News

No border checks to enforce new visa waiver scheme says UK as Ireland reveals ‘concerns’ over legislation

football merchandise
The Official Football Merchandise Store

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis has vowed there will be no border checks to enforce a new US-style visa waiver scheme for non-Irish EU citizens crossing the Irish border.

As part of proposed new immigration legislation working its way through Westminster, Irish residents without an Irish passport, or tourists who wish to visit Northern Ireland from the south, would need to obtain an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) before crossing the border into Northern Ireland.

The new rules do not affect Irish or British citizens.

Last night, MPs voted down a House of Lords amendment that would have seen Northern Ireland exempted from the new immigration arrangements.

A defaced Welcome to Northern Ireland sign can be seen on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland
Image:
Sinn Fein’s leader says the British plan ‘undermines’ the Good Friday Agreement and the Common Travel Area

The news was greeted with disbelief by many living and working in the border region, where multiple border crossings in a day are commonplace, and where many EU citizens live and work.

Speaking in Dublin, after a meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIGC), Mr Lewis rejected suggestions that the new scheme might see border checks being carried out, which would be highly divisive politically.

“Nobody’s going to be stopped on the border,” said Mr Lewis.

“We’ve been very clear about that, there’s not going to be any border checks, the CTA (Common Travel Area) is going to be protected. There is no suggestion at any point of the introduction of any kind of border.”

But Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney was blunt about Dublin’s view on the British plans.

Prime Minister Tony Blair (R) US Senator George Mitchell (C) and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern after signing the Good Friday Agreement in 1998
Image:
Prime Minister Tony Blair (R) US Senator George Mitchell (C) and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern after signing the Good Friday Agreement in 1998

“We do have concerns in relation to this legislation, and we’ve made those concerns known,” he told the media following the meeting.

He said the British and Irish governments have “worked together to ensure that free movement on the island of Ireland is protected for people who are on their holidays, for people who are studying, for people who are working, for people who are shopping”.

Read more: Northern Ireland terror threat level lowered for first time in 12 years

He added: “While the CTA does protect that, for Irish citizens and British citizens, if you’re not an Irish citizen but living in Ireland, or visiting Ireland, the idea that you can combine your visit to include Northern Ireland and Ireland potentially now becomes more complicated if you have to have an ETA before travelling from south into north.”

Mr Coveney said the Irish government would continue to discuss the issue with its British counterparts, but emphasised that “this is legislation that isn’t finalised yet”.

Before the hour-long BIIGC meeting in Dublin, the two men had publicly disagreed with each other on Twitter over the implications for the Common Travel Area, which has provided for free movement for Irish and British citizens since 1922.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said that the British plan “undermines the Good Friday Agreement and the Common Travel Area”.

She added that it will be “devastating” for the tourism sector, for counties like Donegal and along the border region and could cost “tens of thousands of jobs in a sector just barely getting back on its feet after Covid-19”.

football merchandise
The Official Football Merchandise Store
Liverpool
Chelsea
Manchester City
Arsenal
Tottenham Hotspur
Manchester United
Leicester City
Newcastle United
West Ham United
Barcelona
Real Madrid

Source link

Related Posts