Common Travel Area

Since the beginnings of the Irish state the Common Travel Area has existed between Ireland and the UK. It is more than just the right to travel, live and work in the other’s state. It gives citizens a range of rights between the two states. It was never formally written as a law but is recognised in various pieces of legislation. In May 2019, the Irish and UK governments signed a formal memorandum of understanding, affirming commitment to maintaining the Common Travel Area. After Brexit, things shouldn’t change for British citizens living in or travelling to Ireland. The same cannot be said for their family members, if they are from outside the EU.

EU rules

Under EU rules, an EU citizen can apply to have their non-EU family members come to live with them in an EU country. The rules don’t apply if you live and work in your own country. If, for example, you are an Irish citizen living in Ireland, it is much harder to have your non-EU spouse come and live with you in Ireland. Irish rules apply and those are much stricter. If you are a British citizen living and working in Ireland, EU rules do apply. Many British people have brought their spouses to Ireland because, like Ireland, the UK rules are very strict for British citizens living in their country of citizenship.


On 31 October, or as soon as the UK leaves the EU, the EU rules won’t apply to British citizens living in Ireland, unless it is included in a deal. Officials from the Department of Justice have written to those affected and said it would be putting into place a no-deal contingency plan, allowing family members one year to switch to domestic arrangements. It is unclear what domestic arrangements they can switch to. The letters also state that if there is an application pending, no action need be taken. But it is not clear whether the EU rules will continue to apply to those applications. It is unlikely that these families will be able to return to the UK as it is extremely difficult to get non-EU family members a right to reside.

It is yet another Brexit-related issue where no one seems sure what will happen next and those affected await clearer information from the Department of Justice.