Tuesday 25 June 2019

Q&A: Continuity is the word of the day as Ireland strives to keep everyday services going


New measures: Tánaiste Simon Coveney announces details in the legislation yesterday.
Photo: PA
New measures: Tánaiste Simon Coveney announces details in the legislation yesterday. Photo: PA
Gavin McLoughlin

Gavin McLoughlin

What is the legislation published yesterday designed to do?

Preserve the status quo in as many areas as possible in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Services ranging from healthcare, to education, to pensions could be disrupted if the trading relationship between the EU and the UK changes, and the Government is trying to head off the consequences of that.

What does it mean for healthcare?

The bill aims to make sure Irish people can continue to access health services in the UK, and vice versa. For example, if an Irish person were to suddenly fall ill while travelling in Britain, arrangements are in place so the UK can be reimbursed for looking after that sick person.

Otherwise, Britain might decide not to provide the care. This bill is designed to ensure those reimbursement arrangements continue. It also aims to maintain eligibility for British people entitled to healthcare here.

But surely things can't just continue as they are if Britain crashes out without a deal?

Not in every area, that's for sure. One area where things might become a little messier is extraditions.

If Britain ends up outside the European Arrest Warrant scheme, extraditions from there to here, and vice versa, are likely to be more lengthy and cumbersome as we go back to an older regime.

What does it say about pensions?

This is one of the most important areas the bill has looked at. Given Britain's massive financial sector there's the potential for a big impact on Irish people's pensions.

The bill has a whole host of measures on this area, including a measure to ensure that UK occupational pension plans, and other retirement plans, can continue to operate here and receive the relevant tax reliefs.

Will the bill help protect the economy?

A large cohort of businesses will certainly benefit. In the case of a no-deal Brexit, Irish firms would have to pay Vat up front when importing goods from the UK.

That would have put a strain on cashflow, as companies would have had to make sure they had the right amount of cash at the right time.

This bill allows businesses to account for the Vat as part of their normal return due every two months, and should make things a little easier. But in the grand scheme of things, the economy is still very exposed.

What is not covered in this bill?

The arrangements for putting in any hard Border, for one thing.

That's the big elephant in the room at the moment, despite the fact that much of the bill is centred around preserving the important common travel area between the United Kingdom and Ireland.

It's worth noting also that if you're an Irish person in Britain, and you're married to someone who isn't a British or Irish citizen, the common travel area arrangements don't apply to your spouse.

Under the proposed withdrawal agreement, your spouse will have to apply to stay in the UK under the so-called "EU settlement scheme".

Irish Independent

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