The Common Travel Area (CTA) is a reciprocal agreement between the British and Irish Government that has existed in various forms since 1923. Effectively the CTA means that while residing in Britain, Irish citizens are not treated as foreign nationals. Further it is not dependant on the European Union and the continuing membership of both countries.

Central to the CTA are equal associated rights and privileges for Irish and British nationals. These include;

  • The right to enter and reside 
  • Entitlement to the rights of the country that the person lives in 

Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)

Following concerns about the status of the CTA after Britain leaves the European Union, both governments agreed to sign a Memorandum of Understanding in May 2019. With this both governments reiterated their commitment to keep the CTA in operation post-Brexit. 

The MoU states: 

Neither Irish citizens in the UK nor British citizens in Ireland are required to take any action to protect their status and rights associated with the CTA. Both governments are committed to undertake all the work necessary, including through legislative provision, to ensure that the agreed CTA rights and privileges are protected.

Social Protection

Point 10 of the MoU states that;

10. The CTA affords British citizens residing or working in Ireland and Irish citizens residing or working in the UK, social security rights in each other's state. They are entitled, when in the other state, to the same social security rights, and are subject to the same obligations, as citizens of that state.

This means that after Britain leaves the EU, Irish nationals making a claim for either national or local welfare benefits or provision should not have their claim turned down on basis of citizenship. 

Access to Social Housing

Point 11 of the MoU states;

11. The CTA affords British citizens residing in Ireland, and Irish citizens residing in the UK, the right to access social housing, including supported housing and homeless assistance, in each other's state, on the same basis as citizens of that state. 

This means that while Ireland remains part of the EU after Britain leaves, their citizens will still have the right to apply for and access social housing, further, should they require help with housing costs they should not be turned down on basis of citizenship. 

Irish nationals still remain subject to Habitual Residence conditions where they return to the CTA after a period of living in a third country.

For full details of the Memorandum, visit https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/800280/CTA-MoU-UK.pdf