NICS response to EU exit

As the UK prepares to exit the European Union, a major programme of work is under way involving teams in all nine Northern Ireland Departments.

This work includes making amendments to legislation, considering operational implications, preparing for ‘day one’ and working with stakeholders, as well as our colleagues in the UK and devolved administrations.

Across the NICS, individual Departments have undertaken a range of activities to analyse and understand the impacts and implications of the UK’s exit from the EU including domestic preparedness, contingency and future policy. Departments are also considering the domestic operability of legislation in relation to the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 which is designed to transfer the EU acquis into UK law.

The Executive Office

The Executive Office is coordinating preparations for the UK’s exit from the European Union across the Northern Ireland Civil Service.

It is also lead department in terms of ongoing engagement with the UK Government, as well as the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales.

Within the Executive Office, the EU Future Relations Division was set up to coordinate work across NICS Departments relating to the UK leaving the EU and to ensure that the UK Government has a full understanding of Northern Ireland issues.

Programme Board

A Programme Board has been established to ensure strong coordination at key levels across Government. This is chaired by the Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, David Sterling, and has representation at Permanent Secretary level from those Departments most impacted by EU Exit issues.

In February 2018, Dr Andrew McCormick was appointed as Director General of International Relations, within the Executive Office to oversee the Northern Ireland Civil Service preparations for EU Exit.

Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs

DAERA has undertaken intensive analysis to identify sensitive areas, agree desired outcomes and gather evidence of the potential impacts of EU exit. This work has taken place in parallel with increased engagement with key stakeholders to understand what they want and need from the EU exit.

Four stakeholder groups, comprising representatives from across the agri-food, fisheries, environmental and rural society sectors, were established to engage in the EU Exit process and keep government up-to-date with views and concerns on the ground.

In the Department, a Programme Board headed by the Permanent Secretary was established and a dedicated Brexit Division created. This Division has been tasked with coordinating and progressing the important work that comes with the challenges and opportunities of the UK leaving the EU.

The Brexit Programme Board focuses on negotiations, primary and secondary legislation, programme level risk, preparedness, contingency, resources, funding issues and communications. Three Project Boards, which cover the policy/delivery areas of Food and Farming; Environment, Marine and Fisheries; and Veterinary Service and Animal/Plant Health, report to the Programme Board. The oversight and direction of future DAERA policy development as a result of repatriation of EU policies to the UK and devolved administrations, will be the responsibility of the Strategy Committee of the DAERA Departmental Board.

Engagement has been central to the Department’s approach at all levels. DAERA’s role is to ensure this position is understood by all sides involved in the formal negotiations and is considered when the final outcome is reached.

Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs website:

Department for Communities

The Department for Communities in working in conjunction the other NI Departments, counterparts in Great Britain and with key stakeholders to ensure that those services for which it has responsibility can continue to be delivered when the United Kingdom exits the European Union.

The Department for Communities is represented on the NICS Programme Board.

Department for Communities website:

Department for the Economy

Northern Ireland recognises the need for an outward facing approach with externally focused businesses, thriving in international markets, being crucial for generating strong economic outcomes.

The Department for the Economy (DfE) is working closely with counterparts in other Northern Ireland Departments – as well as devolved administrations and the Republic of Ireland – as it prepares for the implications of leaving the EU, and determines the decisions and actions that need to be taken.

DfE officials are engaging with Whitehall Departments on an ongoing basis on key economic matters.  This includes ongoing collaboration with Departmental officials on data analysis and modelling work streams, and attendance at various working groups.  The Department also continues to engage with Invest Northern Ireland, InterTradeIreland and its other arm’s length bodies.

A range of key priorities in relation to EU Exit, which fall within the Department’s remit, have been identified including: 

  • Operational Readiness – Including work on Day 1 readiness and delivery planning across all Departmental policy areas to ensure that key services continue to be delivered after EU Exit;
  • Common UK Frameworks – Including State Aid, Competition and Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications (MRPQ);
  • Legislation – Including Departmental input to EU Exit legislation;
  • Energy – Including security of supply;
  • Funding considerations – Including consideration of alternatives to EU Structural Funds;
  • Migration and Access to Skills – Leading on the NICS EU Exit Migration workstream, which seeks to inform the development of future UK Immigration policy so that there is an appreciation of the unique Northern Ireland issues;
  • International Trade – Informing and coordinating Northern Ireland’s engagement with international trade policy issues, through building the understanding of Northern Ireland trade and investment relationships around the globe both from sectoral and market specific perspectives; and
  • EU Exit Trade Negotiations – Monitoring and feeding into trade negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement, including the Northern Ireland backstop agreement, and on the future economic partnership; and putting forward factual analysis on the potential impacts to the Northern Ireland economy.

