The Co-Chairman of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly Joe McHugh TD has supported the call of the Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar for the extension of the Common Travel Area between Britain and Ireland to provide a single tourist visa for people travelling to both countries.
Minister Varadkar made the call when he addressed the 44th plenary of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly in the Seanad chamber, Leinster House.
An extension of the Common Travel Area was one of four areas which Minister Varadkar said he would like to see pursued by the Assembly, the other three being:
During his address Minister Varadkar said that while Ireland and Britain may not be in a position to join the Schengen area that allows tourists from the Middle East and Asia to travel to 20 European countries, Britain and Ireland should have a ‘mini-Schengen’ to mutually accept British and Irish visas.
Deputy McHugh said that the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly had consistently called for easier access and freedom of movement for visitors between Britain and Ireland and that the ‘mini-Schengen’ proposal was a commonsense step to facilitate tourism and economic development.
Minister Varadkar said: ‘It is my view that just as we have a Common Travel Area for our citizens, we need to have a Common Travel Area for tourists. Our Schengen area counterparts have a huge competitive advantage over us. A tourist from China, for example, can get a visa which takes in the entire Schengen area. But they will have to get a separate visa for the United Kingdom and another one for Ireland’.
“I know this is an area attracting considerable attention already between the British and Irish Governments and while there are various legislative and technological barriers it is something worth pursuing.”
Deputy McHugh said: ‘The development of tourism is fundamental to our economic recovery. Significant events such as the Gathering are being developed to encourage visitors to Ireland in the coming years, and major marketing campaigns are taking place internationally in support of this’.
“At the same time, the Governments should also look at ways to make it easier for visitors to access and travel between Britain and Ireland. We still have a situation where some international guests require two separate visas to visit Donegal and Derry. This should be addressed as a priority issue that will encourage tourism and economic development in both countries.”
*The British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly (formerly the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body) was established in 1990 as a link between members of the Houses of Parliament and the Houses of the Oireachtas. In recent years, membership has been expanded to include representatives of the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Welsh Assembly, the High Court of Tynwald (Isle of Man) and the States of Guernsey and Jersey. Two plenary sessions, attended by 68 members, are held every year alternately in Britain and Ireland with ongoing work by four Committees.
The Assembly is co-chaired by Joe McHugh TD and Laurence Robertson MP.