Westminster MPs voted on Tuesday night to reintroduce the US-style visa waiver requirement for non-Irish EU citizens crossing the border as part of proposed new UK immigration laws.
A majority of 298 MPs against 216 voted in favor of the British Government’s challenge of a change introduced in the House of Lords which would have exempted Northern Ireland from the legislation.
The Human Rights NGO Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) condemned the move as saying it was “impractical and risks a hard line for many non-British and non-Irish citizens in border communities who have been free to cross border. Date limit ”.
Under the Nationalities and Borders Bill, non-Irish EU citizens will be required to apply online for pre-authorization – known as Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) – before entering the UK, including when crossing the border into Northern Ireland.
This will also apply to citizens of the European Economic Area (EEA) living in the state, which includes people from Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland.
Non-UK or non-Irish nationals from other non-EU / EEA countries who previously did not require a visa to enter the UK must now have an ETA.
The bill is part of a broader, post-Brexit revision of Britain’s immigration laws and includes provisions on asylum seekers, nationality and immigration controls.
The change on Northern Ireland was one of a series of changes made to the House of Lords bill, which was overturned in a Commons vote on Tuesday. The bill will now return to the Lords.
Alliance MP Stephen Farry spoke in favor of the change during the debate, saying ETA was “essentially useless in the context of the island of Ireland” and urged the British government to listen to the opposition of their Irish counterparts and to the “significant concerns”. about it in Northern Ireland.
He said the current movements on the island of Ireland “were not a threat to Britain’s security” but could put people who previously enjoyed freedom of movement across the border in “legal danger”.
It could also affect cross-border tourism, he said, and with tens of thousands of cross-border journeys taking place every day, “it could get pretty absurd” in border areas where roads cross both jurisdictions.
Conservative MP Tom Pursglove said the British government was aware that there would be “no control at the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland”.
He said, however, that exemption from the ETA requirement could result in “an unacceptable gap in UK border security” and that it was important “all individuals except British and Irish nationals … continue to comply with the UK’s immigration framework to protect both the UK immigration system and the Common Travel Area from abuse ”.
Sir. Pursglove said the UK was “entitled to impose and amend its own requirements in order to secure the UK border” and would continue to work with Dublin authorities on border security issues in relation to the Common Travel Area.