Stakeholder engagement

It is important that stakeholders are kept informed, and that representations to Whitehall on issues within the Department’s remit are informed by stakeholder input.  DfE engages regularly with a range of stakeholders including other Departments, elected representatives, academia, government, and business interest organisations including CBI, FSB, NICCI, Enterprise NI, NIFDA, Manufacturing NI, CED and IOD, to keep stakeholders informed and ensure that their views are captured.

Research and Analysis

The Department has published research and analysis in relation to EU Exit, including analysis on migration and the labour market, the Common Travel Area and Trade. This can be viewed via the Department for Economy website

Department for Economy website:

Department of Education

The Department of Education is working in conjunction with other NI departments to assess the impact of the UK’s exit from the European Union on its areas of responsibility.

The Department is continuing to engage with a range of stakeholders, as well as colleagues in devolved administrations, in this regard.

The Department of Education is represented on the NICS Programme Board.

Department of Education:

Department of Finance

The Department of Finance is working in conjunction with other NI departments to assess the impact of the UK’s exit from the European Union on its areas of responsibility.

The Department is continuing to engage with a range of stakeholders, as well as colleagues in devolved administrations, in this regard.

The Department of Finance is represented on the NICS Programme Board.

Department of Finance website:

Department of Health

The safety of people receiving health and social care services is the Department’s top priority.

As it prepares for the implications of leaving the European Union, and determines the decisions and actions that need to be taken, the Department has frequent engagement at an official level with other Northern Ireland Civil Service Departments, Whitehall Departments (particularly the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC)), other Devolved Administrations and the Republic of Ireland.

Stakeholder Engagement

The Department continues to engage with individuals and groups through normal channels as part of ‘business as usual’, to ensure that they are informed and, where possible, reassured.

EU Exit Working Groups

The Department has established Working Groups to co-ordinate work on the implications of the UK leaving the EU at both policy and operational levels.

Department of Health website:

Department for Infrastructure

The Department has frequent engagement at an official level with Whitehall Departments as it prepares for the implications of leaving the EU, and determines the decisions and actions that need to be taken – this includes the Department for Transport; Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs; and Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government,

It is also working closely with other Northern Ireland Departments and devolved administrations to prepare and, if necessary, implement infrastructure-related contingency plans to help assure continuity of services.

The Department for Infrastructure is also working to deliver the following overarching EU Exit priorities:

  1. Managing the overhaul of legislation;
  2. Understanding the implications on the future operation of road freight transport, including clarification of operator licensing requirements;
  3. Operation of Waterways Ireland (a North South Implementation Body);
  4. Assuring railways regulation, legislation and rail safety;
  5. Clarifying positions with regard to recognition of licences, permits, qualifications etc.; and
  6. Effective operation of ports and airports and associated socio-economic impacts.

Stakeholder engagement

The Department has engaged with individuals and groups through normal channels as part of ‘business as usual’, to ensure that they are informed.

We have also engaged with a range of key sectoral stakeholders across the Department’s remit.  This has been very useful to help us better understand the concerns of key stakeholders – the majority of the Department’s Brexit issues relate to transport and logistics. 

Departmental EU Exit Working Group

The Departmental Board has established a sub-committee, chaired by the Permanent Secretary, to provide strategic direction on all aspects of the Department’s preparations for Northern Ireland to leave the European Union.


Department for Infrastructure website:

Department of Justice

DoJ is working on preparations for EU Exit, including the policy, legislative, operational and resource implications.

Our key focus is on the following:

  • EU criminal justice Measures which support data flows and cooperation between Member States in tackling and prosecuting crime (including the European Arrest Warrant). 
  • EU civil justice Measures which facilitate cross border civil and family court proceedings, as well as the reciprocal recognition and enforcement of court orders.
  • The future regulation of the use of civil explosives and firearms issues which currently hinge on EU standards.

We work very closely with the UK Government, including the Home Office, MoJ, BEIS and HSE(GB), to ensure that the justice implications of EU Exit for Northern Ireland are fully understood, in particular the impact on policing.  We also liaise with colleagues in the other Devolved Administrations and in the Department of Justice and Equality in Dublin.

Stakeholder engagement

We have established a group with criminal justice partners, including the PSNI, PPS and NICTS, to prepare for the implications of the UK’s exit from the EU.  In particular, there is a focus on the operational impact on the PSNI of any change to border policing requirements and on the potential impact of increased business in the courts.  We also regularly engage with the Bar and Law Society.

A series of technical notices was published by the UK Government to help individuals and businesses understand what they would need to do in a No Deal scenario.  Of particular interest to justice are those on civil judicial cooperation, the European Firearms Pass and some issues which may affect those storing or transporting commercial explosives. Technical Notices can be viewed on the GOV.UK website at:

Departmental Brexit Planning Group

Our Brexit Planning Group oversees our EU Exit work programme. It is chaired by the Permanent Secretary and members include the DoJ’s senior management team and the PSNI.

Department of Justice website:

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