While waiting for more details on the non-public discussions between the UK and the Republic of Ireland, on maintaining the Common Travel Area, questions continue to be asked about the implications of the introduction of e-border controls. In a follow-up to his report on a statement from the DUP leader Ian Paisley, thanking Gordon Brown for “so robustly defended the integrity of the United Kingdom’s border” – although I did note the caveat required at the time – Frank Millar today reports in the Irish Times [subs req]
In a furious statement last night, Mr [Sammy] Wilson said the emerging detail rendered prime minister Gordon Brown’s recent assurances to DUP leader Ian Paisley “meaningless . . . or indeed even worse”.
As the Irish Times reports
[DUP MP Sammy Wilson] raised the temperature in the growing “e-borders” debate following private discussions between the DUP and home office minister Tony McNulty and written parliamentary answers from immigration minister Liam Byrne to the Conservative Northern Ireland spokesman Owen Paterson.
Mr Paterson had asked what the implications were of an e- border system “circumscribing Great Britain for travel between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland” and, specifically, what documents will be required under the proposed scheme for travel between Britain and Northern Ireland.
Mr Byrne replied by way of reference to section 14 of the Police and Justice Act 2006, which introduced a new power that will allow police to collate passenger, crew and service information on air and sea journeys within the United Kingdom.
The specific police requirements under this power are still under discussion and final proposals will be subject to a 12-week consultation. However, the minister told Mr Paterson: “It is expected that this police power will only apply to air and sea routes between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
“Passengers will not be required to use passports, but may be required to produce one of several types of documentation, including passports, when travelling, to enable the carrier to meet the requirements of a police request.”
The report goes on to record
However, Mr Wilson maintained: “If these proposals go forward people in Northern Ireland, who are citizens of the United Kingdom, will have restrictions placed on their travel to Great Britain yet, shockingly, this scheme will not be applied to those coming into Great Britain from the Republic of Ireland or France. If this plan goes ahead, the people of Northern Ireland will be treated worse than foreigners.”
The East Antrim MP said it was clear the new restrictions under the Police Act would require people using an airline or ferry company to provide written answers about where they were going, where and with whom they were staying.
This, said Mr Wilson, would “hamper last-minute travel by ticket users”, such as those travelling to football matches or making quick travel plans to deal with family emergencies or deaths. “This appalling plan will take away one of their fundamental rights, namely freedom to travel in their own country,” declared Mr Wilson.
Although the question might be, if the police power was only applied between Northern Ireland and Britain, would passport controls be introduced on passengers travelling “from the Republic of Ireland or France”?
Lord Trimble might be hinting at that possibility
Lord Trimble, a former Ulster Unionist leader and now a Conservative peer, also reacted angrily, saying: “Rather than reaching out to embrace the whole Common Travel Area [ between the UK and Ireland], the Home Office are retreating to a fortress Britain.”
And in the same series of written answers there’s this from NIO minister Paul Goggins, MP.
Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what recent discussions he has had with the Home Department on the Common Travel Area; and if he will make a statement. 
Paul Goggins: There is a review of the operation of the Common Travel Area under way at present. However, there is no question of ending the principle that Common Travel Area nationals are not subject to immigration control on the internal borders.
I have had discussions with the Immigration Minister in the Home Office about the Common Travel Area. These discussions will continue as the review progresses. My officials are also in regular contact with their counterparts in the Home Office on this issue.