Brexit, the UK and Ireland

One of the most complex relationships to be reassessed in the wake of the vote for Brexit is that between the UK and the Republic of Ireland. The two states have an extremely close relationship and citizens of Ireland have historically enjoyed unhindered rights of travel and residency to the UK (and vice versa), in recent decades enshrined in the Common Travel Area (CTA) arrangement. 


As a result many people now in the UK will have Irish ancestry, or indeed will have simply continued to live and work here in reliance upon their Irish passport. 


This presents two interesting aspects; namely Irish nationals resident here who wish to protect their residency by seeking British citizenship and British nationals who may have a claim on Irish citizenship through ancestry and wish to try to preserve their EU citizenship. 


Obviously we are in very early days and the dust has not yet settled on the momentous and unprecedented referendum result. In addition there is unlikely to be any legislative change, if any, for many years. However it can often benefit to be ahead of the curve. Google is already reporting surges in searches for Irish nationality law with many offices running out of the relevant forms.


Dealing with the first aspect, that of Irish nationals resident here, it is worth pointing out, in contrast to the difficulties presented by new Home Office requirements to obtain EEA permanent residence cards before making a citizenship application, that Irish nationals are in a slightly different position. 


Whilst Ireland is a member of the EEA and it can be beneficial to rely on treaty rights under the Citizen’s Directive when living in the UK, for example to benefit non-EEA family members, Irish nationals are in fact free to reside here under the CTA. 


This is important for citizenship, since when applying for naturalisation an Irish national, who has resided in the UK for 5 years, can rely upon ‘a qualifying CTA entitlement’ to permit them to meet the requirements of schedule 1 to the British Nationality Act 1981. There are still the normal rules as to residency periods, but an Irish national who travelled to the UK from Ireland can be regarded as having lawfully entered and not subject to any restriction on the time they can remain in the UK. 


As a result there is no need to rely upon EEA/ EU law or obtain a permanent residence card before applying for citizenship, as other EEA nationals now must do. This makes citizenship applications for Irish nationals a great deal easier and certainly worth considering. Both states permit dual nationality.


The second aspect to discuss is that of UK nationals who want to obtain Irish nationality to preserve their EU citizenship. I am myself in this bracket. I was born in Northern Ireland, have a British passport, and have lived in Scotland for over 18 years. However I am also, as a result of being born on the ‘island of Ireland’ an Irish citizen under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 (as amended). I could, and likely will, apply for an Irish passport, once the current rush for passports has diminished. 


What about descendants? I have two young daughters and would probably like them to have the benefits of EU free movement growing up. In this case, the 1956 Act also permits citizenship by descent from an Irish parent, regardless of the place of birth of the offspring. 
What about subsequent generations? Irish nationality law is fairly permissive, in that if a birth is registered with the Foreign Births Register then citizenship may also be transmitted another generation, essentially my grandchildren could also seek Irish passports, assuming their births are registered despite the fact (theoretically) that neither they nor their parents were born in Ireland. 


In fact it is technically possible for the link to be extended down further generations, since registration in the Foreign Births Register can preserve the link. However this must have been done (since 1986) prior to the birth of any descendants. 


Given the sheer volume of migration back and forth between Ireland and the UK over the last 100 years it is highly likely that many people will have the relevant ancestral connections. It is also relatively easy to trace ancestral connections; in both Ireland and UK good databases exist on birth records back 100 years or more. 


We can assist with applications for Irish citizenship and British citizenship, and would be happy to assess your circumstances to see if we could assist.