Common travel area a bilateral issue for UK and Ireland, says Tánaiste

Two countries can continue to ‘make arrangement between themselves’ after Brexit

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney. File Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

The common travel area between Ireland and Britain is a bilateral issues and separate from negotiations between the EU and UK on Brexit, the Dáil has heard.

A number of Government departments are working on policy and legal decisions to ensure the common travel area (CTA) between Ireland and Britain continues after the UK leaves the EU, according to Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.

The arrangement allows Irish citizens move freely to live, work and study on the same basis as a UK citizen in Britain, and vice versa. It allows access to employment, healthcare, education, social benefits as well as the right to vote in certain elections.

Mr Coveney said he brought a briefing note to Cabinet last week specifically on the CTA and he stressed in the Dáil that it was a bilateral issue.


It is also addressed in the draft withdrawal between the EU and UK in which, the Tánaiste said, there is a legal acknowledgement between negotiators on both sides “that the UK and Ireland may continue to make arrangements between themselves” relating to movement of persons between their jurisdictions.

Mr Coveney told Fianna Fáil's Brexit spokeswoman Lisa Chambers that "nothing in any withdrawal agreement or withdrawal treaty will undermine the capacity for Britain and Ireland on a bilateral basis to maintain a common travel area".

Necessary arrangements

The Tánaiste stressed that the continuation of the arrangement is the stated objective of both governments and it was “important that any arrangements necessary are made”.

He said Ministers and Irish officials were working internally and bilaterally with their counterparts in the UK “to maintain the kind of relationship that we enjoy today”.

Ms Chambers said she was glad to see bilateral meetings were taking place, because “we in Fianna Fáil believe that bilateral discussions are absolutely essential in maintaining good relationships”.

Mr Coveney said that in terms of the bilateral relationship, he would be in back in London next week and will be meeting a series of British ministers to discuss Brexit.

“We do talk to our counterparts all the time about Brexit but that is different from formally negotiating with them, which we can’t do because Michel Barnier and his taskforce have responsibility to negotiate on behalf of the EU as a whole, including Ireland.”

The Tánaiste said the CTA operated mainly administratively and more formally through sectoral agreements as well as through legislation.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times