Ambassador O’Neill’s letter to the Irish World on the Common Travel Area
News21 March 2019
With just over a month to go before the UK is due to leave the EU, I am very conscious that many Irish citizens here may have concerns about the possible impact on their lives.
I want to reassure Irish people living here that a huge amount of detailed work has been happening within government to ensure that, in all circumstances, the rights of Irish citizens, and of British citizens in Ireland, to live, work, travel freely, access education at all levels, and access public health and social services, will continue to apply and be fully respected.
The Common Travel Area, which enables our citizens to access these rights, was in place before Ireland or the UK ever joined the EU, and it remains in place today – updated as necessary to take account of the UK leaving the EU.
Even if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, which of course is something none of us wishes to see happen, Irish citizens in the UK – and British citizens in Ireland - will still be able to go about their daily lives and access essential services as before.
You do not have to do anything to access these rights. Irish people will not have to register for Settled Status, although there are specific circumstances (such as having a spouse who is neither Irish or British) where you may wish to do so.
My team in the Embassy, like our colleagues in Dublin, receive questions daily from concerned citizens and the answers to these most frequently asked questions can be found below. Extensive additional information is also available on www.dfa.ie/brexit
Do I need to do anything?
No, as an Irish person resident in the UK you do not need to do anything to be able to continue to live, work, study, travel freely and access essential health and social services as before.
Can I still travel freely between the UK and Ireland?
Yes. Irish citizens can continue to travel freely between the UK and Ireland in the same manner as before. Don’t forget your passport (or other valid I.D. depending on how you are travelling)! And if your passport is out of date, you can now renew it online at www.dfa.ie/passport.
Do I need to apply for “settled status” in the UK?
The UK Home Office has already indicated that Irish citizens will not need to register or take any action under the Settled Status scheme. They will continue to hold their CTA rights which are not reliant on EU membership. However, as EU citizens, Irish citizens – if they so wish - will be able to apply under the Settled Status scheme when it is open for applications.
What if a close family member is neither Irish nor British?
It will be important for people to make a fully informed decision on whether they wish to apply for the UK’s Settled Status scheme, having carefully considered all the information and their own personal circumstances. Circumstances which may be relevant include where an Irish citizen has close family members and/or dependents who are neither Irish nor British and hence are not covered by the CTA.
Will I still be able to access social security benefits, including state pensions?
Yes. Irish citizens and British citizens will still be able to access social security benefits on the same basis as citizens of that state, as is currently the case.
Can I still study in the UK?
Yes, there is no change in the right of Irish citizens to move between and reside in both jurisdictions, and Irish citizens can still study in the UK on the same basis as British citizens.
Can I still rent a place to live or access social housing supports in the UK as an Irish citizen/in Ireland as a British citizen?
Yes, you can still rent a place to live and you continue to have a right to access social housing supports, including supported housing and homeless assistance, on the same basis as British citizens.
Can I still vote in the UK as an Irish citizen?
Yes, Irish citizens resident in the United Kingdom, and British citizens resident in Ireland, have the right to vote in local and national parliamentary elections.