Below is a reply by the Foreign Affairs Minister to a Parliamentary Question I tabled in Dáil Éireann in relation to the rights and entitlements of frontier workers. This issue affects many cross-border workers and indeed pensioners living in the border region.
Thankfully since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement there has been a very substantial increase in the number of persons travelling across the border to work.
For Written Answer on : 07/02/2019
Question Number(s): 55 Question Reference(s): 6150/19
Department: Foreign Affairs and Trade
Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D.
To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the preparations made to protect the interests and entitlements of frontier workers here when the UK leaves the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Withdrawal Agreement covers all elements of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. This includes the protection of the ongoing rights of EU frontier workers, who have exercised these rights prior to the end of the Transition period provided for under the Agreement. The focus of my Department, and of this Government, continues to be on securing ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement. This is the best way to ensure that such rights are protected post-Brexit.
In the absence of the Withdrawal Agreement these rights will not apply. The rights of EU citizens working in Ireland remain fully protected. However, it will be a matter for the UK Government how it will address EU frontier workers in the UK.
The Government is acutely conscious of the concerns of border communities and of cross-border workers as a result of Brexit. The continuation of the Common Travel Area (CTA) is also important in that context.
The Common Travel Area is a long-standing arrangement between Ireland and the UK which means Irish citizens can move freely to live, work, and study in the UK on the same basis as UK citizens and vice versa. It is an arrangement that is valued on both islands and the continuation of this arrangement is a stated commitment of both the Irish and UK Governments. It is important to note that the Common Travel Area applies to Irish and UK citizens only.
In the context of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, it is important that any arrangements necessary to maintain the Common Travel Area are made.
The Common Travel Area provides for associated rights and entitlements which enable Irish and UK citizens to move freely between and reside in both jurisdictions. These rights and entitlements include access to employment, healthcare, education, and social benefits, as well as the right to vote in certain elections. The CTA pre-dates Irish and UK membership of the EU and is not dependent on it. It is recognised in Protocol 20 to the EU Treaties and is also acknowledged in the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland to the Agreement on the withdrawal of the UK from the EU which was endorsed by the European Council and the UK Government on 25 November 2018.
The maintenance of the CTA is a bilateral matter. Work is at an advanced stage both with the UK and domestically to ensure that the necessary provisions are made in both jurisdictions so that the CTA continues to function effectively after the UK leaves the EU.