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There will be no exception for tourists travelling to Northern Ireland via Ireland, says the minister

A minister has indicated that travellers entering Northern Ireland via Ireland would not be excluded from obtaining electronic travel authorisations.

Former Tory minister Tim Loughton expressed alarm about the possible consequences of providing an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) exemption to tourists, stating that it would weaken the “integrity of the whole” ETA scheme.

The scheme, which is similar to the visa waiver system used in the US, will require short-term non-visa travellers to the UK to apply for an ETA and provide biometric data.

In response to Mr. Loughton, Northern Ireland minister Steve Baker stated that the government has no intention of granting such an exemption and expressed hope for the development of a “consistent and coherent” communication plan to ensure visitors are aware of their obligations.

“Does he acknowledge that if an ETA (Electronic Travel Authorisation) exemption was granted for tourists, or indeed people claiming to be tourists, travelling from the Republic of Ireland, it would undermine the integrity of the whole scheme?” Mr Loughton asked during Northern Ireland questions in the Commons.

“He is correct, and that is the Government’s policy,” Mr. Baker responded. However, we have worked closely not just with the tourist industry, but also with our allies in the Irish government, on this subject.

“And I hope that we will be able to work together to ensure that there is a consistent and coherent communication strategy to ensure that tourists know that they must register for an ETA and that they must continue to comply with the UK’s immigration requirements.”

The conversation comes after Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar expressed worries about the new ETA’s impact on the tourist industry in March.

Irish citizens will not require an ETA to visit Northern Ireland because they are already granted unrestricted movement under the provisions of the Common Travel Area.

Non-Irish European Union citizens and other foreign passport holders, including those who live permanently south of the border, would have had to apply for the visa waiver under the original plan.

The UK Government amended its intentions earlier this year, confirming that non-Irish citizens residing legally in the country will not require a waiver.

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