representative body representing the pharmaceutical industry here, the supply chain that gets medicines from manufacturers to patients may change, but availability for patients will not be affected. It says that of the 4,000 medicines marketed here, 60-70pc come from or through the UK, but new ways of getting these to Ireland have been identified. “Brexit will disrupt how medicines are moved around the supply chain but, crucially, it won’t affect their availability,” the IPHA says.
SHOULD I STOCKPILE MY MEDICINE JUST IN CASE?
The Irish Pharmacy Union has warned against stockpiling. It says medicine supplies can run short from time to time but these challenges are met with zero fuss. It remains in regular contact with the Department of Health and other industry bodies on the matter.
“We have been told that there are several months’ supplies of medicines in the supply chain in Ireland, which will prevent any immediate interruption to supply. We are still advising members that they do not need to stockpile additional quantities,” it said.
IS IT TRUE THAT OUR SUPERMARKET SHELVES COULD START TO RUN BARE WITHIN TWO DAYS OF A HARD BREXIT?
These concerns centre on the fact that Irish stores have very little capacity to stockpile the essential items we use everyday that come here via distribution centres in the UK. Many of these products arrive on shop shelves 24 hours after they are ordered by retailers, but new checks at ports will cause delays. Ironing out these details means it is realistic that some shelves will empty in the days after Britain leaves the EU and it will take longer for stocks to be replenished.
WHAT ABOUT BREAD?
Bread will pose a problem because we don’t mill a lot of flour here. Most of the flour our bakers use to make bread comes here from the UK.
In the event of no deal, goods coming here via the UK will incur extra tariffs applied to countries outside the single market. These costs will have to be passed on to consumers. Current estimates indicate price increases of around 30pc.
WHAT ABOUT OTHER PRODUCTS LIKE MILK, CEREAL, MEAT, CHEESE?
A recent Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) report shows World Trade Organisation tariffs and associated costs would push the price of tea, coffee and cocoa drinks up by 20pc. Breakfast cereals will face increases of 30pc. Meat prices would rise an extra 24pc and milk, cheese and eggs face 46pc increases.
WILL GOODS I BUY FROM THE UK END UP COSTING ME MORE?
Yes. Consumers will be hit with extra tax and customs charges for online shopping. At present, any item purchased from a non-EU country that costs more than €22 — or €45 for a gift — is subject to VAT. Any item costing more than €150 is also subject to import duty. These rules will apply to purchases from the UK if it is no longer in the EU. Examples of such charges on Revenue’s website show a €173 pair of designer jeans is will cost up to €266 when additional tariffs are applied.
WHAT ABOUT THE PRICE OF ALCOHOL?
Diageo, which makes Guinness, has warned Brexit could cost it tens of millions of euros because border controls would impact its suppliers. It is hard to imagine any cost hikes would not be passed on to consumers.
A hard Brexit could herald the return of the ‘‘booze cruise’’ across the Irish Sea — common before the EU banned duty-free sales within the single market 20 years ago — as shoppers go in search of cheap alcohol and cigarettes. The price of a packet of 20 cigarettes will be as little as €3 for people travelling from the UK into this country. Spirits would also be dramatically cheaper.
WILL I PAY MORE FOR CAR, HOUSE AND HEALTH INSURANCE?
Earlier this year some brokers warned customers away from renewals with UK-based insurers because they were unsure if policies could still be underwritten post-Brexit. Some firms are taking steps to address this and putting contingencies in place but it remains a concern. Experts say it is important to seek advice before renewing insurance. With premiums already on the rise it is hard to imagine Brexit won’t contribute to further hikes.
WILL MY ENERGY BILLS GO UP?
We currently import about 88pc of our energy requirements, mainly from or through the UK. The Government insists supplies of oil, gas and coal will not be disrupted by a hard Brexit. However, Brexit is expected to cause disruption to fuel markets, which will negatively impact prices. The situation with electricity is more complicated because the sector operates as a single market on the island of Ireland.
