Brexit – Irish and UK citizens’ rights under Common Travel Area cemented by both Governments

Author: Siobhán Lafferty

May 17, 2019

One of the most common Brexit related questions that the Fieldfisher Ireland Employment Law team has been asked by clients is what effect Brexit might have on employees working across both Ireland and the UK.

As such, many will be relieved to hear that, on 8 May 2019, the Irish and UK Governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) which affirms the rights of Irish and UK citizens under the Common Travel Area.

Ireland and the United Kingdom have been part of what is known as the Common Travel Area (CTA) for a number of years, and the CTA pre-dates both Ireland and the United Kingdom’s membership of the EU.  The CTA is therefore not affected by the UK’s impending withdrawal from the Union. Nonetheless, the MOU provides clarity that this is the case, with the aim of the document being to “reaffirm the status that Irish and British citizens enjoy in each other’s state”.

The CTA, as confirmed by the MOU, allows Irish and British citizens to move freely and reside in either jurisdiction, as well as enjoying other rights including:

  • the right to work;
  • access to healthcare;
  • social security rights;
  • the right to access all levels of education and training and associated student support; and
  • the right to vote in certain elections.

The Irish and UK Government’s Joint Statement on the MOU highlighted “the immensely important and enduring nature of the relationship between our two countries and the unique ties between our citizens.” The MOU provides a commitment to undertake any work necessary to ensure these rights and privileges are protected, including through legislation if necessary.

There has been a general increase in UK citizens seeking Irish citizenship since the Brexit referendum.  This will likely continue to be the trend, however, the important point to note for businesses is that neither Irish citizens in the UK nor British citizens in Ireland are required to do anything to protect their rights under the CTA.     Whilst the impact of Brexit on Irish businesses in many respects remains unclear, this does provide some comfort to those employing UK citizens that no action will be required from an immigration perspective.

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