Politics

Government will object to UK’s Border travel clearance plan for non-Irish citizens


Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said the Government will express its objections and concerns to the British government about a proposal that would see non-Irish EU citizens living in the Republic having to apply online for pre-travel clearance from the UK to cross the Border.

Under the Nationality and Borders Bill, non-Irish EU/EEA citizens will be required to apply for a US-style visa waiver known as an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) before entering the UK, including when crossing the land border into Northern Ireland.

The Bill is part of a wider post-Brexit overhaul of the UK’s immigration laws, and includes provisions on asylum seekers, nationality and immigration control.

Groups working with migrants in Border areas have warned the plans of the UK government to require non-Irish EU citizens to apply for pre-travel clearance before crossing the Border will lead to racial profiling.

Speaking in the Dáil on Thursday, Mr Varadkar said Dublin was “certainly going to communicate to our UK counterparts our concerns and our objections to this measure”.

“Unfortunately it does not come as a huge surprise,” he added.

Mr Varadkar was responding to Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty, who said Ireland was facing the prospect of “collateral damage” from “a Tory government in Westminster that doesn’t give a damn” about this country.

Mr Varadkar said: “The Deputy may recall that part of the argument in favour of Brexit was about controlling UK borders and reducing and stopping immigration from the EU. This is part of the outworking of that.

“It may be the case that some people who voted for Brexit did not realise that, but it is part of the outworking of Brexit that the UK is going to harden its borders and reduce immigration, including from the EU.”

Separately, Taoiseach Micheál Martin was asked about the controversy when he spoke to reporters at a Shared Island initiative event in Dublin Castle on Thursday afternoon.

Mr Martin said: “I am not clear of the de facto implications but it would be of concern. We have seamless travel on the island of Ireland and we want to maintain that. It is an issue that we will study.”

The British bill was passed in the House of Commons on Wednesday, and will now proceed to the House of Lords.

Travel between Ireland the UK is protected by an agreement to maintain the Common Travel Area (CTA) between the two countries, agreed in 2019.

The two governments were anxious to maintain free movement and mutual recognition of citizens’ rights – in areas such as social welfare, healthcare, the right to work and voting rights – once the UK ceased to be a member of the EU. However, the text of the agreement only recognises Irish citizens, and does not cover the rights of EU citizens, the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed on Wednesday night.

Immigration

Government sources said that the while the British government had been keen to maintain the existing CTA for Irish citizens, much of the rationale for Brexit was about controlling immigration from other EU countries.

The director of programmes with the North West Migrants’ Forum, Lilian Seenoi-Barr, said that for those affected by the legislation it would mean “every single time you want to cross the Border, even just to visit your own family, you are scared of what is going to happen” and she was in no doubt it would lead to racial profiling.

Bernadette McAliskey of Dungannon-based Step NI and the regional Stronger Together network said there was a lack of clarity as to how the new rules would work, but she expected they would affect many categories of people, including non-Irish citizens who lived in Donegal and travelled through the North to get to Dublin.



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