McKees, is urging people and companies in Northern Ireland to make sure they’ve taken the practical steps needed.

Irish News Legal Matters Column 22nd December 2020

The UK officially left the EU on 31 January 2020 and up until now, the repercussions of Brexit on people’s everyday lives has been limited. However, the transition period has now ended and things will start to noticeably change and everyone will have to take steps to ensure they are ready for the new rules that will soon be in place.

Chris Ross, Managing Partner of McKees said: “While a lot of the attention to date has been on the impact Brexit will have for businesses, it is important to remember that there will be new rules and regulations that will have implications for us all on a day-to-day basis. For example, with Northern Ireland remaining in the UK and the South of Ireland remaining in the EU, our island faces unique challenges as people travel between the two jurisdictions.

At McKees, as well as working with clients to ensure their businesses remain compliant once the transition period is over, we have also been advising on the changes to be aware of in their personal life too. We have found a lot of people are not aware of how Brexit will impact our lives on a daily basis, so it is important we all take the steps we need to now, before it is too late.”

McKees has identified some practical steps people need to be aware of with regards to travel:


  • If you hold a UK or Northern Irish driving licence, you will need to bring this with you on any journeys you make into the EU, this includes drivers travelling between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
  • You will need to carry a motor insurance green card when driving in the EU. This will be proof of insurance for you and your vehicle, caravan or trailer. You will need to contact your insurance provider to obtain a green card which can take up to one month. You may also need multiple green cards if (1) your vehicle is towing a trailer or caravan (2) if you have fleet insurance, a green card will be needed for each vehicle, and (3) if you have two policies covering your trip, e.g. if your policy renews during the journey, then you will require two green cards.
  • You should also take your vehicle log book (V5C) with you.
  • If you are involved in an RTA in the EU, you should seek legal advice.


Although Coronavirus restrictions have placed significant restrictions on travel, when ‘normal’ business travel resumes a little more planning will be required for trips to the EU:

  • If you intend to travel on a UK passport, you must have at least six months left on your passport (except for when you are travelling from the UK to Ireland as this is part of a Common Travel Area).
  • You will need to make sure your travel insurance has health cover as European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will no longer be valid as things stand. EU citizens (including Irish passport holders) living in the UK will be able to continue using their EHIC cards when they travel to countries in the EU.
  • If you are travelling on a UK passport, you will have to stand in a different queue at borders. You should be prepared to show your return tickets and have proof you have enough money for your stay.
  • Holidaymakers will be able to travel without a visa to Schengen area countries (most EU nations and Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein) for up to 90 days in any 180 day period.


If you are an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, you and your family can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK after June 2021. Importantly, you can also apply if you are the family member of an eligible person living in Northern Ireland (refer to the website for criteria on who is an eligible person in Northern Ireland).

  • Applications are now open, and you can apply via the website
  • It is free to apply to the scheme
  • In order to be eligible to apply, you must have started living in the UK by 31 December 2020

What does it mean if your application to the scheme is successful?

Firstly, you will be able to continue living and working in the UK after 30 June 2021. Secondly, you will then be given a status, either; (1) Settled status or (2) Pre-Settled status. If your application is successful, you will have your status allocated for you and it will be assigned based on how long you have been living in the UK. The rights under each status do vary however, if you are given ‘Settled Status’ you will be able to stay in the UK for an unlimited period of time and you will also be entitled to apply for British citizenship.

“Brexit clearly presents certain challenges to our society however, if we take steps to prepare for the changes, these can be overcome and will allow for a smooth transition,” Chris added.