A couple of recent written questions in the Dáil, on the future operation of the Common Travel Area and immigration controls, provided the Irish Government with an opportunity to address what are described as “a number of misleading media reports on these matters in recent days”.
10. Deputy Fiona O’Loughlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality her views on media reports that the United Kingdom is seeking to shift the front line of immigration controls to Ireland’s ports and airports in order to avoid having to introduce a hard border on the island; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30143/16]
11. Deputy Fiona O’Loughlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the way in which the external border of the common travel area can be strengthened without compromising freedom of movement within the European Union; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30144/16]
Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I propose to take Questions Nos. 10 and 11 together.
The Common Travel Area (CTA) between Ireland and the UK has for many decades delivered immeasurable economic, social and cultural benefits to all people on these islands. Both the Irish and British Governments have made it clear that it is their wish to maintain the CTA arrangements after the UK leaves the European Union. Both Governments have also expressed their commitment to ensuring there is no return to a so-called ‘hard border’ between both parts of the Island.
There have been a number of misleading media reports on these matters in recent days. It has always been the case that Ireland and the United Kingdom cooperate closely on jointly securing the external border of the CTA and we will continue to cooperate, and to strengthen that cooperation, in the future. In that regard a central feature of the operation of the CTA has been that each State enforces the other’s conditions of landing for non-EEA nationals, thus protecting each other’s borders. In addition, cooperation extends across a number of other areas including the sharing of information and at an operational level on enforcement. For example, on the information front, earlier this year new arrangements to allow for the sharing of Advanced Passenger Information between Ireland and the UK in order to further enhance the integrity of the Common Travel Area were introduced. The development of the British-Irish Visa System was facilitated by this arrangement and indeed could not have happened without the electronic sharing of information such as biometrics.
The impact of ‘Brexit’ on the right to free movement of EEA citizens will ultimately be a matter that will feature within the negotiation process that will take place following the UK’s formal notification to the European Council that it intends to leave, and it is therefore not possible at this juncture to say what arrangements will apply between the UK and EU in the future in respect of such persons. What I can make clear is that, while we will continue to maintain and enhance cooperation with the UK in relation to general immigration and border enforcement, Ireland of course remains a committed member of the European Union and will continue to uphold the right of free movement for all EU citizens after the UK leaves the Union. [added emphasis]