With so much talk of Brexit at the moment, the deadline of the 31st October 2019 looming ever closer and the real possibility of a “no deal” Brexit, the signing of the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Consequential Provisions) Act 2019 – “the 2019 Act” – on the 17th March 2019 happened without too much media fanfare.

The 2019 Act is not the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU. Rather, it makes legislative provision for a raft of amendments that will be necessary to a wide variety of existing Acts once the UK has exited the EU.

Whilst the bulk of the 2019 Act has not yet been commenced, Parts 1 & 14 have. Part 1 of the 2019 Act contains the general and preliminary provisions, some variant of which is found in all Acts. Section 2 provides that different Ministers may commence different parts of the Act when they deem it necessary and/or appropriate. Pursuant to Section 2(1)(a) the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade signed S.I. 208/2019 on the 28th June 2019, which brought Part 1 into operation.

Pursuant to Section 2(1)(i) the Minister for Justice and Equality signed S.I. 346/2019 on the 12th April 2019, which brought Part 14 into operation. Part 14 of the 2019 Act is entitled “Immigration”. Sections 95 and 96 deal with asylum matters amending existing Acts.

Under the Protocol on Asylum for Nationals of Member States, commonly referred to as “the Spanish Protocol” and which is part of the Amsterdam Treaty, nationals of one Member State are precluded from seeking asylum in another Member State. The Spanish Protocol is now Protocol No. 24 attached to the Lisbon Treaty. Once the UK exits the EU it will cease to be a Member State and therefore, the Spanish Protocol will no longer apply, so a national of any Member State could in theory apply for asylum in the UK and visa versa vis a vis UK nationals.

Section 97 is important to note for all persons applying for an “Irish visa or an Irish Transit visa” after the 12th April 2019. This section empowers the Minister for Justice or an immigration officer to take fingerprints for the purposes of that visa application and specifically refers to the Common Travel Area (CTA). Therefore a person applying from abroad or a person seeking entry from the UK could be required to give their fingerprints in order to have their application processed.