Electricity is currently supplied from generators located in the Republic and the North, and through two high-voltage interconnectors — one linked to Scotland, and the second to Wales. Energy flows through the interconnectors to the European Integrated Single Electricity Market to reduce prices for consumers. A hard Brexit means that cheaper power cannot be transmitted because there is no direct connection between Ireland and the European mainland.
COULD CAO POINTS FOR IRISH COLLEGE COURSES INCREASE AS MORE STUDENTS DECIDE TO REMAIN AT HOME?
The number of Irish students who go abroad to study every year is so low that it is usually not measured in any of the school league tables listing the number of students who go on to third level, so it is not expected to have an impact on CAO points.
WILL STUDENTS SOUTH OF THE BORDER BE ABLE TO ATTEND COLLEGE IN THE NORTH?
The UK government has pledged to maintain existing fee structures for Irish students taking up higher education courses in the UK in the 2019/2020 academic year.
This arrangement will continue for the duration of such a student’s studies. This could be reviewed for courses starting next year.
WILL IRISH STUDENTS ON AN ERASMUS PLACEMENT IN THE UK BE AFFECTED?
Earlier this year the European Council and Parliament adopted new regulations to prevent the Erasmus programme being disrupted.
This ensures that people who are abroad on Erasmus placements on the day the UK leaves the European Union will not have their studies interrupted.
WHAT ABOUT DRIVING IN THE NORTH AND UK?
For Irish people driving to the UK, an Irish driving licence is an EU driving licence. The British government has indicated it will continue to recognise these post-Brexit. Anyone living in Ireland who holds a UK driving licence must exchange it for an Irish driving licence before Britain leaves the EU without a deal. Post a hard Brexit, UK licences will no longer be valid here. Anyone visiting here with a UK licence will be able to drive in Ireland during their trip.
WILL BUYING A CAR COST MORE?
Cars coming from the UK will be more expensive. The Revenue Commissioners says normal VRT and Vat will be applied to cars imported from the UK but additional customs tariffs will also apply. This means an extra 20pc charge on diesel cars and 10pc on petrol cars.
CAN I STILL TRAVEL TO THE UK WITHOUT A VISA?
The Common Travel Area agreement allows Irish and British citizens to move freely and reside in either jurisdiction. It pre-dates EU membership and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised Taoiseach Leo Varadkar it will be unaffected by Brexit. The British government plans a three-year immigration scheme for most other EU citizens post Brexit.
WILL FLIGHTS TO AND FROM THE UK COST MORE?
This is hard to predict as low-fares airlines already offer cheap flights to non-EU countries and demand for flights between Ireland and the UK is likely to remain high. Increased fuel prices and sterling values will also have an impact. However, a fall in sterling could make a return ticket from the UK cheaper for Irish visitors.
WILL I FACE LONGER SECURITY QUEUES TRAVELLING TO THE UK FOR HOLIDAYS, BUSINESS, FOOTBALL MATCHES, ETC?
Extra checks on goods being moved between Ireland and the UK are likely to have an impact on those travelling and will cause delays on both sides, especially if someone is travelling with souvenirs or goods for family members.
It is uncertain if we will be impacted by queues for security. Queues are going to vary at each airport depending on how prepared officials are to cope with changes to how we travel. One place where you will see extra queues is at Duty Free as travellers take advantage of bargains.
WILL I BE ABLE TO TAKE MY DOG ON HOLIDAYS TO THE UK?
Right now, pets with an EU pet passport can travel freely to the UK. If Britain crashes out without a deal, it will become an unlisted country in terms of pet travel, which will involve a raft of more complicated rules before your pet can travel, possibly even quarantine.
WORK & MIGRATION
ALMOST 200,000 PEOPLE HERE ARE EMPLOYED AS A RESULT OF OUR EXPORTS TO THE UK, ACCORDING TO THE DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS. ARE THEIR JOBS IN JEOPARDY POST BREXIT?
Earlier this year a study by the ESRI and the Department of Finance said a disorderly Brexit could pose a risk to 80,000 jobs and see wage decreases of 1.4pc.
Economic growth is predicted to be 5pc lower over a 10-year period than if the UK was to stay in the EU.
WHAT WOULD NO DEAL MEAN FOR THE 330,000 IRISH PEOPLE CURRENTLY LIVING IN THE UK?
