Friday 23 June 2017

Irish passports surge as British travel visas loom

IRISH passport applications in Britain more than doubled last month compared with the same period last year. (Photo Illustration by Mark Winter/Corbis via Getty Images)
IRISH passport applications in Britain more than doubled last month compared with the same period last year. (Photo Illustration by Mark Winter/Corbis via Getty Images)
Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

Applications in Britain for Irish passports more than doubled last month compared with the same period last year, as the post-Brexit interest in Irish citizenship continued.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny believes the surging interest will continue amid reports that Britons may need a visa, or at the very least may have to enter details online, simply to travel into mainland Europe once the UK pulls out of the EU.

The EU is considering new border arrangements for non-EU nationals, which could include the need for visitors to register online before travelling, even if they come from a country that has a visa-waiver arrangement in place.

The proposals are modelled on what currently exists for travellers to the United States from visa-waiver countries.

"That's going to mean a spike in applications for Irish passports," Mr Kenny told the 'Pat Kenny Show' on Newstalk.

"The Irish Ambassador in Britain has confirmed to me a doubling of the numbers over the past couple of months. That kind of comment and that kind of paper being prepared will mean a further spike in applications for Irish passports."

British Home Secretary Amber Rudd has fuelled speculation about potential visa requirements post-Brexit for Britons travelling into the EU when she said it couldn't be ruled out.

Read more: Online searches for Irish ancestry up by one-fifth with users keen to learn if they qualify for EU passport

Read more: An open border in Ireland is not an immigration threat to Britain, ambassador tells Westminster

Non-EU nationals who need to pay for a visa to enter the Schengen area are charged up to €60. The EU has a visa-waiver arrangement in place with a number of countries, such as the US and Australia. But under proposed EU rules, even citizens from those countries would have to enter their details online before travelling.

However, it is not guaranteed that this proposal will come into force. And even if it does, it is not clear if Ireland will be included as we are not in the Schengen area. It is also unclear whether the proposal would apply to only the Schengen area, or all of the EU.

Figures show that passport applications processed by the Irish Embassy in London last month jumped by more than 104pc to 6,710.

Applications from Northern Ireland also rocketed by almost 80pc. In the North, 4,993 applications were received - a jump of 2,211 on August of 2015.

Meanwhile, Mr Kenny said Brexit was a "mess of complete confusion for hundreds of thousands of people". He said that having spoken to Prime Minister Theresa May, the UK needed time to reflect on what it wanted.

"They don't have a definite horizon as to where they want to be. The best place that Britain could be is to have access to the single market, as is now," he said. He added that other EU leaders would not give in on the free movement of people."If you want to have access to the single market, you must accept freedom of movement."

The Taoiseach said that when Article 50 was triggered, he did not believe the negotiations would be completed within two years.

Mr Kenny also said there were discussions taking place as to whether the devolved administrations in the UK - Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - could veto a Brexit. On the prospect of a united Ireland, Mr Kenny said the eventuality should be catered for.

Brexit fears drive applications

Why are Irish passport applications surging in the UK?

The belief is that it is because of the Brexit vote. If you hold Irish citizenship, that will allow you to hold an EU passport. And with talk over the weekend about travel visas and restrictions being potentially put in place for Britons travelling into the EU post-Brexit, Taoiseach Enda Kenny believes the increase will continue.

Where has all this talk about EU travel visas and work permits come from?

The UK Home Secretary has raised the possibility that once the UK leaves the EU, Britons could be required to either pay for a visa to enter the EU, or at least have to enter their details online before they travel. Under current rules, some non-EU nationals need a visa to enter the Schengen free-travel area.

So does that mean Britons travelling to Ireland post-Brexit might need to have a visa? Or even people travelling between Northern Ireland and the Republic?

We just don't know. As Ireland is not in the Schengen area, and as there exists a common travel area between Ireland and the UK, these potential restrictions simple may not apply in our case.

Irish Independent

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