Ireland Brexit fury: Sinn Fein chief orders Taoiseach to urgently confront Boris in EU row

Northern Irish 'being gaslighted by Joe Biden' says Foster

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On Tuesday, MPs voted to reinstate for a US-style visa waiver requiring EU citizens who are not Irish to apply online for pre-travel clearance, known as Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA), before entering the UK at the Irish border. Irish ministers have denounced the “regrettable” plans, and raised concerns about freedom of movement in Ireland.

Now, Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald has called on Irish Prime Minister Mr Martin to talk to Mr Johnson about the plans, calling the visa amendment a “shameful situation”.

Ms McDonald said: “It undermines the Good Friday Agreement and Common Travel Area and creates significant restrictions on freedom of movement on our island.

“Are we really suggesting Polish people who live and work in Lifford now need papers to travel to Strabane?”

The Sinn Fein leader then added the new proposals for visa waivers will hit tourism across island of Ireland.

Ms McDonald added: “This could cost tens of thousands of jobs in a sector just barely getting back on its feet after Covid-19.”

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney denounced the decision as “regrettable”.

He said: “This decision is regrettable and contrary to the approach that UK and Irish governments have supported for many years to protect free movement on the island of Ireland for everyone.

“Our concern on this has been communicated clearly but has been ignored.”

Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis responded in a tweet: “There will be no controls on the border. UK and Irish citizens will continue to be able to travel freely.

“This new ETA requirement is about protecting the Common Travel Area from abuse.

“Our commitment to the Common Travel Area is absolute, as seen throughout the pandemic.”

The UK’s former Brexit minister Lord Frost also hit back at Mr Coveney, saying the Irish government was failing to recognise the international border on the island of Ireland, acting as if it had control of Northern Ireland.

He said: “The border between Ireland and Northern Ireland is an international border between two different countries.

“One could be forgiven for thinking occasionally from Irish government public statements that sometimes they forget that.

“Obviously we must have rules for third country nationals entering the UK via that border just as at all others.

“And, for the avoidance of doubt, though after all these years it shouldn’t need saying, that does not of course mean those rules have to be enforced at the border.”

MPs voted by a majority of 298 to 216 on Tuesday to overturn an amendment introduced in the House of Lords, which would have exempted Northern Ireland from the ETA legislation.

It is similar to what international passengers have to fill in before arriving in the United States or Canada.

The Government says it is simply an online form and once completed can be easily renewed.

Human rights group the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) condemned the vote and added the plans are “unworkable”.

They also said the visa system “risks a hard border for many non-British and non-Irish citizens in Border communities who have been able to freely cross the Border to date”.

The Common Travel Area (CTA) gives UK and Irish citizens certain reciprocal rights in each other’s countries and has continued since the UK left the EU.

The Bill will now be considered by peers in the House of Lords and both Irish and British ministers say their conversations about the plans will continue.

It comes as Richard Szostak, an EU official responsible for shaping the logistics of the bloc’s post-Brexit relationship with Britain, accused the UK of failing to live up to its commitments in “most areas” of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

He said there were “structural issues” in the implementation of the Protocol and cited temporary infrastructure at ports and issues over customs data.

Mr Szostak added: “We still don’t have full access to it customs databases, and the permanent infrastructure to check sanitary and phytosanitary products entering Ireland has still not been completed.”

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