UK confident it will be able to enforce immigration controls without hard border

The Government is "confident" it can enforce new immigration controls on EU citizens without a hard border with Ireland.

Controlling access to things such as the labour market and welfare systems form an integral part of the UK's immigration system, according to proposals for the Irish border outlined in a Government position paper.

The document says the UK will preserve the Common Travel Area (CTA) between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit, allowing people to enter Britain free from routine border controls.

This is despite Ireland remaining part of the EU and accepting the free movement of citizens from the bloc.

Critics say this could offer a "back door" into the UK for people from the European Union after Brexit.

The document says: "Along with many other member states, controlling access to the labour market and social security have long formed an integral part of the UK's immigration system.

"The nature of this range of control mechanisms means that the UK is confident that it will be able to: maintain existing movement to the UK from within the CTA without requiring border controls, as now; respect Ireland's ongoing EU free movement obligations; and put in place a new UK immigration system and controls for EEA (European Economic Area) citizens."

Avoiding check points or any other physical infrastructure on the Irish border is the UK Government's number one priority when negotiating post-Brexit arrangements for its only land frontier with the EU.

Officials say the UK has an ongoing programme of security cooperation with the Irish government, while Ireland is not a member of the Schengen free movement area, meaning passports of EU citizens are checked as they enter the country.

There are already different visa requirements between the UK and Ireland in some cases for people from outside the EEA.

The Government is due to unveil further details about its immigration policy in the autumn.

The position paper says the UK believes an agreement on maintaining the CTA can be agreed in the first phase of its negotiations with the EU.

Other parts of the document raise issues about what impact customs arrangements on the Irish border could have on Britain's ability to strike new trade deals.

One passage talks about future "regulatory equivalence on agri-food measures", where the UK and EU agree to the same standards albeit with some flexibility.

Britain's animal welfare standards have been a major talking point, as after Brexit it does not have to comply with EU rules.

This has been highlighted over chlorine-washed chicken, which is banned by the EU but not in the US - and could form part of a future trade deal.


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