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Ministers questioned on compatibility of nationality rules with Good Friday Agreement

11 May 2021

Northern Ireland Affairs Committee examines the compatibility of UK nationality rules with the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement as the Committee wraps up oral evidence for its citizenship and passport processes inquiry.


At 3.00pm

Wednesday 12 May 2021, virtual meeting

  • Kevin Foster MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Future Borders and Immigration), Home Office
  • Robin Walker MP, Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement enshrines the right of the people of Northern Ireland to identify and be accepted as Irish or British or both. However, whether Home Office policy fully reflects the letter and spirit of the Agreement has become a matter of greater interest following a high-profile court case between the Government and Northern Ireland resident, Emma DeSouza.

DeSouza challenged the Government’s position that she was a British citizen through automatic conferral as she always identified as Irish-only and held a passport accordingly. The Upper Tribunal ruled in the Government’s favour in October 2019.

MPs on the Committee are also likely to bring up the costs associated with the acquisition and renunciation of British citizenship with Mr Foster and Mr Walker during the evidence session on 12 May and ask for the justification and rationale behind them.

Irish citizens born in the Republic of Ireland and resident in Northern Ireland are outside the remit of the birthright articles of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and usually face costs of £1,330 to naturalise as a British citizen.

Meanwhile, the Government has said that people of Northern Ireland identifying as Irish and holding an Irish passport can renounce their British citizenship if they wish to align their citizenship with their choice of identity. The £372 cost of doing so and complexities of the application have, however, been seen as a barrier to doing so. For some witnesses to the inquiry this does not align with the principles of the right to identify and be accepted as Irish or British, or both without adverse consequence. Others, however, argue that this is a fair price to pay.

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