Belfast Telegraph

UK, Ireland visa rules reform calls

A Government minister has called for Britain and Ireland to become a common travel zone like parts of mainland Europe.

Leo Varadkar, Transport Minister, said tourists and business visitors from far flung destinations should not be forced to source one set of travel papers for the UK and a second set to cross the border to the Irish Republic.

"This means that there are real opportunities to attract more high-value, high-spending visitors from rapidly growing economies like Brazil, India, China and Russia to both Britain and Ireland," he said.

Mr Varadkar said Ireland and Britain could become a "mini-Schengen" referring to the 20 countries in mainland Europe signed up to common travel and visa rules.

In Ireland a visa waiver for UK visitors has been extended until the end of October 2016 which allows long-haul travellers to pass in to Ireland without additional travel documents.

"While the visa waiver is a step forward, it should be just that - one step of many to come," he said.

"It makes no sense to me that a tourist flying into Dublin from Dubai needs a separate visa to travel to the Titanic Experience in Belfast and to see the Giants Causeway. And it makes even less sense to the tourist."

Mr Varadkar made the call at the latest meeting of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly as it sat in Leinster House in Dublin. His idea has been backed by co-chairman Joe McHugh.

Citizens of the UK and Ireland are covered by the Common Travel Zone which allows passport-free movement between all the islands including the Isle of Man and Channel Islands.

The theme of the latest parliamentary assembly, sitting for the first time in the Seanad (Upper House) in Leinster House, was about making business easier between the two countries.

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