So sign up to Schengen…

The most interesting point to emerge from today’s optically orientated 9th meeting of the British Irish Council wasn’t the quibbling about the financial package – it ain’t going to change significantly – it was the mention of gaps in security, which Dermot Ahern stated was referring to the Schengen Agreement.. and Gordon Brown agrees.

The Alliance Party have previously made mention of this Agreement but the focus appears to be on different proposals than those presented by that party. [It actually seems to be a reference to the Prüm Convention [Schengen III] – Ed]. Bertie Ahern is in agreement.. although no-one seems to have acknowledged other gaps..

But why not just fully implement the Schengen Agreement and the subsequent protocols? The Wikipedia entry suggests two reasons why that would not be acceptable to either of the polities concerned.

The United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland are the only two EU members not to fully implement the Schengen Agreement; Ireland and the UK share a Common Travel Area with no border controls between the two. Ireland is thus unable to join the Schengen Agreement without dissolving this agreement with the UK – and therefore Northern Ireland. However the UK remains reluctant to surrender its own border controls and work permit system. Therefore United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland are signatories of the Council Decision (covering police co-operation) but not the Council Regulations (covering asylum, visas and border controls).

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  • Dewi

    If that’s the most interesting point then we have a long way to go. A better ferry service from Larne to Troon ? – Alex Salmond was good emphasising practical stuff – that’s what is needed IMHO

  • George

    Pete,
    I agree that this is extremely important but as Wikipedia says this really is Britain’s baby.

    The Republic will never agree to passport control at the “Irish-Irish” border so the Common Travel Area will remain as long as this border remains.

    That said, I sometimes think the Republic hides behind British “intransigence” on issues like this when, truth be told, our very independent legal system really doesn’t want anything to do with these pan-European measures.

    The European Arrest Warrant is a fine example where it takes six times longer to extradite someone from Ireland than it does in other European countries.

  • Fascinating stuff, Pete. I wonder if that is going to impact the participation of Britain and Ireland in Frontex as this agency does not get much of the hardware pledged by Member States and Britain does not have full membership of the agency:
    http://www.frontex.europa.eu/newsroom/news_releases/art26.html
    Something that the tories would like to see disapeearing, see the blog of Richard Corbett:
    http://corbett.pir2.info/blog/labels/frontex.html
    Great debate on the Select Committee on EU Affairs on why Britain is not a full member of FRONTEX:
    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmhaff/76/7022004.htm

  • Sounds more like a British-Irish Intergovernmental issue rather than any British Irish Council remit.

    There’s no chance in high-sky would the British & Irish allow our lot of ex-threatmen to handle matters of this nature.

    In terms of Schengen, there are other ways round it than going full-out. I am wondering whether agreement could be reached between the two governments via a memorandum of understanding executed via the respective legislatures, especially while Policing and Justice remain non-devolved.

    Regardless of devolved P&J the BIIC allows both governments to reach agreement over the heads of MLAs et al as they have no veto or blocking powers on such matters agreed between ministers of State.

    Was a BIIC held today too?

  • Wikipedia on Schengen is (I feel) a trifle mealy-mouthed.

    Some questions:
    Can anyone imagine the UK, under present or conceivable future circumstances, handing over all controls on movement? Quite frankly even the free movement from the UK to the island of Ireland has, is and will remain under severe scrutiny.
    Can anyone not fully imagine fulminations of the Daily Mail and Sun if hand-over were to happen, or even proposed?
    Has anyone been seriously inconvenienced by the present arrangements? (And that includes the illegals).
    Does the Brown comment you report imply that the “other 25” EU nations are holding out on the UK and RoI, because of non-participation in Schengen?
    Is the UK and RoI not being fully signed up for the Prüm convention what was behind the pre-emptive statement [see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6283090.stm%5D by Ron Noble of Interpol on 9th July?
    Can anyone explain to me the relationship the various national police services in these islands have with Europol and Interpol?

  • Pete Baker

    George

    “this really is Britain’s baby.”

    Well as the Wiki entry points out, and as you acknowledge yourself, neither polity wants to fully implement Schengen.

