What Brexit means for future of the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK.

A blog post by Dr. Ben Warwick and Mr. Colin Murray for The Conversation on the Convention on Social Security agreed by the UK and Ireland, as well as what else needs to be done to preserve the Common Travel Area after Brexit.

They’ve done it. The UK and Ireland have agreed on something Brexit-related, written it down, and finalised it. Alas, the UK-EU withdrawal agreement remains mired in controversy, but that shouldn’t distract from the important stepping stones being put in place regarding the Common Travel Area between the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

The Common Travel Area allows visa-free travel between the UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands for all citizens. Beyond travel, related legislation in each member of the Common Travel Area has long allowed citizens of other members to be treated in most regards as if they are home citizens, for example for work or residency purposes.

The Common Travel Area was once touted as the solution to virtually every difficulty that Brexit posed for Ireland and Northern Ireland. Although both the UK and Ireland have facilitated cross-border travel for each others’ citizens for the best part of a century, our recent research has demonstrated this isn’t sufficient to keep the border open in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The arrangements have existed for decades in a patchwork of laws and policies. Besides a tweak to immigration policy in 2011, little attention has been given to the Common Travel Area, and EU free movement law has provided a more developed legal framework. For example, welfare provisions in Northern Ireland which disadvantaged cross-border workers were only fixed after litigation under EU law.

What’s needed after March 29, or Brexit day, is a clear legal basis for the Common Travel Area both in the UK and Ireland’s own legal systems, underpinned by an international agreement between the two countries.

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