English MP says what should happen in Ireland, then shows his amazing ignorance

Andrew Bridgen

An English MP has become the latest British politician to demonstrate that he knows very little about Ireland but still feels entitled to say what it should do.

Andrew Bridgen is an MP in Leicestershire and a fervent supporter of Brexit, the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.

Negotiations about an EU-UK trade deal after Brexit have been floundering amid disagreement over the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. The EU won’t proceed with trade talks until its satisfied that there will be no hard border in future as that would jeopardise the peace brought about by the Good Friday Agreement.

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This has frustrated hardline Brexiters like Bridgen, who feel the issue is being exaggerated as a way of punishing the UK for leaving the EU.

Bridgen went on the Stephen Nolan show on BBC Radio Ulster to argue that the problem could be solved with the help of technology. The conversation soon took an unexpected turn when Nolan asked Bridgen if he agreed with the British government’s assertion that Northern Ireland should not be treated differently to the rest of the UK.

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When Bridgen said he did agree with that position, Nolan pointed out that Northern Ireland is already being treated differently because people there will be entitled to Irish and therefore European citizenship. This is not open to people from the rest of the UK.

Bridgen then amazed Nolan by asserting that, because of the Common Travel Area agreement between Ireland and the UK, he was entitled as an English person to an Irish passport.

Nolan points out that this is not the case, but Bridgen repeats that there is a reciprocal agreement allowing Irish people to have British passports and English people to have Irish passports.

Bridgen was clearly confusing citizenship rights with freedom to travel and work. Under the Common Travel Area, there are no passport controls in operation for Irish and British citizens travelling between the two countries. It does not contain any reciprocal arrangements for citizenship.

The British government has said that the arrangement will not be affected by Brexit.

The Nolan Bridgen exchange on citizenship

Nolan: Are you committed Andrew to ensuring that Northern Ireland is not treated differently to the rest of the UK.

Bridgen: I am yes

Nolan: But the Conservative government already accepts that Northern Ireland is different because after Brexit, no matter what happens, people in Northern Ireland, unlike the rest of the UK will still have the right to be EU citizens. What’s your position? You put that in your own Brexit paper on Northern Ireland.

Bridgen: 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? 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?

Nolan: It has nothing to do with your right as an English person to come over to Ireland.

Bridgen: There’s 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?

Nolan: Sorry, hold on. You think there is a reciprocal agreement where you as an English person can come over and get an Irish passport?

Bridgen: I can apply for Irish citizenship, yes.

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