THE governments of Britain and Ireland have agreed a deal to preserve the Common Travel Area (CTA) shared by the two countries after Brexit.
The Memorandum of Understanding guarantees the continuation of reciprocal rights enjoyed by British and Irish citizens under the CTA, which dates back to 1922.
Those rights include the free movement of people between Britain and Ireland, but also access to social security, healthcare and education.
Irish citizens also have the right to vote in UK general elections and stand for office there, while these privileges are reciprocated for the estimated 30,000 Brits living in Ireland.
The provisions of the CTA do not, however, relate to goods or customs issues - a sticking point of the ongoing Brexit negotiations between the United Kingdom and European Union.
Irish & British citizens' reciprocal rights under #CTA will be strengthened by deal to be signed today between Irish & British governments + view & download @ukhomeoffice posters highlighting these rights for those working within Irish community #Brexit https://t.co/ECWhV1EphQ
— Irish in Britain (@irishinbritain) 8 May 2019
Wednesday's agreement comes after more than two years of negotiations between London and Dublin to ensure that - even if Britain leaves the EU without a Brexit deal - citizens will continue to enjoy their current reciprocal rights and privileges.
Tánaiste Simon Coveney and cabinet office minister David Lidington, Prime Minister Theresa May's de facto deputy, will formally sign the agreement in London ahead of a meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference on Wednesday afternoon.
The two governments have agreed to maintain existing arrangements on social insurance, child benefit and pensions and they are working on new arrangements to ensure that British and Irish citizens will continue to have equal access to public health and education services in both countries.
Mr Coveney and Mr Lidington are also expected to discuss Brexit as talks continue between Britain's Conservative government and Labour in an effort to reach a compromise over Mrs May's Withdrawal Agreement plans.
Many of us had been concerned that the CTA would be under threat as a result of Brexit. The legal underpinnings were surprisingly weak, something I hadn't been aware of. So this is good news and congrats are due to @simoncoveney, @dfatirl and others. https://t.co/mQTtM1HuTE
— Alan Barrett (@AlanMBarrett) 8 May 2019