PM orders urgent review of immigration rules amid concerns
The Prime Minister has ordered an urgent review of immigration laws to ensure equal treatment for people in Northern Ireland who hold Irish citizenship.
The move comes after a number of recent controversies where individuals who have applied for residency for their non-EU born spouses have been told to follow procedures for UK citizens.
Under the terms of the Good Friday peace agreement of 1998, people from Northern Ireland have the right to hold UK or Irish citizenship, or both.
Some of those involved in stand-offs with the Home Office have claimed they were effectively being forced to declare as British – or formally renounce British citizenship they insist they never held – to engage with the residency application process.
Theresa May addressed the issue on a visit to Belfast on Tuesday as she acknowledged there were concerns among nationalists in Northern Ireland that their rights would be diminished as a result of Brexit.
“I know that there are some in the nationalist community in particular who worry that some of their existing rights could be eroded when the UK leaves the EU,” she said.
“So we have already enshrined in the Withdrawal Agreement a legal guarantee of no diminution of equality and rights.
“There have also been serious concerns raised about how UK immigration rules treat citizens here exercising their rights under the agreement to be Irish.
“The birth right to identify and be accepted as British, Irish or both, and to hold both British and Irish citizenship is absolutely central to the agreement.
“But I know that in some cases recently, people have encountered difficulties in securing their rights as Irish citizens to bring in family members.
“I understand the serious concerns that have been raised.
“So I have asked the Home Secretary (Sajid Javid), working closely with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Karen Bradley), to review these issues urgently to deliver a long-term solution consistent with the letter and spirit of the Belfast Agreement.”