Friday 23 August 2019

Guarantee on UK and Irish citizens' free movement, health, education and welfare rights 'irrespective of Brexit' is signed

Tanaiste Simon Coveney (Brian Lawless/PA Wire)
Tanaiste Simon Coveney (Brian Lawless/PA Wire)
John Downing

John Downing

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has welcomed the signing of an agreement with the UK underpinning free movement of people between Ireland and the UK irrespective of what happens with Brexit.

The agreement was signed in London by Mr Coveney and his British opposite number, David Lidington, amid new contacts between the two governments began to support renewed all-party talks in Belfast aimed at ending stalemate in the North. 

The agreement will affect some 800,000 Irish citizens living in the UK and 270,000 UK citizens living in Ireland.

The memorandum of understanding between the two governments allows citizens of both countries to cross the Irish border and move freely between Britain and Ireland. It allows cross-border access to education, welfare, and healthcare among other services.

The London-Dublin government contacts are part of the renewed bid to restore devolved power-sharing at Stormont, initiated after the murder of journalist Lyra McKee in Derry on April 19. Five political working groups set up to address contested issues at the heart of the Stormont impasse, such as the Irish language, began work on Wednesday.

The UK-Irish Common Travel Area (CTA) pre-dates Irish and UK membership of the EU in 1973, stretching back to the 1920s. There was no legally binding international agreement which established its terms and the memo is an attempt to reinforce that understanding.

"The CTA has provided rights and privileges to Irish and British citizens for nearly a century," the Tánaiste said.

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