Irish status in UK “is assured” after Brexit

Photo: Brian O’Leary/

Colin Gannon

The British government has said that the rights of Irish citizens living in the UK will continue to be protected by a non-binding agreement after Brexit, even in the event of a no-deal crash out of the bloc.

The latest batch of impact papers published by the Department for Exiting the European Union have included that the rights of Irish citizens will not be hindered by Brexit, assuring those currently in the UK: “If you are an Irish citizen you would continue to have the right to enter and remain in the UK, as now. You are not required to do anything to protect your status.”

Theresa May’s government have also said in the technical notice that UK will update legislation if necessary to make sure that nothing changes.

Common Travel Area

Under the Common Travel Area (CTA) – a broadly reciprocal arrangement dating from the 1920s, not enshrined in law – ensures that British and Irish citizens can move freely between and reside in both countries.

Both the British and Irish governments have committed that the Common Travel Area will be maintained in all circumstances.

The Department for Foreign Affairs in Ireland has told the Irish World all associated CTA rights “will continue after Brexit”. Irish citizens in the UK, and British citizens in Ireland, will have the right to reside, work, study, and access healthcare, social security and public services in each other’s countries as well as to vote in certain elections, it added.

They said they recognised the British government’s pledge to update domestic legislation as necessary to ensure that CTA rights continue to have a clear legal basis.

“The CTA holds special importance to people in their daily lives: it goes to the heart of the relationship between these islands. The UK government is firmly committed to maintaining the CTA arrangements after the UK leaves the EU, an objective shared by the Crown Dependencies,” the British government said.

”The Irish Government has been clear also in its commitment to the continuation of the CTA. The CTA has proven to be resilient over the years and would continue to endure if there is no deal.”

Since the Brexit vote, Dublin and Brussels have sought guarantees of Irish rights to travel, live and work in the UK, but the Conservative Party’s official position has been to recite the CTA agreement.

Leo Varadkar at a press conference with Prime Minister Theresa May MP at No. 10 Downing Street in London on his first official engagement outside of Ireland after becoming Taoiseach. Photo: Sam Boal/


The Windrush scandal that rocked the Conservative Party this year after immigrants from the Caribbean were wrongly detained and deported after assurances of their status provides little peace-of-mind for Irish citizens in the UK.

In fact, Irish people’s right to live, work and avail of public services are at risk after Brexit due to this preferential migration regime standing on scant legal ground, a report authored by legal experts indicated last year.

The report, commissioned by national charity Travellers Movement – which represents gypsy roma and traveller peoples in the UK – highlighted that many of the rights currently enjoyed by Irish citizens in the UK, such as exemptions from deportation and prohibitions on employment of foreigners, exist only because of EU citizenship.

Simon Cox, a migration lawyer for the Open Society Justice Initiative and lead author of the report, said: “The British Government has consistently promised that Brexit will not weaken the situation of Irish citizens in the UK, or the movement of Irish citizens to and from the UK.

“Yet it has not made public how it will deliver this promise. A close look at current British laws shows a patchwork that may fall apart under post-Brexit political and practical pressures.

“The Government should quickly commit to a simple, clear and comprehensive law to guarantee the rights of residence and equal treatment for all Irish citizens. This will reassure Irish people in the UK and be a welcome and important element of the UK’s post-Brexit migration policy.

It warns that the Irish might be caught up in the so-called “hostile environment” policy on migrants that the Windrush generation were this year. The report also suggests that Irish citizens may lose their legal rights to free NHS treatment, cash benefits and certain social welfare payments as a result of Brexit.

The lack of clarity on the status of Irish nationals could also make the British citizenship of their children unclear, the report said.

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