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Brexit and Northern Ireland – Preserving the Common Travel Area

Despite political complications in Northern Ireland, the desire to preserve the Common Travel Area (CTA) and the free movement of British and Irish citizens between the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Britain, has formed a central part of Brexit negotiation rhetoric.

Both Theresa May[1] and David Davis[2] have been cited as supporting its retention. The UK Government’s position paper[3] on Northern Ireland and Ireland, published on 21 August 2017, confirms its support for preserving the CTA.

The EU Parliament does not want the return to a hard border[4], nor does the EU Commission[5], which committed the EU to not prejudicing the CTA in its negotiations.

Perhaps most significantly, the EU Council’s Brexit Negotiating Guidelines specifically emphasises the need to recognise ‘existing bilateral agreements and arrangements between the United Kingdom and Ireland which are compatible with EU law.’[6] This was translated by the EU Commission’s negotiating directives[7] into a legal mandate and specifically referenced the requirement of the EU to recognise the CTA.

Although there is a clear wish not to prejudice the CTA, in practice, this must be balanced against the requirements under EU law. The Negotiating Guidelines state that ‘flexible and imaginative solutions will be required’ to resolve this complex situation.

Click here to read the full series on Brexit and Northern Ireland.

For more information or advice about immigration, please contact:

Angharad Birch
Trainee Solicitor
T. 020 7227 7270

[1] The Government’s negotiating objectives for exiting the EU: PM speech, 17 January 2017
[2] 5 HC Deb 31 January 2017 cc823-4; White Paper ‘The United Kingdom’s exit from and new partnership with the European Union’, paras 4.6-4.8
[3] UK Government Position Paper, Northern Ireland and Ireland, 16 August 2017
[4] EP resolution of 5 April 2017
[5] UK Government Position Paper, 12 June 2017
[6] EU Council Negotiating Guidelines, 29 April 2017
[7] 22 May 2017

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