Brexit and the Common Travel Area

As the Brexit saga rumbles on, and the proverbial can is kicked further down the road, it seems that the only thing anyone is sure of, is that they’re unsure about everything. Many are becoming politically disillusioned, preferring to switch off from politics altogether, but it isn’t all that bad. The British and Irish governments, and the EU have managed to agree on something; the Common Travel Area (CTA).

What is the CTA?

The CTA is a series of agreements made between the British and Irish governments, dating back to Irish independence in the 1920s, long before the EU came to exist. These rights therefore exist separately from the any rights the EU grants. The CTA allows for citizens of each country to permanently reside in the other without requiring permission from the authorities. These rights have since been expanded and now allow for citizens to travel, access healthcare, study and work throughout the CTA.

With Brexit looming large and British-Irish relations deteriorating, many are worried that the CTA will be the latest frontline in the battle to reach some consensus on leaving the European Union. Thankfully though, the CTA will avoid the Brexit black hole of confusion and conflict.

CTA and Brexit

One of the few areas of consensus reached during negotiations was to maintain the CTA despite the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. Both the British and Irish governments have publicly stated this. They have committed to ensuring the continuation of the CTA and have promised that citizens from the other will still be granted reciprocal rights as normal, regardless of how the UK leaves the EU.

This was recently reaffirmed, as on 8th May 2019, the Memorandum of Understanding was published, signed by both governments. This document states all the reciprocal rights granted under the CTA and confirms both governments commitment to protecting these rights in the future.

 The EU, in the current withdrawal agreement, and the European Commission have also committed to allowing the continuation of the CTA. They have stated that both governments can continue to make agreements as required, provided they do not leave Ireland in breach of their obligations under EU law. 

What This Means for Your Business

As the CTA exists solely between the UK and Ireland, it is worth noting that it has no effect on the movement of goods, the customs union or the ‘backstop’. These all fall under the jurisdiction of the EU and cannot be negotiated over between the British and Irish governments. This isn’t bad news though. It is likely that the CTA plays an important role in how you operate.

The continued presence of the CTA will enable your company to continue developing and expanding throughout the UK and Ireland. You and your employees can still travel freely throughout the British Isles. Whether this is for meeting clients, sourcing new materials or attending important meetings, your business can still function as normal.

For those with employees that travel across borders for employment, they can relax knowing that regardless of the Brexit outcome, their employees will be able to continue in their roles as normal.

Though the preservation of the CTA may not be headline Brexit news, it is reassuring to know that although it seems like everything will be changing with Brexit, some sense of normality will be retained.

Robert McConnell, NI Chamber