Brexit and you: Six ways your life might change after Thursday
It’s still too close to call it, but if the UK votes to Leave this week it won’t just be the Irish economy that will be hit - it will be all of us
While life outside of the EU may see some changes which verge on the absurd - “powerful” vaccum cleaners may return to the shops in Northern Ireland for example - others will have a far greater impact and could impinge on our rights to work and travel in the UK. (Photograph: HAYOUNG JEON/EPA)
It’s not just about big business. Yes the economic fall-out may be huge if the UK votes to leave the European Union on Thursday - but we will all feel the impact.
While life outside of the EU may see some changes which verge on the absurd - “powerful” vaccum cleaners may return to the shops in Northern Ireland for example - others will have a far greater impact and could impinge on our rights to work and travel in the UK.
Others still - such as easier access to mortgages for those living and working on different sides of the border and cheaper car insurance - may in fact be favourable.
While uncertainty is the only certainty when it comes to a possible Brexit, here are six ways you may - or may not - find your life changed if the Leave vote wins.
Earlier this year the EU introduced the European Mortgage Credit Directive in an effort to boost consumer protection. However, one unforeseen impact of this move has been to make it more difficult for people who live on one side of the border, but work on the other, to get a mortgage. This is because it has become more difficult for people who are paid in euro, but reside in a non-Euro zone jurisdiction, to get a mortgage under the terms of the Directive.
Should the UK leave the EU however, banks north of the border will no longer have to abide by the terms of the Directive, which could make it easier for cross border workers to get access to mortgage finance.
Insurance for women may also get cheaper north of the border if Brexit becomes a reality. The EU’s Gender Directive outlaws insurers offering men and women different prices for insurance cover. But once outside of the EU, the UK could elect to disregard the directive - which could mean the reinstatement of cheaper car insurance for women. Men on the other hand, might see the cost of life assurance drop given their shorter life-spans, while they could also be offered more of a return on annuities.
Finally, without the UK, the advantages of the much-vaunted single market for financial services, which could offer cheaper mortgages and higher deposit rates, may not be as lofty for Irish consumers.
Your shopping habits
If the Leave vote does win, sterling - which has already weakened considerably - is expected to plummet. If it does, Friday may be a good time to indulge in some online shopping. While UK retail outlets have traditionally been poor at passing on currency savings to Irish shoppers, thanks to the internet you can bypass their bricks and mortar outlets, and with the help of services like Parcelmotel, avoid hefty delivery charges.
Moreover, clothes bought in the UK could be cheaper if it’s no longer part of the EU. A 2013 report from the independent House of Commons library for example appeared to conclude that EU membership increased the cost of many consumer goods such as clothes.
And, a UK oustide the EU wouldn’t have to abide by some of the more absurd regulations emanating from Brussels. One of the most bizarre perhaps of recent years was the ban on “powerful” vacuum cleaners, introduced in September 2014, in an effort to tackle climate change. Vacuum cleaners above 1,600 watts are now prohibited, while those above 900 watts will be banned from 2017.
So, if you’re looking for a 2,000 watt Miele or Dyson vacuum, you may be able to head north to satisfy your suctioning sensibilities post-Brexit. Menthol cigarettes are also set to be banned by 2022 from the EU.
Your freedom to work
The big one for Irish citizens is likely our freedom to live and work in the UK. It’s a home from home for hundreds of thousands of Irish and any restrictions on our ability to live and work there could have a lasting impact. As with many things however, the impact is likely to be uncertain for quite some time even if the Leave vote wins. It will likely depend on the terms of the “divorce” agreement the UK strikes with its EU partners and whether or not it joins the single market, European Economic Area (EEA) which incldues Norway and Iceland, or the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which includes Norway and Switzerland. Switzerland for example, allows free travel for citizens of the EU 27 - but to stay longer than three months you need a residence permit. And from April 2015 you will have to prove that you have sufficient financial resources to cover your living expenses in order to get a permit.
When you travel in the UK, you are entitled to free health care in the NHS on the same terms as if you are a local through the carry European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) scheme. Irish citizens don’t even need to provide a card to get free health treatment - proof of residency in Ireland is sufficient. If the UK were no longer in the EU however, the EHIC scheme would no longer apply; and there is no certainty that the UK would still offer favourable terms to citizens of just one EU country.
Your freedom to travel
It’s almost hard to envisage it now, but a Brexit could, potentially, see the reintroduction of passport controls at the border. Yes the Common Travel Area - the travel zone that comprises Ireland, the UK, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey - which was first introduced as far back as 1925 may be compromised should the UK exit and Ireland remain within the EU.
Flying to the UK may also become a bit more cumbersome; today Irish and UK citizens flying with Aer Lingus across the Irish Sea only need to show a driver’s license or a student card, rather than a passport.
Your children’s education
The UK has long been a top destination for Irish students looking to pursue particular courses, or for those who missed out on the points to study at home. While the introduction of higher fees has seen the numbers decline in recent years, thousands still cross the Irish Sea to study every year. However, if the UK was to exit the EU, what would happen the charging structure for fees?
At present, fees in the UK - for EU students - typically range from about £3,000-£9,000 (€ 3,800- € 11,500). Fees for so-called “international” students however, start at £10,000 and go up to about £15,000 a year (€12,724-€19,086).