Electronic Travel Authorisation: Impact on Travel

Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons at on 14 December 2022.

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Photo of Claire Hanna Claire Hanna Social Democratic and Labour Party, Belfast South

What discussions he has had with organisations and businesses in Northern Ireland on the potential impact of electronic travel authorisation on travel on the island of Ireland.

Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

We speak regularly with a spectrum of businesses and organisations in Northern Ireland, and I would like to repeat the assurances that we have given about electronic travel authorisation. The scheme will not apply to citizens of Ireland or the United Kingdom, and I can confirm that we fully intend to work with all relevant stakeholders to ensure that ETA requirements are communicated effectively to everyone.

Photo of Claire Hanna Claire Hanna Social Democratic and Labour Party, Belfast South

Last week I asked the Prime Minister about the impact of electronic travel authorisation on Northern Irish tourism, and his answer indicated that he did not understand the topic at all. This rang true with people who believe that this Government do not engage with the impact of their decisions on our region and our economy. Will the Secretary of State please bring the Prime Minister up to speed and push to scrap this unworkable proposal, which tourism chiefs from hotels and attractions across Northern Ireland have indicated would massively undermine our potential?

Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

We have been engaging with Tourism Northern Ireland. Home Office colleagues have begun that engagement, and of course we will engage widely with everybody who is interested in that issue. There is evidence from schemes in other countries that tourism will not be adversely affected. What we need to do is ensure that we communicate widely what the requirements will be to enter the UK. I hope the hon. Lady will not mind me saying that, having listened carefully to stakeholders in Northern Ireland, we will be working constructively with the Irish Government to ensure that we are supporting people who have a legitimate reason to live in Ireland to get across the border as conveniently as possible.

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Conservative, Torbay

The Minister will be aware that for decades we have co-operated and worked with the Republic of Ireland—particularly, for example, with the Republic not joining Schengen—to facilitate movement across the island of Ireland. Does he agree that it is perfectly possible to get the benefits of the ETA system in terms of security, ease of travel and e-visas, while working with the Republic of Ireland’s Government to make sure there are appropriate provisions for people who are residents of the island of Ireland?

Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

I agree with my hon. Friend, and I pay tribute to him as an outstanding former Immigration Minister. Of course, we will be respecting the common travel area. There will be no immigration controls on the border on the island of Ireland, and we will seek to ensure that this scheme works well.

Photo of Tonia Antoniazzi Tonia Antoniazzi Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland), Opposition Whip (Commons)

The Minister just said that there will be no detrimental impact on the Northern Ireland tourism sector, despite 70% of overseas visitors to Northern Ireland arriving via Dublin and the chief executive of the Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance saying this morning that she fears that the new system puts around 25% of tourism business at risk. What discussions has the Minister been having in Government to champion tourism in Northern Ireland and address the devastating impact of this additional bureaucracy?

Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

We will continue discussions with Tourism Northern Ireland, but as I said, clear communication is what is needed to make sure that people meet the requirements to enter the UK. We will continue to work with tourism operators and the Government of Ireland to make sure that that communication takes place. The evidence from elsewhere is that legitimate tourism is not likely to be heavily impacted by this scheme. Of course, all of us want to promote tourism in Northern Ireland and, indeed, more widely.