A Tory MP has made the bewildering and incorrect claim that all English people are entitled to an Irish passport.
When asked whether he understood the fact Northern Irish citizens will also remain EU citizens after Brexit due to the Good Friday Agreement, he said: “Well, that's the common travel area as well, isn't it? We do have the right to go over to Ireland, don't we?”
He added: “As an English person, I do have the right to go over to Ireland and I believe that I can ask for a passport. Can't I?”
The Irish Post said Mr Bridgen’s remarks displayed “astounding ignorance over Anglo-Irish relations and the border issue”.
The terms of the 1999 Good Friday Agreement, which provides the basis for Northern Ireland’s devolved government, means anyone born in Northern Ireland is entitled to an Irish passport, which therefore confers EU citizenship because of the Republic’s membership of the EU.
When BBC Radio Ulster host Stephen Nolan said to Mr Bridgen the Brexit negotiations had “nothing to do with your right as an English person to come over to Ireland”, the Conservative MP replied with another perplexing claim.
He said: “We have a reciprocal agreement where I can go to Ireland and ask for an Irish passport, and someone from Ireland can come to the UK and ask for a British passport. We have that system. That's the system we have, isn't it?”
There is no reciprocal system in place – Irish citizenship can be granted to British passport holders, but there are several criteria which must be met. Normally, a British citizen will obtain Irish citizenship through birth, descent or marriage.
There is also no particular provision for Irish citizens who want to become British citizens. Irish citizens, in common with people living in the countries that make up the Commonwealth, would be required to apply for naturalisation as British citizens rather than registration after five years' residence in the UK.
Mr Bridgen made the claims on the same day the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said that no progress had been made on Brexit talks and that “despite intense efforts, some key issues are still open, including the backstop for IE/NI to avoid a hard border.”
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