Britain has denied that a proposed US-style visa waiver requirement for non-Irish EU citizens crossing from Ireland to Northern Ireland amounts to imposing border controls.
“There will be no border controls,” tweeted British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis.
It came after Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney said it was “regrettable” that British MPs had voted to keep the waiver requirement.
Mr Lewis said the new online visa waiver application process “aims to protect the Common Travel Area from abuse. Our commitment to the Common Travel Area is absolute”.
The CTA agreement between the UK and Ireland means that citizens have the right to travel freely between the two countries.
There are ongoing frictions between Dublin, London and Brussels over arrangements following Britain’s departure from the EU and the thorny question of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
Under the proposed new rules, non-Irish EU citizens would have to apply for an electronic travel authorization (ETA) online before entering the UK, including when crossing the border into Northern Ireland.
The legislation is part of a sweeping and controversial set of rules aimed at overhauling Britain’s immigration laws after Brexit.
The Irish government’s concern was “clearly communicated but ignored”, Mr Coveney said.
Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Micheal McGrath told the Dáil that the government “stands on all fours behind the common travel area and the border open in all respects”.
He said: “We have serious concerns about the [UK] […]to seek to distinguish between EU citizens of another Member State and Irish citizens.”
It is neither “practical nor fair”, he said.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald called the UK government’s decision a “shameful situation”.
She said: “This undermines the Good Friday Agreement and the Common Travel Area, and creates significant restrictions on freedom of movement on our island.
“Are we really suggesting that Poles who live and work in Lifford now need papers to get to Strabane, or from Emyvale to Aughnacloy?
“It will be devastating for the tourism sector, particularly for counties like Donegal and along the border region. It could cost tens of thousands of jobs in a sector which is barely recovering from Covid-19.
“Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney has contacted the UK Government, but we need to do much more.
“The Taoiseach must pick up the phone with Boris Johnson today and mobilize Irish diplomatic efforts against this decision.”
A spokesman for the Northern Irish NGO the Administration of Justice Committee said EU citizens leading a “smooth cross-border life” could “face up to four years in prison for having crossed an invisible border” if they did not apply for a visa. to renouncer.
“It seems like this is all based on political rhetoric rather than evidence-based wording,” he added.
Relations between Ireland, Britain and the EU have been clouded in recent months by controversy surrounding the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The arrangement – part of the UK’s divorce deal with the EU – avoided the reimposition of a hard border on the island of Ireland by keeping Northern Ireland in the market single and customs union of Europe. But he erected an effective trade barrier in the Irish Sea.
During a visit to the UK earlier this month, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the long-running negotiations between the EU and the UK on reforming the pact would continue.
But he stressed he offered the best of both worlds for Northern Ireland.