I am aware of the UK’s Nationality and Borders Bill, which was recently passed in the House of Commons and has now proceeded to the House of Lords.
As currently drafted, this Bill would provide that the UK’s immigration rules may require that specified categories of individual, to be set down in the rules, have an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) in order to travel to the UK. This may include ‘local journeys’ to the UK from within the Common Travel Area (CTA). It is important to note that, while the Bill provides that such a requirement may be introduced, any such requirement would be introduced by way of future amendments to the UK’s immigration rules. It is also important to note that the Bill provides that the proposed ETA system will not apply to Irish and British citizens and the UK Government has made clear that there will continue to be no immigration checks on the land border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The UK Government has spoken about the requirement coming into effect by 2024, though this timeframe could change.
Officials in my Department are seeking clarification with the UK Government as to how it is proposed to apply the requirement in Northern Ireland and what changes are intended to be introduced in future immigration rules. As the Deputy is aware, tens of thousands of people, including many non-Irish EU/EEA nationals living in Ireland, cross the land border every day – visiting friends and family, going to work, socialising. There are also considerations in terms of supply chains and for tourism on an all-island basis, should this proposed legislation impact on any cross-border movements for non-Irish EU/EEA nationals.
For our part, the Government has made its position clear that there should be no hard border on the island of Ireland. This legislation remains under consideration within the UK Parliament and we will continue to engage with the UK Government to ensure that our position is clearly heard as this legislation progresses.