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Ministers Foley and Harris welcome UK Secretary of State Williamson to Dublin

Minister for Education Norma Foley TD and Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD today welcomed UK Secretary of State for Education Rt Hon Gavin Williamson, CBE, MP to Dublin to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Education Principles associated with the Common Travel Area.

Following the departure of the UK from the EU, officials from the Departments in Dublin and London have worked to document and codify many of the exchanges which have been exercised by Irish and UK citizens since before both countries joined the European Union. These centre on the right of access to education provision and services at all levels in each other’s education systems. 

Minister Foley said: “I am delighted to welcome Secretary of State Williamson to Dublin to complete the signing of this MoU. The clear re-statement of access to each other’s education system is welcome, and will provide assurance to pupils and their families.

“I am particularly delighted that both the Irish and UK Governments rightly acknowledge the importance of protecting the services delivered on a cross-border basis by Middletown Centre for Autism. It is a model of the collaboration which has been the hallmark of collaborations between our education systems.”

Minister Harris said: “While Brexit has changed the nature of the relationship between Ireland and the UK, it is important also to maintain the rich history of connections, many of which are founded in person-to-person relations. Student and academic exchanges have been integral to this. This MoU protects these relationships, not just on a North-South, but also on an East-West basis. I look forward to building on these longstanding shared approaches to education as we adjust to the new environment.”

Secretary of State Williamson said: "We are fortunate that in the UK and Ireland we have some of the best education institutions in the world, including some of the finest universities and most innovative post 16 and technical education centres. This agreement recognises that and guarantees children and young people from either country maintain the right to benefit from the whole range of opportunities they offer.

"Not only that, it also recognises the shared culture, heritage and bond the UK and Ireland have. As we all build back better following the pandemic, opportunities to travel and benefit from it will return and this pledge shared between our countries enshrines them for young people."

Both sides also took the opportunity to share views on the impact of Covid-19 on the education systems, re-engagement with learning and school and higher education re-openings in the autumn. 

Secretary of State Williamson visited a primary school to see the Government’s summer provision programme at first-hand.  He also visited the nearby Ballyfermot Training Centre, where he met with stakeholders engaged in skills and apprenticeship delivery. 


Editor’s Note

The Common Travel Area (CTA) is a long-standing arrangement between Ireland and the United Kingdom which enables Irish and UK citizens to travel, reside and work without restriction and provides for associated rights and entitlements in either jurisdictions.  These arrangements predate membership of the EU by both Ireland and the UK. 

On 8th May 2019, the British and Irish Governments signed a non-legally binding Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Overarching CTA Arrangements.  While addressing a number of policy areas, it also acknowledged the importance of education noting that “the CTA affords Irish and British citizens the right of access to all levels of education and training, and associated student support in each other’s State on terms no less favourable than those for citizens of that State.”

While many aspects of the education will remain unaffected by Brexit, the Department of Education, the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science and the UK Department for Education (in consultation with the Devolved Administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) have been engaged on elaborating on education principles within the Overarching CTA MoU.  The principles identified cover the maintenance of access to early-years, primary and post-primary education, special needs education, further education and training, and higher education, which will provide assurance to all education stakeholders. 

The signing of the MoU today concludes this process.

Photographs from the event will issue directly to picture desks from Maxwell Photography.