NI: Lords back devolution of EU free movement to Northern Ireland

NI: Lords back devolution of EU free movement to Northern Ireland

Decisions about the free movement of EU workers in Northern Ireland should be devolved to the Northern Ireland Executive, according to an influential House of Lords committee.

The Lords EU committee has published a report calling for the UK and Irish governments to negotiate a draft bilateral agreement to be agreed by the wider EU as part of the Brexit negotiations.

The report acknowledges uncertainty over whether the UK government will seek to impose restrictions on free movement after Brexit.

The committee said it believes the number of people who would seek to enter the UK illegally to work via the Irish land border “would be likely to be low”, but the introduction of border controls would have “an impact in particular on industries already reliant on EU labour, for instance the cross-border agri-food sector”.

The committee’s report then states: “Short of the introduction of full immigration controls on the Irish land border, the solution would either be acceptance of a low level of cross-border movement by EU workers, or allowing Northern Ireland to reach its own settlement on the rights of EU citizens to live and work there.

“Given that immigration is a reserved matter, the latter option would require UK Government approval to an adjustment of the devolution settlement.”

The report also calls for the maintenance of the Common Travel Area (CTA), retention of the right for people in Northern Ireland to acquire Irish citizenship, reaffirmation of the Good Friday Agreement, and continued access to EU funding for cross-border projects.

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