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New Research Recommends UK-Irish treaty is best solution to ensure Common Travel Area Rights

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New research has concluded that the Common Travel Area (CTA) between Ireland and the UK is currently “written in sand, and its terms are much more limited than is often believed to be the case”. These arrangements would benefit from greater legal certainty to continue their smooth operations beyond Brexit, concludes the paper being presented today.

The research, commissioned by the Joint Committee of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, was carried out by academics at Newcastle University, Durham University and the University of Birmingham.

It recommends that both the Irish and UK Governments should look to secure a “gold standard” approach through a new intergovernmental Common Travel Area treaty. Such a treaty would formalise common immigration rules, travel rights, residency rights, and related rights to education, social security, work, health and security and justice.

The report also makes 20 separate recommendations which could be implemented to ensure smoother operation of the CTA, including on the need for the Governments to act on cross border healthcare; on the need for a taskforce to monitor impediments to cross-border working, and on contingency planning for PSNI/An Garda Síochána justice cooperation in the absence of EU structures.

Emily Logan Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated:

“The Joint Committee has been active in meeting with both Governments and with the EU Chief Negotiator on specific concerns related to human rights and equality. Today this research commissioned by the Joint Committee brings forward new information on the challenges and possible solutions which are likely to arise in relation to the Common Travel Area (CTA). It is in the interest of all that these issues are examined carefully and resolved to ensure a clarity of understanding and application of the CTA.”

Les Allamby, Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission stated:

“The research is a welcome detailed assessment of the practical issues around cross-border health and social care cooperation, protection of workers’ rights, access to social security and studying in schools and colleges and how this will be impacted by the UK exit from the EU. The Common Travel area’s value and importance will undoubtedly increase whatever deal is done between the UK government and EU27. Strengthening the legal basis that underpins the Common Travel Area would provide an important reassurance around the long-term protection of rights.”


For further information, please contact:

Zara Porter


Notes to editor:

  1. The “Discussion Paper on the Common Travel Area”, produced by Sylvia de Mars and Colin Murray of Newcastle University, Aoife O’ Donoghue of Durham University, and Ben Warwick of the University of Birmingham, is available here.
  2. The Joint Committee Established Under the Good Friday Agreement
  3. The Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement’s section on rights, safeguards and equality of opportunities, provides for a joint committee of representatives of Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, as a North-South forum for consideration of human rights issues in the island of Ireland.
  4. The founding statutes of both the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission have ensured a formal basis in law for the Joint Committee.The Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, as an international treaty, recognised by the United Nations, laid down a mandate for both national human rights institutions, and the mechanism to ensure strong cooperation between them.
  5. The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.
  6. The Northern Ireland Rights Commission is an independent statutory body first proposed in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement (1998) and established in 1999 by the Northern Ireland Act (1998). It is answerable to Parliament at Westminster.

13 Nov 2018

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