Dublin to challenge British government over planned border travel curbs
TÁNAISTE Leo Varadkar plans to raise "concerns" and "objections" with the British government over its proposed new arrangements for cross-border travel.
The controversial proposal in the Nationality and Borders Bill would require any non-Irish or non-British citizens to apply for authorisation to enter the north from the Republic.
The planned introduction of so-called electronic travel authorisation (ETA) has been described as "unworkable" and a "disgrace".
Concerns have already been voiced about enforcement, its impact on cross-border workers and the implications of the news for international tourists visiting the north.
The British government bill, which seeks to limit illegal immigration, is currently going through Westminster.
SDLP MP Claire Hanna described the proposed legislation as as "objectionable for a number of reasons".
"It smacks totally of a government that is drunk on power and continues to actively ignore the realities of life on this island that they would seek to establish a land border for a class of citizens and visitors from the south," she said.
"Not only are the proposals totally unworkable, in our view, their implementation would have a serious impact on the local tourism sector with additional checks for those coming here from Dublin – that's a sizeable portion of the overall number of people who visit Northern Ireland every year and after the last 20 months it is the last thing that local businesses need."
Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty raised the matter in the Dáil, claiming the bill threatened livelihoods and the tourism sector in the north-west, while placing stress on residents.
"It undermines the Good Friday Agreement and the Common Travel Area and 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.
Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry told RTÉ that the proposals would add another layer of bureaucracy and complexity.
The tánaiste said the Dublin government would "absolutely be making our views known" to the British government.
Mr Varadkar said he was not surprised by the move, saying it was an "outworking" of Brexit.
"If you recall, part of the argument in favour 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," he said.
"It may be the case that some people who voted for Brexit didn't realise that but it is part of the outworking of Brexit that the United Kingdom is going to harden its borders and is going to reduce immigration, including from the European Union.
"Ending free movement was a big part of the argument that they made."
The north's honorary Polish consul Jerome Mullen said the proposals would cause "major disruption and distress" to those living in border regions.
Mr Mullan said there were an estimated 4,000 non-Irish EU citizens crossing the border every day for work.