UK and Republic agree to protect common travel area post-Brexit
The British and Irish governments have signed a deal pledging to preserve the common travel area (CTA) after Brexit.
The non-legally binding memorandum of understanding allows citizens of both states to cross the Irish border and move freely between the UK and the Republic. It also guarantees cross-border access to education and healthcare.
The memorandum was signed by senior British and Irish ministers at a Cabinet Office meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference in London yesterday.
But the Alliance Party said it was not enough. "This is a welcome step, but both governments need to go further and put in place a formal treaty to fully encapsulate the CTA," the party's deputy leader Stephen Farry said.
Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O'Neill welcomed the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference meeting as "a positive step".
But she added: "Sinn Fein has been urging the governments to convene this body for some time and we will continue to press them to honour their responsibilities to past agreements and to the rights of citizens.
"It should also be said that a non-legally binding memorandum of understanding is not going to be enough to protect the island of Ireland from the impact of a reckless British Brexit. Legally enforceable guarantees - such as those contained within the withdrawal agreement and backstop - are the absolute minimum required."
The British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference is not a decision-making body and it has no executive functions.
Reacting to the London meeting, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said: "This forum can discuss east-west issues, but the only options for decision-making on policies affecting our roads, schools and hospitals is either Westminster or Stormont.
"We stand ready to nominate ministers today in the Northern Ireland Assembly. Only one party is holding back devolution and that is Sinn Fein."
TUV leader Jim Allister said: "This saga, which ends with confirmation that the CTA stands - as I've long maintained it would - illustrates the extravagance and unreliability of Remainer claims and leaves some who now seek election with the egg of ignorance on their face.
"So, yet another Remainer scare story bites the dust."
The CTA pre-dates the UK's and Republic's EU membership.
There was no legally binding international agreement which established its terms and it was largely based on trust. The memo, which is an attempt to reinforce that understanding, was signed by the Prime Minister's de facto deputy, David Lidington, and Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney.
Secretary of State Karen Bradley and Irish Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan were also present.
Mr Lidington said: "Our message to Irish citizens in the UK is that your rights will not change.
"You will still be able to move freely between Ireland, the UK and the islands.
"You will still be able to work, study, draw your pension and access social security and public services in the UK. Above all, you will be welcome.
"And we welcome the similar commitment the government of Ireland makes to British citizens in Ireland."
Mr Coveney said: "The CTA has provided rights and privileges to Irish and British citizens for nearly a century.
"The CTA is a practical demonstration of the enduring strength of the British-Irish relationship and of our people-to-people ties.
"I want to assure British citizens living in Ireland that they are welcome and truly valued here, as is their contribution to Ireland and Irish life.
"British citizens will continue to be able to travel freely, live, study and work in Ireland into the future.
"I welcome the similar commitment and welcome of the UK Government for Irish citizens in Britain."