SDLP South Belfast MP Claire Hanna has said a UK government proposal to require non-Irish EU citizens or non-British nationals to obtain a visa to cross the border cannot be allowed to proceed.
Ms Hanna was speaking after MPs rejected a Lords’ amendment to remove the provision from the Nationality and Borders Bill.
She said the move would be hugely disruptive for non-Irish or UK citizens living on the island and also negatively impact the tourism industry.
South Belfast MP Ms Hanna said:
"Introducing visa requirements to cross the Irish border would really alter movement on our island, creating unreasonable bureaucracy for many and hurting tourism, for no good reason. Thanks to Margaret Ritchie’s successful Lords Amendment earlier this month the government had an open opportunity to drop this pointless and punishing change.
“This is a terrible piece of legislation overall, with a horrible approach to refugee and asylum issues. This ESTA aspect captures their cavalier approach to relations with their neighbours and goes against the spirit of the Common Travel Area by putting limits on non-Irish and British people even if they are residents.
“It’s unthinkable that people who call this place home would be forced to apply for a visa to travel to work or for leisure.”
“This move would also seriously impact our tourism industry, with a huge proportion of visitors coming North via Dublin. Tourism Ireland operates on an all-island basis. Creating extra hoops for people to jump throuh is likely to make them think twice about coming north, or who may inadvertently find themselves on dodgy legal ground.
“SDLP MPs have opposed this bill from the very start and we will continue to do so in parliament and behind the scenes. The UK government should listen to the widespread criticism of this legislation; from all opposition parties except the DUP, from a majority of lords, from business and from the Irish Government before further harm is caused.”