Common British-Irish travel area ‘can survive’ Brexit

Law professor says any agreement will need consent of other EU member states

The Common Travel Area between Ireland and Britain can survive after Brexit but it will need to be put on a new legal footing, a House of Commons committee has heard.

Dagmar Schiek, Professor of EU law at Queens University Belfast, said that if Britain and Ireland want to resolve the issue before the end of Brexit negotiations, they will need the consent of other EU member-states.

Prof Schiek told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that the Common Travel Area was currently based on the presupposition that both Britain and Ireland are either in the EU or outside it.

“It needs to change because the circumstances will change. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have an international agreement called the Common Travel Area, which can be either negotiated after all these withdrawal and new relationship negotiations have been concluded or before, with the consent of the other EU member-states. But it will be a very complex process,” she said.


The British and Irish governments, along with the devolved administration in Northern Ireland, have said they want to preserve the Common Travel Area after Brexit. But Katy Hayward, who teaches sociology at Queens, said any new arrangement would probably need EU approval.


“You would probably need commission approval for this bilateral arrangement given that . . . it relates to the movement of people and will affect those kind of issues around freedom of movement. So it will not be something that can be dealt with ignorant of the consequences for the

European Union

, ” she said.

Prof Schiek pointed out that Ireland would remain subject to EU treaties after Brexit, so that a reciprocal arrangement with the UK on issues like pensions and social welfare could not put British citizens living in Ireland in a better position than those from the EU.

“The EU treaties have two implications. First they have to treat equally all EU citizens and also they cannot treat EU citizens less favourably than they would treat foreign citizens,” she said.

“I have looked into the question of how they are treated in pensions and there’s a slight favouritism but it would have to be adapted so that other EU citizens would have to be treated equally or UK citizens would have to be treated differently. So there’s a lot of detail to be looked into on the social security aspects of the Common Travel Area after Brexit.”

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times