With all the debate and confusion, it is good to know that The Government of Ireland and the UK Government have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), reaffirming their commitment to maintaining the Common Travel Area (CTA), in all circumstances. Under the CTA, 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. Neither Irish citizens in the UK nor British citizens in Ireland are required to take any action to protect their status and associated rights and staff will be able to travel from one country to the other for work without disruption.

CIPD Ireland welcomes the new MOU as it means that even if Britain leaves the EU without a deal, citizens will maintain their current reciprocal rights and privileges. This means British and Irish citizens can travel freely between the UK and Ireland and reside in either jurisdiction. It also provides for rights for Irish citizens in the UK and British citizens in Ireland including the right to reside, to work, to study and to access Social Security benefits and health services, and to vote in local and national parliamentary elections.

CIPD Ireland surveys in 2018 and 2019 have found that, under Brexit, the free movement of workers between Ireland and the UK/Northern Ireland was a particular concern to employers. This agreement clarifies that the current rights to work and reside in each other countries will continue into the future for British and Irish citizens. So no immigration or visa process will be required and people and labour will continue to be able to move freely across the border and between the two countries once they are citizens of either.

This agreement is to be welcomed by employers as it provides assurance that the way in which British and Irish citizens can live and work freely across these islands will not change, and no visa requirements will be introduced. The watch-points will be around dealing with those who live and work in Ireland or the UK, but are not citizens, and secondly, the risk that UK employers will target the Irish labour market to deal with key skill shortages.

Brexit and Northern Ireland

Irish and British citizens will now have a guarantee that they will maintain their freedom of movement to each other’s countries and associated rights no matter the outcome of Brexit.

The CTA pre-dates our membership of European Union and will continue after the UK leaves the EU. It has been recognised in the negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and there is allowance in the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement that the UK and Ireland may continue to make arrangements to maintain the CTA while fully respecting the rights of natural persons under EU law. Ireland will continue to meet all obligations under EU law.

Through the CTA arrangements, Ireland and the UK cooperate closely on immigration matters.

After Brexit, Irish citizens in the UK or British citizens in Ireland will not be required to take any action to protect their status and rights associated with the CTA. Both Governments have committed to undertaking all the work necessary, including legislative provisions, to ensure that the agreed CTA rights and privileges are protected.

The CTA arrangements also underpin the Good Friday Agreement, as well as the freedom of movement across the border, central to the lives of the people of Northern Ireland and the border region.

Social Security

Ireland and the United Kingdom have agreed that all existing arrangements regarding Social Security entitlements will be maintained. This means that Irish citizens living in Ireland maintain the right to benefit from Social Insurance contributions made when working in the UK and to access Social Insurance payments if living in the UK and vice versa. Existing reciprocal arrangements for other payments, such as child benefit, and pensions will also be maintained.

Education and training

All citizens, no matter their age, have access to all levels of education and training in either jurisdiction. This includes the EU level of fees and SUSI grants for UK citizens attending Irish Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), along with SUSI grants for Irish students attending UK HEIs.


Both the Irish and British Governments are committed to maintaining the current healthcare arrangements. Under the CTA, Irish citizens and British citizens who live in, work in, or visit the other state have the right to access healthcare there. This encompasses North South cooperation arrangements, which will continue on the island of Ireland.

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