I propose to take Questions Nos. 87 to 89, inclusive, together.
Together with UK Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, I signed a Memorandum of Understanding between Ireland and the United Kingdom on the Common Travel Area (CTA) and its associated reciprocal rights and privileges in London on 8 May, immediately prior to the meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference.
In signing this Memorandum, we reaffirmed the commitment of both Governments to maintain the CTA in all circumstances, this also being the first time the arrangement has been formalised in this overarching way.
The new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is the culmination of over two years’ work, involving several Government Ministers and their respective Departments working closely together, as well as with their British counterparts. It reaffirms the existing CTA arrangements between Ireland and the UK and recognises the shared commitment of both to protect the associated reciprocal rights and privileges as a legitimate and fundamental public policy. The MOU further reaffirms the status that Irish and British citizens enjoy in each other’s State, including the associated reciprocal rights and privileges. It confirms our shared intention to provide further certainty and clarity to Irish and British citizens, and to those responsible for delivering relevant services, about the associated reciprocal rights and privileges. It commits to ensuring that any necessary legislative steps are taken to give effect to the associated reciprocal rights and privileges. Oversight will be provided by a group of senior officials from each jurisdiction.
As well as the East-West dimension, the CTA arrangements also underpin the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts, as well as the cross-border freedoms central to the lives and livelihoods of the people of Northern Ireland and the border region.
At a time when there has been uncertainty caused by the potential outcomes of Brexit, the MOU provides clarity and assurance for citizens of both countries. They do not need to take any action to protect their status and associated rights under the CTA.
I can assure the Deputy that all options, including an international treaty, were carefully considered at the outset of the negotiations. In view of how the CTA has developed incrementally over the decades and of how it has proven itself robust and adaptable to evolving circumstances, Ireland and the UK both agreed that an MOU was the most appropriate vehicle to express our shared commitment to the CTA. We arrived at the shared view that the very flexibility and durability of the arrangements would be best served by an MOU. As well as codifying the CTA for the first time and setting out what it covers, the MOU is a very clear and solemn expression of the two Governments’ firm commitment to the maintenance of the arrangements and is a key example of continued positive British-Irish engagement and cooperation.