EU nationals to require prior authorisation before crossing border into Northern Ireland

EU nationals to require prior authorisation before crossing border into Northern Ireland

Plans to require EU nationals crossing the border into Northern Ireland to apply for electronic travel authorisations in advance have been backed by MPs despite being branded as “essentially unworkable”.

The contentious provision in the Nationality and Borders Bill was removed by the House of Lords, but reinstated in the Commons yesterday by a 298-216 vote in spite of objections from Northern Ireland MPs.

Stephen Farry, the Alliance MP for North Down, said: “I believe that the system of electronic travel authorisations is essentially unworkable in the context of the island of Ireland.

“I know that the UK government have received representations from the Irish government, and they will also be aware of the cross-party opposition to this proposal in the Irish Houses of Parliament, the Oireachtas. It is important that we listen carefully to those voices and take account of the considerable concern felt in Northern Ireland about this measure.”

However, Tom Pursglove, the parliamentary under-secretary of state for justice and tackling illegal migration, said allowing EU nationals to cross the border without prior authorisation would “result in an unacceptable gap in UK border security”.

“It is important that, as now, all individuals – except British and Irish citizens – arriving in the UK, including those crossing the land border into Northern Ireland, continue to enter in line with the UK’s immigration framework to protect both the UK immigration system and the common travel area from abuse,” he said.

“This is a well-established principle of the operation of the common travel area and applies when travelling in all directions. The UK is entitled to introduce and change its own requirements in the interest of securing the UK border, and we will continue to liaise with the Irish authorities on matters of border security in relation to the common travel area.”

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