CAJ welcomes the opportunity to provide Written Evidence to the Committee on its October 2016 inquiry into the ‘Future of the land border with the Republic of Ireland’. Before and after the 23 June 2016 EU referendum CAJ has been involved in a body of work in relation to the rights-based implications of the vote, including in relation to the future of the UK-Ireland dimensions of the Common Travel Area (CTA), the situation of cross-border workers, and compliance with the rights-based provisions of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement 1998. CAJ recently hosted, in partnership with Ulster University a major expert seminar into ‘Brexiting and Rights’. CAJ are also applicants in a judicial review into the Brexit process currently before the high court in Northern Ireland.
In Summary CAJ would like to raise the following issues:
- Far from being a settled entity since partition the Common Travel Area (CTA) was almost abolished in 2009 with the intention of introducing ‘ad hoc’ checks on the land border targeting ‘non British and Irish citizens’ and passport checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. The policy was defeated in the House of Lords following an amendment tabled by Lord Glentoran.
- As a post-referendum solution falling short of a ‘hard border’ the above policy may now be revived and if implemented would undoubtedly lead to widespread racial profiling (a form of discrimination), on the land border and internal immigration controls within the UK. CAJ considers in the context of the Agreement Freedom of Movement should be interpreted as extending within the CTA.
- The citizenship and identity provisions of the 1998 Agreement imply there is to be no detriment to identifying as British or Irish in the Northern Ireland context, yet post-referendum the existing rights of Irish citizens in Northern Ireland, and British citizens in the Republic, and the entitlements of persons linked to either category, may be adversely affected, in the context of the border.
- Unless legislation is changed there will be specific impacts on groups such as cross border workers, who for example would lose most entitlements to use the NHS in Northern Ireland once EEA treaty rights cease to have effect. The Home Secretary’s proposals for employers to prioritise British workers and to disclose their proportion of ‘non-British’ employees would, in addition to fuelling racial prejudice, be both incompatible with the Agreement and antidiscrimination legislation specific to Northern Ireland.