Possible Reinstatement of Border Controls
In October 2007, details began to emerge of a British Government plan that might end the Common Travel Area encompassing the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland (and also the Isle of Man and Channel Islands) in 2009, possibly creating an anomalous position for Northern Ireland in the process. In a statement to Dáil Éireann, the Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern assured the House that "British authorities have no plans whatsoever to introduce any controls on the land border between North and South. I want to make that clear. All they are looking at is increased cross-border cooperation, targeting illegal immigrants." This immediately raised concerns north of the border. Jim Allister, a former member of the Democratic Unionist Party and then a Member of the European Parliament, told The Times that it would be "intolerable and preposterous if citizens of the UK had to present a passport to enter another part of the UK".
In July 2008, the British and Irish governments announced their intent to resume controls over their common border and the Common Travel Area in general. Each proposes to introduce detailed passport control over travellers from the other state, where travel is by air or sea. However, the land border will be 'lightly controlled'. In a joint statement, Jacqui Smith, the British Home Secretary, and Dermot Ahern, the Irish Justice Minister, said:
It is crucial that our two countries work closely together to ensure our borders are stronger than ever. Both governments fully recognise the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland. Both governments reaffirm that they have no plans to introduce fixed controls on either side of the Irish land border.
The Times reported that another consultation paper was to be published in the autumn of 2008 on whether people travelling between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom should be subject to further checks.
One proposal is expected to suggest extending the electronic borders scheme, requiring travellers from Northern Ireland to provide their personal details in advance. This would mean residents of one part of the UK being treated differently from others when travelling within the country, something to which Unionists would object.
However, in 2011, the Governments renewed the 'de facto' agreement.