The DUP has said there is “value in exploring” a two-island approach by Ireland and the UK to international travel as part of the pandemic response.
The party’s leader in Westminster, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, said there was a lot of scope for cooperation in the Common Travel Area that operates between the two islands.
Irish deputy premier Leo Varadkar said last week that preliminary discussions on such an approach have begun with the UK government.
Asked about an approach that would encompass the five jurisdictions of England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic, Mr Donaldson said: “I think there is value in exploring that, yes.”
He told Newstalk’s On The Record with Gavan Reilly: “As I’ve said it needs to be done on a United Kingdom and Common Travel Area basis.
“I think there is a lot of scope for cooperation on the whole question of the Common Travel Area.
“Certainly, in terms of international visitors coming in to the Common Travel Area, there is scope for greater cooperation.”
The UK have recently announced strict new mandatory hotel quarantine measures for passengers arriving from 33 “red list” countries.
Penalties of up to £10,0000 or 10 years in prison have been introduced for those who try to conceal that they are travelling from a red list country.
The Irish government has announced its own list of 20 red list countries but has swerved such severe penalties for non-compliance.
At a press conference last week, Mr Varadkar backed a two-island approach.
He said: “The best thing I think we can do is try to coordinate. Because if Northern Ireland is a back door to the Republic of Ireland, Ireland is a backdoor to Britain and to England.
“The best thing we can do is work together on this, and I’m a strong advocate of the two-islands strategy, Britain and Ireland, as much as we can, aligning and working together.”
Mr Donaldson criticised the Dublin government’s failure to share data with the Executive on passengers arriving into the Republic, who may be travelling on to Northern Ireland.
He said: “With respect, it’s not just about Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
“It’s about the United Kingdom as a whole, and the Republic of Ireland, because we know at the moment there are difficulties, for example in data sharing, which normally happens under the Common Travel Area.
“The northern Executive has been waiting for over 10 months for the Irish government to agree to share data on people who have entered the Republic of Ireland, through ports or airports, and are travelling on into Northern Ireland.
“So with the greatest of respect, the difficulty here is not Unionists in the Northern Ireland Executive.
“I suggest you ask the relevant Irish government minister, why over 10 months later, on foot of a request from the Northern Ireland Executive for the sharing of data, we are still waiting for the Irish government to approve that request.”
-- to www.belfastlive.co.uk