Employment Update: Common Travel Area Between Britain and Ireland Secured

09 May 2019

Regardless of the outcome of Brexit negotiations with the EU, citizens of Britain and Ireland will continue to enjoy their current reciprocal rights and privileges which include free movement of people together with equal access to social security, health and education following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding by the two governments.

Common Travel Area

Under the Common Travel Area (CTA)  both Irish and British citizens move freely and reside in either jurisdiction and enjoy associated rights and entitlements including access to employment, healthcare, education, social benefits and the right to vote in certain elections.

The CTA predates Ireland and Britain’s membership of the EU and is not dependent on it. Both governments have committed to maintaining the CTA in all circumstances since the commencement of Brexit negotiations. It was largely based on trust however and there is no legally binding international agreement establishing its terms.

The provisions of the CTA provisions are found in disparate pieces of legislation and bilateral administrative agreements. It does not relate to goods or customs issues.

Memorandum of Understanding

A Memorandum of Understanding signed by the two governments now copperfastens the terms of the CTA which include free movement of people and cross-border access to social security, healthcare and education.

While the memorandum is not legally binding, it reinforces the understanding of the CTA by both governments. Its execution follows two years of work involving multiple government departments in both countries to ensure that, even in the event of a no-deal Brexit, both British and Irish citizens will continue to enjoy their current reciprocal rights and privileges.


Neither Irish citizens in the UK nor British citizens in Ireland are required to take any action to protect their status and rights associated with the CTA. After the UK has left the EU, both Irish citizens in the UK and British citizens in Ireland will continue to enjoy these rights. Both Governments have committed to undertaking all the work necessary, including through legislative provision, to ensure that the agreed CTA rights and privileges are protected.

The memorandum reaffirms the special status Ireland will have with the UK compared to other EU countries in any Brexit arrangement.

For more information on how Brexit may impact your business or employees, contact a member of our Employment & Benefits or Business Immigration teams. 

The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice. 

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