The UK’s embassy in Dublin has reportedly had to deal with surging numbers of inquiries from some of Ireland’s nearly 300,000 British nationals living in Ireland worried about their status after Brexit.
They have been asking about health treatment, employment benefits and freedom of movement.
There are 298,000 UK born people living in the Republic, home to more British expats than any other EU country apart from Spain.
Britons can retire in Ireland without having to prove they have sufficient resources not to be a burden on the State.
They are entitled to the same public healthcare as Irish citizens, do not need an employment or residency permit, and can travel back to the UK without a visa or passport.
The question of whether or not they will continue to be entitled to healthcare under Ireland’s HSE – and whether temporary British workers in Ireland can continue to use the European Health Insurance Card (formerly the E111 form) – has already been posed but no-one yet knows the answer.
The eventual answer will depend in part on whether the UK emulates Norway, Lichtenstein and Iceland and becomes part of the European Economic Area. Switzerland is not a member of the EEA but is treated as if it is for certain benefits.
Despite their worries about the future callers to the Embassy have been told there will be no change to the status quo in the near future.
Once the UK triggers Article 50 – which Prime Minister David Cameron says will be for his successor who should be in office by 2 September – then there will be a period of two years of exit negotiations. Last year Ireland’s Oireachtas committee on EU Affairs suggested that the European protocol on the common travel area (CTA) which allows passport- free travel between Britain and Ireland, would no longer apply if the UK was not a member of the EU.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and former President Mary McAleese said repeatedly before the Referendum that if Britain left then the EU’s Schengen area would begin at the Irish Border.