I was very pleased to have the chance to visit London in recent weeks for a series of meetings over three days, including with Irish business and community leaders, as well as UK political representatives.
My visit began with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the UK and Ireland on the Common Travel Area. This MoU is the culmination of over two years of painstaking work at political and official level in both countries.
It ensures that Irish citizens in the UK and British citizens in Ireland will continue to be able to live, work and travel as now, in all circumstances into the future.
The signing of the MoU was an important moment in British-Irish relations – proof positive that despite the serious challenges posed by the UK’s decision to leave the EU, our two countries remain committed to working together in the best interests of all our citizens.
Crucially, this was also a very significant moment for Irish citizens living in the UK, as the Common Travel Area, now nearly a century old, has been formalised publically for the first time. Doing so, gives clarity and assurance to citizens of both countries that the way in which British and Irish citizens can live and work freely across these islands will not change.
Under the reciprocal arrangements of the Common Travel Area, studying, renting, working, voting, accessing health care and social security benefits all remain as before for British and Irish citizens and they do not need to do anything to access these rights.
Both governments are fully committed to the process of putting in place all the provisions necessary to underpin these arrangements now and in the future, including introducing legislation to facilitate the arrangements, as necessary.
I know that Irish citizen here, and indeed British citizens in Ireland, may have queries. I can assure you that the Irish Embassy in London and officials in Dublin are ready to answer your questions. Comprehensive information on all aspects of the CTA is available at www.dfa.ie/brexit.
In addition to the signing of the CTA MoU and a meeting of the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference, my visit to London was a very valuable opportunity to meet Irish business leaders and hear first-hand about the challenges and opportunities they face in doing business in and with the UK.
I was very glad also to have the chance to meet with leaders from the Irish community and hear their concerns for the Irish in Britain and their hopes for the next chapter in British-Irish relations.
The welfare of and continued meaningful engagement with our Irish communities and people abroad remains of huge importance to Ireland and to the Irish Government.
Securing the Common Travel Area and the ability of Irish people in the UK to travel, work and live as before, is an important and very welcome development and one that will hopefully reassure Irish people resident in the UK.