LONDON — Ireland plans to raise concerns with the U.K. government over plans to require non-Irish and non-British nationals to get clearance before crossing the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland.
Under the Nationality and Borders Bill, EU citizens and others without an Irish or British passport would need to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) to enter the U.K., including Northern Ireland, from 2025.
But Irish Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said Thursday the Irish government would communicate its concerns about the plan to the U.K., adding however that it “doesn’t come as a huge surprise.”
“Part of the argument in favor of Brexit was about controlling their borders, and also about reducing and stopping immigration from the European Union, and this is part of the outworking of that,” Varadkar told the Irish parliament. “Ending free movement was a big part of the argument that they made. But we will absolutely be making our views known.”
Varadkar’s comments came in response to a question from Pearse Doherty, a Sinn Féin politician, who said the U.K. Home Office’s proposal was a “disgrace” and argued it would have a huge impact on commuters and the tourism industry.
Doherty added that the U.K. government would be undermining the Good Friday peace agreement, which put an end to decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.
“Ireland once again faces the prospect of the collateral damage of a Tory government in Westminster that doesn’t give a damn about Ireland and it’s so divorced from the reality of life on the border that it could even countenance such a measure like this,” he said.
U.K. Home Office Minister Kevin Foster told the House of Commons Northern Ireland affairs committee Wednesday that there will not be any checking of ETA paperwork at the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland.
“We anticipate this will be a fairly simple process,” he said. “When the U.S. ESTA originally launched you could fill it in at the airport and fly an hour or two later. I don’t want to perhaps get that type of guarantee yet, but we’re certainly looking at how we can make a simplified process as quick and simple.”
The bill passed in the House of Commons on Wednesday and will now be scrutinized in the House of Lords.
The Alliance Party, SDLP, Labour and the Liberal Democrats had put forward an amendment to the bill to exempt travel on the island of Ireland from the requirement for an ETA, but it was not selected for a vote.
“This adds extra layers of bureaucracy and creates new legal risk and jeopardy for people crossing on land journeys into Northern Ireland,” the Alliance Party MP Stephen Farry said.