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23rd Mar 2022

Coveney accuses UK Government of ignoring Ireland’s concerns over US-style visas to enter Northern Ireland

Stephen Porzio

“Our concern on this has been communicated clearly but has been ignored.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has accused the UK Government of ignoring Ireland’s concerns when considering new rules regarding the Border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

On Tuesday (22 March), MPs at Westminster voted to restore the need for a US-style visa waiver for non-Irish EU citizens entering the UK.

A majority of MPs moved to support the UK Government’s challenge to an amendment introduced in the House of Lords that would have excluded Northern Ireland from the legislation.

The change is part of proposed British immigration laws and would see non-Irish EU citizens needing to apply for pre-travel clearance, titled Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA), before arriving into the UK, including from the Northern Irish Border.

Writing on Twitter following the vote, Coveney said:

“This decision is regrettable and contrary to the approach that UK and Irish Governments have supported for many years to protect free movement on the island of Ireland for everyone.

“Our concern on this has been communicated clearly but has been ignored.”

The move, according to the Irish Times,  has been condemned by human rights NGO the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ), who described it as “unworkable” and said that it “risks a hard Border for many non-British and non-Irish citizens in Border communities who have been able to freely cross the Border to date”.

Sharing Coveney’s tweet, meanwhile, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis said there will be “no controls on the Border”, saying that the new ETA requirement is “to protect the Common Travel Area from abuse”.

“UK and Irish citizens will continue to be able to travel freely,” he said.

“This new ETA requirement is about protecting the Common Travel Area from abuse.

“Our commitment to the Common Travel Area is absolute, as seen throughout the pandemic.”

The Nationalities and Borders Bill will now return to the House of Lords.

Main image via Sam Boal/

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