Thursday 20 June 2019

No plan to close our ports to EU travellers after Brexit - minister

Negotiations: Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan and Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire
Negotiations: Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan and Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire

Cormac McQuinn, Colm Kelpie and David Raleigh

Proposals to shift the frontline of immigration controls to Ireland after Brexit have been rejected by the minister responsible for European Affairs.

Dara Murphy has said Ireland should not screen EU citizens coming to Ireland about their onward travel plans on behalf of the UK.

Mr Murphy also said he doesn't think enhanced security measures will be necessary at Ireland's ports and airports, and insisted that he doesn't see any threat of a Calais-type refugee situation arising in border areas.

The Government played down as "speculative" a report that Britain is looking to shift frontline immigration controls to Irish ports of entry to maintain an open border between the North and South.

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire reportedly told 'The Guardian' that London and Dublin would work to boost Ireland's external borders to tackle illegal immigration, after the UK leaves the European Union.

Mr Murphy welcomed Mr Brokenshire's views about the importance of maintaining the Common Travel Area (CTA), but stressed EU nationals will still have access to the Republic of Ireland, and the nature of this access should not change.

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"It is a matter for the UK if they want to change how people move. My own personal view is it wouldn't be acceptable to anybody if we would engage in doing that work for them," he told the Irish Independent.

Asked if Irish border control officers would ask EU nationals if they planned to travel onwards to the UK, he replied: "We won't be doing that."

But Finance Minister Michael Noonan said having immigration controls at the country's ports and airports is the next step in order to avoid a hard border on the island.

However, he said controls "wouldn't be much more" than what's currently in place, where travellers need simply to show passports.

"If you don't have a border going from Newry, going across dividing Sligo and Donegal from the northern counties, the next step is to have your controls at the ports," he said. "So that would mean Rosslare and Larne and the airports, but that wouldn't be much more than the normal checks we have at airports already, where you show your passport."

Mr Brokenshire said there was a "high level of collaboration on a joint programme of work" between the two states to control immigration. But the Department of Justice said discussions take place on an "ongoing basis" about immigration and border issues, including the strengthening of the outer perimeter of the CTA.

It added that any commentary at this stage about what could be put in place as a result of the negotiations was "speculative". The Northern Ireland Office said work with the Irish Government to strengthen the external border of the Common Travel Area is long-standing.

Irish Independent

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