By Spreet Aulakh on January 16

Irish Border Travel After Brexit

The impending exit of the UK from the EU will have ramifications for travel across Europe. These consequences may be felt slightly more in the Republic of Ireland, as the only EU member state to share a direct border with the UK.

We have become used to free movement between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, so there are some questions on how the border will look post-Brexit. We wanted to understand a bit more about how Brexit, and potential changes to the border, will impact travel between Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. To get information on this, we’ve surveyed 1,000 people between the two countries about what they think will happen to their travel habits post-Brexit and what their biggest worries are.

People’s biggest concerns for cross-border travel

Respondents to our survey gave some insight into what people are most worried about when it comes to potential post-Brexit border changes. The answers seem to indicate that major worries centre around the freedom of movement between the two countries, and if this is removed, travel between them will fall substantially:

  • - 50% would be put off by queues at the border (52% ROI, 48% NI)

  • - 49% would be put off by tolls (54% ROI, 44% NI)

  • - 45% would be put off by need for ID card / passports (51% ROI, 39% NI)

  • - 40% would be put off by vehicle searches (44% ROI, 34% NI)

  • - 24.6% would be put off by difficulties in transporting goods (34% ROI, 15% NI)

Under the current plan for the Northern Ireland-Republic of Ireland border after Brexit, the two countries will have regulatory alignment on both land and sea. If this is achieved, the major fears listed above should be avoided as there will not be a need for checks on those travelling between the two countries, or hard border crossing points.

This will avoid the creation of any queues, imposition of tolls, use of passports, and would mean that vehicle searches and regulation of goods transport remains the same.

As of yet, however, it is unclear how this regulatory alignment will be achieved. This uncertainty is why concerns remain around travel across the Irish border. Across both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, there is feeling that the UK government do not fully understand issues surrounding the Irish border. 47% (46% ROI, 48% NI) feel that this is the case. To a lesser extent, this also applied to the Republic of Ireland government. 28% believe that the Republic of Ireland government does not have a good grasp on the issues either.

How will Brexit affect travel plans?

The majority of people across Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland say that Brexit will not affect the frequency with which they travel across the Irish border. An average of 60% of people across the two countries expect their travel habits to remain the same post-Brexit. This is a stronger trend in Northern Ireland, where 73% said this, compared to 45% in Republic of Ireland.

The transition will still have a sizeable impact, however, as an average of 34% of people across the countries say they’ll cross the border less after Brexit. Residents of the Republic of Ireland are less likely to travel, with 45% saying they’ll be crossing the border less after Brexit, compared to 22% of those in Northern Ireland. With over two-thirds of people (68%) currently crossing between Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland at least once a year this represents a serious change in habits, especially in the Republic of Ireland.

Business travel after Brexit

The majority of people (61%) who travel across the Irish border do so for holidaying or to visit friends and family. But a significant number (15%) travel between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland for business, with 4% making the journey as part of their regular commute. Those who travel for business purposes may see a larger impact on their travel habits from Brexit.

4 in 10 people (43%) think that Brexit will have a negative impact on business travel between Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Concern amongst business travellers about the potential effects of Brexit on the border was higher than average:

  • - 56% are worried about border queues (compared to 50% average)

  • - 48% are worried about passport checks (compared to 45% average)

  • - 43% are worried about number of vehicle searches (compared to 40% average)

  • - 28% are worried about new restrictions on transporting goods (compared to 25% average)

Overall, this would result in fewer business travellers venturing across the border as half (50%) say they’ll cross less as a result of Brexit.

The true impact of Brexit on travel across the Irish border cannot be predicted, but this survey does give some insight into the potential trends, and areas that residents are concerned about. Keep an eye on developments in the news on this subject in the build up to and aftermath of Brexit, so you are prepared for any changes before you travel.