    Thomas

    So far we have little indication of what impact it will actually have.

    DC

    Indeed it is more of an inter-governmental issue. But it’s an indication that minds where on other matters than those within the BIC remit today.

    Malcolm

    Keep it civil.

  • Crataegus

    I am one of those who quite like the freedom that the Schengen Agreement brings and really do not understand the logic of the British position. Most of the terrorist are of the home grown variety. Apart from that you simply cannot check every tourist and business person. You would need far better intelligence, better cooperation across Europe and a much more secure European border.

    On the matter of inconvenience and travel security was flying back from Liverpool on Easyjet earlier, serious serious queues. If you pay an extra £2 you get fast tracked, but even with that it was tight. I was there two and a half hours before take off and just about got through on time! BE WARNED and if you can check in on line. Really poor service.

  • Crataegus

    Pete

    Sorry off subject but;

    Has anyone done a thread on that monstacity that they put on the Anglican Cathedral in Belfast? God it is an eyesore deserves to be hit by lightning.

  • Pete Baker

    Crat

    This one?

    But “the logic of the British position”?

    ‘Cause the Irish government would just love to sign up to Schengen..

  • skinbop

    Crataegus – a little off topic for sure. But I did not know there is an Anglican Church in Belfast these days – guess I have been out of the city too long.

  • heck

    I kinda like the idea of the Schengen agreement being implemented by Britain and Ireland. (I would also like to see Britain introduce the Euro). This would eliminate one more obstacle to a united Europe. The idea of being able to travel from the North Sea to the med, or from the Atlantic to the Urals without being asked for papers or without having to switch currencies appeals to me.

    I agree with what was said above about the Irish government not wanting to agree to it because of not wanting passport controls for people traveling between Crossmaglen and Castleblaney.

    As said above, the agreement is being blocked by those little Englanders who read the Sun, the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph. Perhaps the Northern Ireland assembly should propose Norn Iron should adopt the Euro and opt in to the schengen group of countries. Loyalists might agree to unite with Europe rather than the Free State.

  • Glensman

    I don’t think the reason to adopt the Euro would be to ‘unite’ europe. However, adopting the Euro would take be a huge boost to the business communtiy as well as make it easier/cheaper for everyday folk to travel to, and import goods from Europe…

  • Comrade Stalin

    This would eliminate one more obstacle to a united Europe.

    heck, what about the rather significant obstacle that people don’t want a “united Europe” ? The UK should be in the Euro, and better co-operation on things is great and all, but don’t underestimate the dangers of lumping together people from several historic nations into one formless mass.

  • DK

    I’m sorry – why should the UK be in the Euro? Can you imagine the house prices if we had the Euro-zone inflation rate. It was tried once and led to black wednesday – and it would do the same again. Conditions are in no way right for it.

    Slightly related to the subject of this topic, but there has been rumblings in Europe about a common corporate tax rate (Kovacs). If this went ahead, Ireland would lose their advantage and the UK would maintain theirs over the rest of Europe.

  • Glensman

    The UK has no advantage over the rest of Europe, so the have nothing to maintain. And the figures have easily shown that the savings and benefits of joining the Euro outweigh the downsides.

    The UK would even see benefits that the Free State did not, such as in the manufacturing industry- who are crying out to join the Euro.

  • foreign correspondent

    Is the Schengen agreement not about trust? Most of the EU countries trust each other enough to adopt a common travel area, without systematic border checks. The UK government, whether Labour or Tory, doesn´t seem to trust the rest of the EU. I personally think that the Republic would have no qualms about joining Schengen if the UK did, based on the fact that in other respects the Republic has shown itself to be perfectly willing to integrate into Europe, adopting the euro, switching wholly to the metric system etc.
    It´s a shame that the UK won´t join Schengen or the euro, and a bigger shame that the government doesn´t even seem to want to try to convince people that they are the way to go.

  • “I’m sorry – why should the UK be in the Euro? Can you imagine the house prices if we had the Euro-zone inflation rate.”

    Yea in the meantime are living is suppressed by a reduced take-home pay due to heavy taxation, above European odds, so much so that smuggling of all sorts is very profitable.

