A new political push in Britain could guarantee the rights of all Irish people to live and work freely in the country after Brexit.
British Labour Party MP Conor McGinn, chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on Irish people in Britain, has tabled a series of amendments to Brexit legislation amid continued uncertainty over the issue.
It was revealed last month that new laws would have to be introduced to preserve the status of Irish citizens in Britain after 2019.
Although the British government claimed their rights were protected by the Ireland Act 1949, immigration law experts argued that British courts were unlikely to accept that the act exempted all Irish citizens to changes in immigration legislation.
Bernard Ryan, a professor of migration law at the University of Leicester, branded the 1949 act a “dead letter” that “in no sense” provided detailed rights for Irish citizens.
The Times of London has reported that McGinn’s amendments, if passed by both houses of Parliament, would mean that Irish citizens would retain their right to live and work in the U.K. and vote in general elections.
The provisions of the Good Friday Agreement, including a commitment to power-sharing, cross-border institutions and the contentious issues of a bill of rights and legal protection for the Irish language, could also be enshrined on the British statute book for the first time under separate amendments.
McGinn told the paper that MPs had a duty to protect the rights of their Irish constituents.
“The U.K. Parliament has a duty of care to Irish citizens living here who are contributing to the British economy and British society. Hundreds of thousands of older Irish people in particular have lived in Britain for decades,” he said.
“This is their home and where they have worked, raised families and made huge contributions to their communities. This uncertainty is causing them a great deal of anxiety.
“MPs from all parties should get behind these amendments and support the rights and protections of Irish citizens -- their constituents -- in Britain.”
He added, “MPs from all parties recognize the importance of protecting the peace process and the tremendous progress we have seen on the island of Ireland and in British-Irish relations since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement nearly 20 years ago, and the government has the chance through my amendments to show it does too.”