Brexit and Irish Citizens in the UK: How to safeguard the rights of Irish citizens in an uncertain future
By Simon Cox
- Current British law does not ensure the rights for Irish citizens living in a post-Brexit UK. Despite increasing concern, British Ministers and officials have neither shown how current law will continue after Brexit nor set out a road-map to delivering its promises to Irish citizens. The Irish Government has failed to give the priority required for citizens’ rights. Both Governments should now consult widely on the contents of reciprocal legal guarantees they must put in place to prepare for Brexit.
- The British Government and local authorities do not in practice recognise the Ireland Act 1949 as conferring any rights on Irish citizens. All the rights Irish citizens have depend on their status as EU citizens or specific British legal provisions which make no reference to the 1949 Act.
- Without EU law, key rights of Irish citizens would currently depend on whether they last entered the UK from Ireland or from outside the Common Travel Area.
- UK law allows for deportation and exclusion of Irish citizens who are not also British citizens. The UK uses this power to deport Irish citizens. There is no exception in law for people of Northern Ireland. Where EU law does not apply, the UK law appears to give the British authorities wide powers to deport Irish citizens. This therefore means Irish citizens can be deported from the UK where a court convicting the person of an offence recommends deportation or the Minister considers deportation “conducive to the public good”.
- Many of the protections and rights currently enjoyed by Irish citizens in the UK, such as exemptions from prohibitions on employment of foreigners, exist only because they are EU citizens and not because they are Irish citizens. Irish citizens therefore may, deliberately or not, be caught out by old and new laws and practices implementing the Government’s “hostile environment” policy at migrants.
- The 1949 Ireland Act does not afford Irish citizens the same rights afforded by British citizens in Ireland. Therefore, rights are not as reciprocal as presented.