Concerns raised over post-Brexit rights of Irish citizens in the north
CONCERNS have been raised again about the rights of people in the north claiming Irish citizenship after Brexit.
It comes after a statement by British immigration minister Caroline Nokes on the same day Prime Minister Theresa May pledged to examine difficulties faced by Irish citizens who want to bring family members into the north.
Under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement (GFA) people have the right to Irish or British citizenship.
In response to a parliamentary question this week, Ms Nokes said: “Irish citizens resident in the UK who do not hold British citizenship will be eligible to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme if they choose. However, they do not need to do so under the reciprocal Common Travel Area arrangements with Ireland."
The EU Settlement Scheme will allow EU citizens to continue living in Britain or Northern Ireland after Brexit.
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However, the Home Office has previously said it views people born in the north as British, a position some believe is contrary to the GFA.
It has meant that family members of people born in Northern Ireland but claiming Irish citizenship may have difficulty securing residency.
Daniel Holder, deputy director of the Committee on the Administration of Justice, expressed concern.
“Under the current Home Office position that Northern Ireland-born people should be treated as British, this means that no Irish citizen born in NI could benefit from the retained EU citizens’ rights under the Withdrawal Agreement, that are to be accessed by the EU Settlement Scheme.”
Mr Holder claimed Ms Nokes is at odds with the GFA.
“Her position makes a mockery of the agreement’s pledge that it is the ‘birth right’ of people born in the north to be accepted as Irish or British (or both),” he said.
“Back in December 2017 separate UK-EU commitments were made for arrangements for Irish citizens residing in Northern Ireland to continue to be able to exercise EU rights – but these arrangements were never put into place.
“This Home Office position means Irish citizens here may be among the only EU citizens not to have a mechanism to retain some of their EU rights.”
Ms Nokes caused controversy last year when she admitted to the House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that she had not read the Good Friday Agreement “in its entirety”.
A Home Office spokesman said last night it was "absolutely committed to upholding the Belfast ('Good Friday') Agreement which confirms the birth right of the people of Northern Ireland to identify as British or Irish or both, as they may so choose, and to hold both British and Irish citizenship.
“We respect the right of the people of Northern Ireland to choose how they identify.
“Irish citizens resident in the UK who do not hold British citizenship will be eligible to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme if they choose. However, they do not need to do so under the reciprocal Common Travel Area arrangements with Ireland."