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Here’s what the new Conservative manifesto means for the Irish in Britain and Ireland

Prime Minister Theresa May at the Conservative election manifesto launch on Wednesday. Picture: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty

THERESA May has officially unveiled the Conservatives’ manifesto for the General Election on June 8 at a launch event in Halifax.

The manifesto reveals that the Tories want to cut net migration, which stands at 273,000, as “immigration to Britain is still too high.”

Theresa May has also pushed back the date to balance the budget to 2025, ditching George Osborne’s commit to return Government finances to a surplus by 2020.

But what does the Tory manifesto mean for the Irish in Britain? Here are some of the key pledges…

Maintaining the Common Travel Area

The Tories say they will “secure the entitlements of EU nationals in Britain” and “maintain” the Common Travel Area which exists between Ireland and the UK.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour manifesto, for comparison, makes no mention of the Common Travel Area.

Hard border not ruled out

The Tories say they will “maintain as frictionless a border as possible for people, goods and services between Northern Ireland and the Republic”.

Unlike the Labour manifesto, the Tory manifesto does not rule out a hard border between the two countries.

Since the Brexit result last June, fears have persisted that the ‘invisible’ border between Ireland and the North could be replaced with heavy border checks.

More Catholic schools

The Tories say they will replace the “unfair and ineffective inclusivity rules that prevent the establishment of new Roman Catholic schools” in Britain.

New faith schools will be required to prove that parents of other faiths are prepared to send their children to a faith school.

Protecting the Good Friday Agreement

The Tories say it remains their “steadfast belief remains that Northern Ireland’s future is best served within a stronger United Kingdom.”

The manifesto states that the Conservatives’ commitment to the Good Friday Agreement is “undiminished”, and that a new Northern Ireland executive should be formed at the “earliest opportunity”.

The Tory manifesto recognises “Northern Ireland’s unique circumstances” as Britain departs the EU. It pledges to ensure Northern Irish interests are “protected” and to stamp down on dissident republicanism.

Troubles soldiers

The Tories say they will “address the legacy of the past in fair, balanced and proportionate ways which do not unfairly focus on former members of the Armed Forces and the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

They add that they will reject any attempts to “rewrite history which seek to justify or legitimise terrorism” in Northern Ireland, and recognise the “immense contribution of the security forces during the Troubles (that) should never be forgotten.”

Less immigrants

The Tories have promised further curbs on migrants, asking employers to pay more to hire them and the NHS to charge more to treat them. The manifesto says that current net migration figure – which stands at 273,000 – is “still too high” and that the party will aim to get the figure down to the “tens of thousands”.

Tuition fees to stay

The Tories will keep tuition fees for university students in the UK, unlike Labour who have pledged to scrap fees altogether. After the Brexit result in June, there were fears that thousands of Irish students in Britain could face costly non-EU fees as result of the Brexit vote.

Immigrants to pay more to use NHS 

The Tories have pledged to increase NHS spending by a minimum of £8billion over the next five years. Immigrants will be asked to pay more to access the NHS with the immigration health surcharge increased.

Irish staff make up the fourth largest nationality among the 1.3 million workers of the NHS.

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Aidan Lonergan
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Aidan Lonergan is a Digital Reporter with The Irish Post. You can follow him on Twitter @ajlonergan

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