63. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the potential threats posed to rights and equality by Brexit have been examined, in particular pertaining to citizenship here and in Northern Ireland for Irish citizens; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4286/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy will be aware, the Government has undertaken a comprehensive assessment of the potential implications of Brexit, including as they relate to rights and equality.
In respect of Irish citizens in Northern Ireland, as my colleague the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade has previously confirmed to the House, the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland that is an integral part of the Agreement on the Withdrawal of the UK from the European Union, confirms the Union citizenship of Irish citizens in Northern Ireland.
As Union citizens, Irish citizens in Northern Ireland will continue to enjoy the right to move and reside freely throughout the EU, benefiting from the important right not to be discriminated against on the grounds of nationality while doing so. The Protocol also confirms that Irish citizens in Northern Ireland, “will continue to enjoy, exercise and have access to rights, opportunities and benefits” that come with EU citizenship. In addition, through the Protocol, the UK has confirmed its commitment to ensure “no diminution of the rights, safeguards and equality of opportunity that are set out in the Good Friday Agreement”.
The Common Travel Area (CTA) is a long-standing arrangement between the UK and Ireland 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 provides for associated rights and privileges including access to employment, healthcare, education, social protection, and social housing, as well as the right to vote in certain elections. Both the Irish and British governments have committed that the CTA will be maintained in all circumstances, and their ability to do so is acknowledged in Article 5 of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The Government’s focus must remain on getting the Withdrawal Agreement ratified, which remains the best way to ensure an orderly UK exit, including by ensuring the protection of the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts.
While it is in no party’s interest to end up with no deal, the Government, in close cooperation with the EU, will continue and intensify our work on preparedness for all possible outcomes, with increased focus on no deal preparations.