Irish citizens will continue to hold their Common Travel Area rights which predate EU membership. Irish people living in Britain will still be able to vote in elections if they are registered and can continue to access social supports where they reside.
CAN IRELAND EXPECT IMMIGRATION TO INCREASE?
Yes. The ESRI said it is reasonable to assume immigration will increase as a result of Brexit. A separate national risk assessment report last year said Brexit could increase the risk of illegal movement of asylum seekers and illegal migrants. A Department of Justice official told an oireachtas committee there has been a 30pc increase in asylum applications as Britain prepares to leave the EU.
A Scottish business agency has warned that Brexit could fuel human trafficking. The migrant workforce in the UK will decline, potentially leading to human traffickers stepping in to fill the gap with black market workers. As the only land border between the EU and the UK, the Irish Border is already used by smuggling gangs and that is unlikely to change post Brexit.
CRIME AND SECURITY
WHAT EFFECT WILL BREXIT HAVE ON CRIME?
An assessment by police on both sides of the Border estimates that around 43pc of organised crime gangs in Northern Ireland cross the Border to commit crime. In the event of no deal, policing along the Border will increase. Police say the different regimes on either side will present opportunities for smuggling goods, tax fraud and human trafficking.
DOES THE GARDA COMMISSIONER HAVE A PLAN?
Yes, but it’s being kept under wraps. One thing officers have been told is that the commissioner’s planned radical overhaul of the force won’t be introduced just yet in Border counties. The streamlining plan would leave those counties divided into two policing divisions, each headed by one chief superintendent and four roving superintendents, fewer than they currently have. It will be phased in in other parts of the country first.
HOW WILL GARDAI POLICE THE BORDER?
Garda sources say they will be policing the Border rather than “securing” it. They don’t envisage manning checkpoints at every Border crossing, but they will be investigating smuggling, human trafficking and other activities of organised crime gangs and dissident republicans.
WILL EXTRA GARDAI BE DEPLOYED?
Yes, but gardai won’t disclose numbers. The PSNI is recruiting an extra 308 police and staff to deal with Brexit. We know that 296 Garda recruits have been deployed to Border regions in four years. The Justice Minister said earlier this year that 500 additional trained gardai can be released by the commissioner from administration to frontline policing and be deployed to any part of the country.
WILL THEY BE ARMED?
Only those attached to the armed support units now operating along the Border region providing 24-hour armed back-up to front-line gardai. There were already units in Donegal and Louth and a new armed support unit in Cavan was announced in March.
HOW REAL IS THE THREAT FROM DISSIDENTS?
It’s real, according to security experts. The PSNI’s chief constable has warned that a hard Brexit could trigger people to join dissident republicans or loyalist paramilitaries.
Dissidents have proved the biggest threat; the New IRA has launched numerous attacks and was responsible for the murder of the journalist Lyra McKee in Derry earlier this year.
WILL THERE STILL BE AN EXTRADITION DEAL BETWEEN THE UK AND IRELAND?
Probably, but the process will be slower. Britain is signed up to the European Arrest Warrant system which allows suspects to be extradited for trial and imprisonment. Unless Britain negotiates to stay in the system post a hard Brexit, extradition arrangements are expected to revert back to a pre-EU treaty agreed in the 1950s. That is slow and more open to legal challenge than the current system.
WILL THE IRISH DEFENCE FORCES HAVE A ROLE?
The Taoiseach once raised the prospect of Army Border patrols, but the Government later denied it. The Army has, however, conducted a thorough mapping of border crossings ahead of Brexit and military intelligence gathering is ongoing. Some security experts believe depleted resources have impacted the Defence Forces’ operational capacity and one retired Army leader said the Army is at a point of historic weakness.
At the end of an extraordinarily tumultuous week in British politics, the scene now appears to be set for a UK general election in November. That election is shaping up to be one of the most divisive and bitter election campaigns in British history. It will double as a referendum on Brexit. The outcome of the vote will effectively determine once and for all the manner of the UK's exit from the EU. Unionists may need to steel themselves for the return of the Northern Ireland-only backstop.