Dismantling the CTA, or the border hasn’t gone away you know?

Think about it. Every time you enter Dublin from an airport in Britain, you have to show your passport, whether you are British or Irish or some other EU citizen. In law, only British or Irish citizens are allowed free travel between the islands, but you have to show your passport anyway. In Belfast, nothing. There’s a very sharp letter in the Irish Times yesterday worth quoting with regard to the fate of the Common Travel Area between Britain and Ireland. It was in response to a piece by Frank Millar, which thanks to the new design at the Times I can no longer find.

UPdate: Looks like the British are preparing to reciprocate. Looks like one Europe’s earliest international free zones is about to slip beneath the waves just as a bigger one is taking off…

Ironically, it is the Irish authorities that have been abolishing the common travel principle in stages. About five years ago immigration control at Irish airports began stopping all passengers arriving from the UK asking them to state formally that they were British, and/or Irish citizens “normally resident” in either country. Apparently, only such people are entitled to common travel. More recently, they have insisted that all passengers must present a valid British or Irish passport to prove they are entitled to “passport-free” entry into Ireland.

When I asked an airport immigration officer if I needed a passport to walk a dog on my family estate, which straddles the Border, she insisted that the immigration service would be fully entitled to refuse me re-entry into the part of the estate in Co Monaghan if we had strolled passport-less into Co Armagh. This applies to overseas visitors on riding holidays on the estate, who never had any entitlement to the common travel provisions in the first place. She further cautioned me that Gordon Brown was about to definitively end the common travel area.[emphasis added]

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  • Derry Man

    I must remember to bring my passport with me when I’m nipping over the border to fill up on Diesel, just in case.

  • George

    Looks like the British are preparing to reciprocate.

    In other words, you will have to show a passport going from Belfast to London in future as the porous border to the Irish Republic would otherwise make a nonsense of the move.

    The DUP has held a series of meetings with home office ministers about this proposal, although it is unclear if any undertakings were secured.


  • Mick Fealty


    That’s a leap of imagination there. But the general ridiculousness arises simply because neither government seems prepared to talk hard tacks.

  • George

    it’s just looking at how this new security system could work.

    GB as a stand alone secure zone is the easiest, cheapest and the most controllable for GB security. No surprise that is the default position for the British government as it is common sense.

    Of course there is the problem that a part of the UK is left out so to ensure NI security, the next step for the UK is to advocate close cooperation between NI and the Republic with all data being shared.

    In other words, for all intents and purposes the island of Ireland becomes the new Common Travel Area.

    It is for the DUP to come up with an alternative, not to just say it doesn’t like the real politik of 21st century British security.

    The only other option is for Ireland as a whole to go under a British security system, which I don’t see happening when the other option is so much more palatable for the population of Ireland as a whole.

    And if the DUP wants that, it’s to Dublin they should be going not London.

  • heck

    maybe it is time for Ireland to sign up for the schengen agreement. put passport controls at the airports for non schengen nationals and defy the brits to put them at the border. I would bet the british immigration controls would be imposed at the GB ports and airports

  • Richard North

    This is the piece, I think – it was in “news in brief”


    Changes to Irish-UK travel area signalled

    LONDON – The likelihood of formal changes to the operation of the Common Travel Area between Ireland and Britain were signalled with the publication of a new Immigration and Citizenship Bill in London yesterday, writes Frank Millar . In what appears a reference to ongoing discussions between the Home Office and the authorities in Dublin, the Bill comments that the principal of CTA movement without controls is out-of-date.

    A meeting between home secretary Jacqui Smith and Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern had been planned for tomorrow but has been cancelled because of other diary commitments.

  • Brian Walker

    It’s a bugger isn’t it? Why are the governments acting so coyly? We’ve seen it coming for years, since 7/7 at least. Ireland N and S have been the gaping hole in British frontier security and inconsistent with opting out of Schengen. But nobody liked to talk about it until recently, hoping against hope that somehow it would be passed over and left as one of the happier anomalies in our complex web of relationships.

    At least it means the governments will take ID responsibility directly and impose a standard ID policy. rather than leave it to the airlines to interpret. Eg only Ryanair as far as I know make it an absolute condition of boarding to show a passport rather than any form of photo ID – as I found to my cost years ago when I was refused a flight to Dublin despite showing two other forms of photo ID, and had to postpone an early appointment with Garret FitzGerald. On the other hand, BMI to Belfast require nothing except payment authentication.

    It looks as if the UK government will stipulate photo ID rather the passport as such, to skirt round the half promises made to unionists like Brown’s to Paisley (another example surely of the elusive quality of British promises unless you really nail them down).

    If the UK government were to back down now, it would also drive a coach and horses through their much disliked national identity card scheme which they still seem determined to bring in. And I’m pretty sure Ireland will follow if the British go ahead.

    Most if not all foreign nationals carry ID cards or passports, whether EU nationals or not.
    The Irish not being foreigners in UK law and the Northern Irish were the virgins in this business.
    A great shame politically, if not much difference practically, if this keystone of the CTA were to end.

    The only alternative it seems to me, would be for the UK and Republic to enact and enforce identical immigration and asylum laws (in practice the Rep would have to follow the UK). And while I’m sure there has been quite a lot of harmonisation on the quiet, I can’t see the Republic going that far. It would mean the Irish refusing entry to or expelling foreign nationals on a British say so. Immigration and asylum cases are controversial enough in the UK. Imagine the furore in Ireland if that happened.

    As regards the Mark Leslie case, I just can’t imagine passport controls at Aughnacloy, Bridgend or Kileen (shuddering at bad old memories). But spot checks like those by HMRC, maybe.

    It’s quite a thought to imagine an elegant dinner party at Castle Leslie (at Glasslough, Co Monagahan just across the border), being raided by Gardai with the shout: “Show us your passports and identity cards please”.

    “Just chuck the champagne bucket at him Anita, would you”?

  • Richard North

    Looks like Millar may be guilty of selective quoting? Or not?


    A more secure Common Travel Area

    Today, the law allows for a Common Travel Area (CTA) comprising the UK, Ireland and the Crown Dependencies (Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man). The ability to travel freely for all CTA nationals is important in the special relationship between the constituent countries which make it up. But the principle of movement without controls regardless of nationality in the area is out of date. We therefore made a commitment to review the arrangements for the CTA in the 2007 ‘Securing the UK Border’ strategy, the Cabinet Office ‘Security in a Global Hub’ report and the West review. The results of our review, undertaken in partnership with the Irish and Crown Dependency Governments, will be announced shortly.