Action steps

In view of the uncertainly caused by Brexit, people professionals have to consider:

  • Mapping the nationality of the workforce to ensure permissions to work in Ireland are fully documented, travel visa requirements and other employee issues are understood
  • Ensuring an overall understanding of current visa and immigration requirements to live and work in Ireland
  • Identifying what staff may have to drive in the UK, and not just full-time drivers but also those who drive occasionally in Northern Ireland/UK, and ensure all licence, taxation and  insurance requirements are in hand
  • Data protection permissions and issues for staff, customers and suppliers
  • Potential impact of exchange rate fluctuations on pay and mobility
  • Skill and resource requirements to support innovation and new ways of operating
  • Increased flexibility in ways of working to facilitate changing and unpredictable work and travel patterns, especially around Border areas, and diverse employee needs. 

Withdrawal Agreement 

While the status and acceptability of the EC and UK Withdrawal Agreement may be up for final approval, it is worth being familiar with the main implications in relation to people management, detailed above.

The Withdrawal Agreement concluded in November 2018 establishes the terms of the UK's withdrawal from the EU. It awaits final approval in the UK. It sets out to ensure that the withdrawal will happen in an orderly manner, and offers legal certainty once the Treaties and EU law will cease to apply to the UK.

The Withdrawal Agreement covers a lot of details.  It details the transition period, during which the EU will treat the UK as if it were a Member State, with the exception of participation in the EU institutions and governance structures. The transition period will help administrations, businesses and citizens to adapt to the withdrawal of the UK.

On labour market

  • Citizens' rights, protecting the life choices of over three million EU citizens in the UK, and over one million UK nationals in EU countries, safeguard their right to stay and ensures that they can continue to contribute to their communities.
  • On labour standards, there is a commitment to non-regression of labour and social standards at the end of the transition period with regard to fundamental rights at work, occupational health and safety, fair working conditions and employment standards, information and consultation rights at company level, and restructuring.
  • Recognising the importance of international cooperation and agreements on labour affairs and social protection, the EU and UK agree to protect and promote social dialogue on labour matters among workers and employers, and their respective organisations and governments. The EU and UK reaffirm their commitment to implement the International Labour Organisation Conventions, and the provisions of the Council of Europe European Social Charter.
  • In relation to professional qualifications, professional qualifications of EU citizens and UK nationals and family members shall maintain their recognition by their host state or state of work, during the transition period. The EU will continue to recognise UK qualifications and training, and vice versa, achieved before the end of the transition agreement. 

On protection of personal data

  • EU law on the protection of personal data shall apply in the UK in respect of the processing of personal data of data subjects from outside the UK, provided that the personal data was processed in the UK under EU law before the end of the transition period. 
  • Alternatively, such data may be processed in the UK after the end of the transition period on the basis of the Withdrawal Agreement, and where processing of the personal data by the UK is subject to an adequate level of protection as under established EU regulations, and the UK ensures a level of protection of personal data essentially equivalent to that of the EU.
  • The provisions of EU law on confidential treatment, restriction of use, storage limitation and requirement to erase data and information, shall apply in respect of data and information obtained by authorities or official bodies of the UK. Treatment of data and information obtained from the UK before the end of the transition period, or obtained after the end of the transition period on the basis of the Withdrawal Agreement, shall not be treated differently from data and information obtained from a Member State, on the sole ground of the UK having withdrawn from the EU.

Common Travel Area and Backstop

  • In relation to the Common Travel Area which exists between Ireland and the UK, the movement of persons between the territories (the ‘Common Travel Area’) can be agreed between the two countries, while fully respecting EU rights, in particular with respect to free movement for EU citizens and their family members, irrespective of their nationality, to, from and within Ireland.
  • The terms of a legally operational backstop to ensure that there will be no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland also contains UK commitments not to diminish rights set out in the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement 1998, and to protect North/South cooperation. It provides for the possibility to continue the Common Travel Area arrangements between Ireland and the UK, and preserves the Single Electricity Market on the island of Ireland.

Other mechanisms agreed in the Withdrawal Agreement

  • Separation issues, ensuring a smooth winding-down of current arrangements and providing for an orderly withdrawal (for example, to allow for goods placed on the market before the end of the transition to continue to their destination, for the protection of existing intellectual property rights, the winding down of ongoing police and judicial cooperation, the use of data and information exchanged before the end of the transition period, and other matters).
  • The overall governance structure of the Withdrawal Agreement, ensuring the effective management, implementation and enforcement of the agreement, including appropriate dispute settlement mechanisms.
  • The financial settlement, ensuring that the UK and the EU will honour all financial obligations undertaken while the UK was a member of the Union.
  • A protocol protecting the interests of Cypriots who live and work in the Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus, and a protocol which provides for close cooperation between Spain and the UK in respect of Gibraltar.

For more information on the Agreement, see the European Commission factsheet.

The Irish perspective

Separately, the report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality (February 2019) concluded that the scheduled departure of the United Kingdom from the EU at the end of March 2019 poses great risks and huge challenges in terms of preserving rights and equality on the island of Ireland. These challenges include:

  • Ensuring that a commitment to ‘no diminution of rights’ is evident and enforceable in the final Withdrawal Agreement;
  • Safeguarding North/South equivalence of rights on an ongoing basis;
  • Guaranteeing equality of citizenship within Northern Ireland;
  • Protecting border communities and migrant workers;
  • Ensuring a continued right to participate in public life for EU citizens in Northern Ireland; 
  • Ensuring that evolving justice arrangements comply with the commitment to non-diminution of rights.
The Joint Committee want steps taken to ensure the proper legislative and constitutional underpinning of both the Good Friday Agreement and the Common Travel Area. This is expected to need both the British Government and the Irish Government to introduce legislative reform. The Committee called on the Government to establish a forum with all-island participation, to conduct a speedy review and to make concrete proposals on the steps needed.

Read the report here

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