    There was a debate on Mark Mardell’s blog about harmonising tax on clothes EU-wide thereby putting tax on babies nappies in the UK, for example. The Sun was up in arms ridiculing it.

    The ironic thing was though that Britains are already paying more for their nappies without tax than what Europeans are with tax.

    British foreign policy is a costly old dear and someone has to pay for it – no?

  • DK

    “Yea in the meantime are living is suppressed by a reduced take-home pay due to heavy taxation, above European odds”

    Er… I think that you’ll find the UK tax rate is lower than most of Europe. In fact its the sort of thing that causes friction all the time with France and Germany pressing for a common tax rate, and the UK resisting. And wtf are you on about nappies for – the price depends more on the brand than anything else. Tesco value nappies are cheaper than pampers and anything you can buy in France.

  • Dan

    I would be all in favour of joining Schengen in full but the little Englander mentality of the Daily Mail, Telegraph, Express etc would go nuts and I do not see any politicians brave enough to take them on.

    Once we have given the right to live, and work, and set up home to all citizens of all members of the EU what is the point of cheching the passport at Dover if they can all come in anyway!

    The terrorist threat is from Pakistan either born and bred in Leeds or off the plane at Heathrow, not from the Poles or Dutch.

    There is of course an arrogance in London that all illegal immigrants from Africa or Asia are only passing through Europe to get to the streets paved with gold in London and the idea that any of the immigrants might actually want to settle in Italy or France is beyond comprehension

    The other part of Schengen/Prum which would cause issues on implementation on the Island of Ireland is the right of hot pursuit for up to 30km by uniformed police of either state carrying weapons if necessarily.

    Now I can just see Dublin agreeing to that in a hurry!

  • Valenciano

    Minor point: I’ve corrected the Wikipedia article since most of the post-2003 EU members have not fully implemented it either. You will still have your passport inspected if travelling through the Baltic states for example. However most of them should be members within the next few years.

  • Dan

    The Wikipedia article already explained the position of the “new” member states 9 of the 10 which joined in 2004 join at land borders at 31st December this year and at Sea and Air ports from 31st March 2008.

    Switzerland joins from November 2008, even though not in EU, they had a controversial debate along the lines of we trust the French and the Germans but we do not want all the Poles etc coming in, though they agreed in the end.

    Romania and Bulgaria despite joining EU this year are not yet being trusted to be allowed into Schengen yet, realistically another 3-4 years.

    Cyprus has an Ireland like problem with neither Greek or Turkish halves wanting passport controls within the island while they both maintain the fiction that it is still a single country, however that means it is effectively an open door to Turkey.

    It will be interesting to see where we are, in say 10 years time.
    Realistically after a long period of expansion since the 1990’s only Croatia is probable in the next decade, (unless politics in Norway changes).

    Schengen will expand to include all 25 other countries plus Norway, Switzerland and Iceland, and the idea of hot pursuit by neighbouring police and exchange of DNA or fingerprint information will have become accepted.

    Euro membership will have expanded to include 24-5 of the 27. Cyprus and Malta join in January, Slovakia in 2009, the Baltics are talking about 2011.

    Could a Prime Minister Milliband win a Euro referendum by 2016?

  • Crataegus

    Pete

    Thanks for the link been away much of the last 6 months, but every time I come back and see that thing it just makes me want to growl. OK the clerics may have gone mad but what ever convinced Historic Buildings?

    Control myself, back to the topic. The logic of the British position is driven by the tabloid press, so it is the logic of the pack and little Englanders. There are times when these attitudes can be not just a real bore but down right insulting to our neighbours.

    Skinbop

    Sorry it is me that has been away a while and at times there is a lag before my brain catches up with my body.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Crataegus

    I like the new spire, it is like the Angel of the North or the glass pyramid at the Louvre which has now been accepted by most after some initial disquiet, new and different.

    We have to look at new things, especially in NI because some of the old things here are not too good either- culturally, politically or aesthetically.

    The alternative is to live in the past and to stop people thinking new thoughts.

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