Free movement between the UK and Ireland will not end in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the prime minister has said.
Boris Johnson and Irish premier Leo Varadakar spoke by phone for almost an hour on Monday evening, following the announcement that free movement for EU citizens travelling to the UK will end immediately in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “The prime minister made clear that the common travel area, which long predates the UK and Ireland joining the EU, would not be affected by the ending of freedom of movement after Brexit.”
The common travel area is a special travel zone between the Republic of Ireland and the UK, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, which dates back to the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922.
The UK and Irish governments have previously expressed their desire to maintain the common travel area after Brexit and EU negotiating guidelines state that they would respect such bilateral agreements.
However, a House of Commons briefing paper from June 2017 quotes constitutional expert Professor Bernard Ryan, of Leicester University, who questioned the extent to which the rights of Irish nationals in the UK are secured by existing law.
Prof Ryan warned new legislation could be required to protect Irish nationals’ status in the UK post-Brexit.
During their telephone conversation, Mr Johnson and Mr Varadakar agreed to meet in Dublin in early September and also discussed other Brexit-related issues, including on the Withdrawal Agreement.
The Downing Street spokesman said: “The prime minister indicated that the Withdrawal Agreement in its current form will not get through the House of Commons, that the backstop would need to be removed and that an alternative solution is required.
“The taoiseach reiterated the EU27 position that the Withdrawal Agreement cannot be reopened and emphasised the importance of the legally operable guarantee to ensure no hard border and continued free trade on the island of Ireland.”
They added: “They agreed that their teams would maintain close contact over the coming weeks while recognising that negotiations take place between the UK and the EU27 task force.”
Both leaders reiterated their desire to see the Northern Ireland political institutions reinstated and also condemned the bombing in Fermanagh on Monday morning.
They urged anyone with relevant information to contact the PSNI.