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Saturday 19 October 2019

Your Money: How Brexit may alter everyday life

With the threat of a no-deal departure growing, how can consumers prepare?

Sinead Ryan

Sinead Ryan

Almost every politician agrees that a no-deal, hard Brexit is now the most likely ending to the sorry tale of the past three years. All that's left is the mud-slinging of blame and the ordinary citizens stuck in the middle of the mess. I am often asked what Brexit will mean in reality, and there are people who think that unless you're a farmer or exporter, it may have no consequences in everyday life.

This isn't true. Here's what we know will happen, and what's still up in the air.

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Travel

The UK and Ireland have enjoyed a common travel area (CTA) since 1923, long before EU membership. Citizens can "move freely and reside in either jurisdiction and enjoy associated rights and entitlements, including access to employment, healthcare, education, social benefits. The Government of Ireland and the UK government have signed a memorandum of understanding, reaffirming their commitment to maintaining the CTA," said the Department of Foreign Affairs. This means no visas, work permits or special passport queues post-Brexit.

Health

The CTA ensures healthcare arrangements will remain for cross-Border treatments, along with North/South ambulance transfers (although hard checkpoints would create a problem), organ donations and transplant lists. It includes cardiology and cancer treatments in Altnagelvin Hospital, Derry, which are managed by service-level agreements.

However, the European Health Insurance Card, which gives all EU citizens the right to be treated in a public hospital when in a member state, may not be honoured. It will be important to have independent travel insurance.

Technology

EU members enjoy 'roam-like-home' privileges, meaning using your mobile phone across the continent is included in your package.

In a no-deal Brexit, however, phone operators would be free to reintroduce roaming charges. The big issue is near the Border, or crossing it. As with, say, Switzerland now, you suddenly end up in a non-EU country and charges may apply. Some operators (e.g. Eir) charge, while others (e.g. Vodafone) treat Switzerland as the EU. We don't know how they will view the UK, but they should avoid 'accidental' roaming in the North, it is hoped.

Sterling

Sterling fell to around €1.13 after the referendum and has languished there since. A boon to shoppers and importers, it has made exporting much more costly. It may well tank again in a no-deal scenario.

Shopping

This is a crucial area for consumers. VAT will apply on all goods over €22, customs duty over €150, and tariffs on many supermarket goods. Goods won't be handed over on delivery until the tax is collected, in cash. This may curtail people buying from Asos, Amazon and other popular UK sites.

Insurance

UK insurers often cover Irish homes, cars and firms. In a no-deal scenario, the Central Bank warns policyholders to check theirs will still apply.

Education

The CTA agrees SUSI grants will continue to be honoured for UK study for the duration of courses begun in the 2019/20 academic year. Some qualifications may not be recognised, however.

Pensions

Social welfare payments will continue. Private pensions paid to Irish people from UK firms may need a UK account, with a possible requirement for separate tax filing.

Irish Independent

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