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Draft laws published to guarantee right of Irish citizens to live and work in UK despite Brexit

It states “an Irish citizen does not require leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom”, with some limited exceptions.

Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

THE UK GOVERNMENT has published a draft law to guarantee the Common Travel Area rights of Irish citizens to live and work in the UK without restrictions despite Brexit.

An Immigration Bill brought forward yesterday will repeal EU free movement laws but legislate for an exemption for Irish people.

British immigration minister Kevin Foster said that “this bill provides certainty and clarity for Irish citizens on their rights to enter and live in the UK, reflecting the reciprocal arrangements for British citizens in Ireland”.

The draft legislation states that “an Irish citizen does not require leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom”, with some limited exceptions. 

The idea is that there will be no change to free movement across the Irish Sea. Other EU citizens will require visas from as early as next year.

Both the Irish and British governments have repeatedly stressed that they wanted to keep the Common Travel Area, which has been in place since 1922.

But legal experts had warned that extra legislation might be needed to guarantee Common Travel Area rights. 

A 2018 report commissioned by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission referred to “the dated language of some of the legislation, over half a century old, which operationalises the CTA. References to aliens and foreigners are out of step with contemporary nationality and immigration law in Ireland and the UK, which could undermine future efforts to enforce CTA related rights by litigation”.

One of the report’s co-authors, Professor Aoife O’Donoghue, told TheJournal.ie that the new bill “finally puts the Common Travel Area on a solid footing in the UK. This certainty is very welcome, particularly as the Act gives individuals rights that they can rely upon”.

But she added that “other elements, like the right to vote in elections and referendums, are not covered by this Act and will need continued monitoring and cooperation between Dublin and London”.

The Durham University law professor also advised Irish people living in the UK to apply for extra status if they want to bring foreign relatives to live with them in future.

“Importantly”, O’Donoghue said, “the Common Travel Area does not give any family rights to individuals, so registering as an EU citizen under the EU Settlement Scheme remains important for current or future family members from outside the UK”.

Foster said “we remain firmly committed to protecting the long-standing Common Travel Area arrangements, which predate our EU membership and reflect the close and historic ties between our two great nations”.

Exceptions include the possibility of deportation for serious criminal offences, although the British government’s policy is not to deport Irish criminals except in “exceptional circumstances”. Nobody has been deported in at least the past three years.

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