The measure is part of a package of anti-immigration laws to be introduced after Brexit. And Members of the House of Commons have rejected an amendment backed by the House of Lords that would have exempted Northern Ireland.
Under the new system, non-Irish EU citizens will need to apply for what is known as an Electronic Travel Authorization online before entering the UK – including entering Northern Ireland from the south. The document was compared to the US Visa Waiver Scheme.
Simon Coveney believes the move could affect tourists who decide to head north here during their holiday.
Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney said he had made his concerns clear on the issue when he met British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis during a meeting in Dublin. The controversial plan was defended by Mr Lewis, who met with Mr Coveney at the UK-Ireland Intergovernmental Conference today.
“We have concerns that the UK and Irish governments have been working together for many, many years to ensure freedom of movement on the island of Ireland is protected north and south,” said Coveney.
He said he hoped Irish concerns could still be heeded, adding: “I think it’s important to say that this is not legislation that has yet to be finalised.”
Mr Coveney said the relationship between the Republic and Northern Ireland was unique. “I suppose it’s not the first time we’re going to be asking for special treatment to try and protect this relationship,” Mr. Coveney added.
Earlier, while attending an event to mark the 100th anniversary of the Irish Air Corps, Mr Coveney expressed his anger at the move:
“The idea that people crossing the border from the south into Northern Ireland would need a permit to do so, even if it is one you can apply for online, we do not think is in the spirit of the partnership between the British and Irish Governments that have been in office for many years are now facilitating entirely uninhabited movement around the island of Ireland, north and south.
“What was unfortunately agreed by a vote in the House of Commons last night and supported by the UK Government is a situation that may now be required in the future for non-Irish or non-British nationals traveling north from the Republic of Ireland travel Ireland must go through an approval process or information process.
“This does not include border controls. I think that was made very clear. But it does require a legal obligation to actually register and obtain permission to do so, and we think that is not in the spirit of the partnership between the UK and Irish governments for many, many years.
“And we think, to be honest, it shows a lack of understanding of how movement and relationships actually work on the island of Ireland.
“For example, if a French person is on holiday in Ireland and wants to go to Belfast for the day to the Titanic Museum or some other place of interest, they may now have to go through an application process to do so in advance.”
The amendment, which came from the House of Lords, was defeated by MPs by a vote of 298 to 216. Under the plans proposed by the UK government, non-Irish EU citizens or non-British nationals would need to obtain pre-authorisation to cross the border.
The Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) requirement is part of the UK’s new post-Brexit immigration legislation on nationality and borders and is expected to come into force in 2025.
However, the plan has been described as “unworkable”, while Taoiseach Micheál Martin said last December it was “something we could do without”.
UK Immigration Secretary Kevin Foster previously told the House of Commons Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs that the ETA would be obtained online and, similar to the US Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), would take several years.
He said officials “absolutely do not” check for ETAs at the border, saying “we do not conduct routine immigration checks through the common travel area.”
But Mr Coveney said thousands of people are crossing the border every day.
“This will not impact Irish or UK citizens due to the common travel area rules. We know this, but there are many other people who live in Ireland, who work here, who have homes here, and it can affect them.
“That is why we will continue to speak to the UK Government on this issue. We are really concerned about this and have repeatedly raised the issue with them. But, unfortunately, the voting continued last night.
“I think the fact that the House of Lords actually tabled an amendment to resolve this issue and it was defeated in the House of Commons last night also says a lot about the genuine concern that is not only felt here in Ireland , but also there exists also by many people in Westminster.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/coveney-anger-at-uk-plans-that-would-force-foreign-tourists-in-ireland-to-get-a-visa-to-enter-the-north-41479700.html Coveney is angered by British plans that would force foreign tourists in Ireland to apply for visas to enter the north