Leo Varadkar discusses shared sovereignty and Brexit
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Controversy has been sparked by the Nationality and Borders Bill, brought in by Home Secretary Priti Patel. The Bill is primarily concerned with Channel crossings and asylum claims, but impacts Northern Ireland in a manner that officials have branded “disgraceful”.
If it becomes law, the Bill will force non-Irish EU citizens living in the Republic to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) to enter the UK from 2025.
This would include entrance into Northern Ireland.
Mr Varadkar, Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister, said he will be communicating his “concerns and objections to this measure” to the UK Government.
He said: “Part of the argument in favour of Brexit was about controlling UK borders and reducing and stopping immigration from the EU. This is part of the outworking of that.
“It may be the case that some people who voted for Brexit did not realise that, but it is part of the outworking of Brexit that the UK is going to harden its borders and reduce immigration, including from the EU.”
He added that the move “does not come as a huge surprise”.
The requirement to apply for an ETA would also cover citizens of countries in the European Economic Area, including Norway and Iceland, who are living in Ireland.
UK Immigration Minister Kevin Foster defended the introduction of the ETA when questioned by MPs on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.
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He stressed that it will be a “simple online fill-in form”.
He added: “Once you’ve done it you can fairly easily renew it as well.”
But other Irish officials were even less impressed will the Bill than Mr Varadkar.
Sinn Féin politician Pearse Doherty said the proposal was a “disgrace” and ought to be opposed.
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He said: “It undermines the Good Friday Agreement and the Common Travel Area and Ireland once again faces the prospect of the collateral damage of a Tory government in Westminster that doesn’t give a damn about Ireland and it’s so divorced from the reality of life on the border that it could even countenance such a measure like this.”
The Bill was approved on its third reading in the House of Commons by 298 votes to 231 earlier this week.
This means it passed to the Lords with a majority of 67.
An amendment to the Bill to exempt travel on the island of Ireland from the ETA requirement was not selected for a vote, according to the Irish Times.
Alliance MP Stephen Farry said: “This adds extra layers of bureaucracy and creates new legal risk and jeopardy for people crossing on land journeys into Northern Ireland.”
Ms Patel told MPSs: “Our Bill will bring a new comprehensive, firm but fair, and long-term plan that seeks to address the challenge of illegal migration facilitated by serious organised criminals exploiting people and profiting from human misery.”
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