“Mr Varadkar said Ireland and Britain could become a ‘mini-Schengen'”

The Irish Times reports some odd comments by the Irish Government Tourism and Transport Minister, Leo Varadkar, at a meeting of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly at Leinster House in Dublin.  Odd, that is, given what we already know.  From the Irish Times report

Mr Varadkar said tourists and business visitors should not be forced to source one set of travel papers for the UK and a second set for th Republic.

“This means that there are real opportunities to attract more high-value, high-spending visitors from rapidly growing economies like Brazil, India, China and Russia to both Britain and Ireland,” he told the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly at Leinster House in Dublin.

Mr Varadkar said Ireland and Britain could become a “mini-Schengen” referring to the 20 countries in mainland Europe signed up to common travel and visa rules.

In Ireland, a visa waiver for UK visitors has been extended until the end of October 2016. It allows long-haul travellers to pass in to Ireland without additional travel documents.

“While the visa waiver is a step forward, it should be just that – one step of many to come,” he said.

“It makes no sense to me that a tourist flying into Dublin from Dubai needs a separate visa to travel to the Titanic Experience in Belfast and to see the Giant’s Causeway. And it makes even less sense to the tourist.”

Of course, at present and, apparently, until the end of October 2016, those visitors only require a UK visa to travel around this “mini-Schengen”…  Provided they fly to a UK city first.  [Like Belfast? – Ed]  Indeed.

The reports of Mr Varadkar’s comments refer to it as a ‘call for reform’ of the visa rules.

Mr Varadkar made the call at the latest meeting of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly as it sat in Leinster House. His idea has been backed by co-chairman Joe McHugh [TD].

But his Irish Government colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the UK Government to improve the Common Travel Area in December last year.

And, as I’ve mentioned previously here on Slugger, the Irish Justice and Equality Minister has already told the Dáil what that MoU means, and why “persons granted an Irish visa are not permitted to use that visa to travel to the UK”.  From Dáil Written Answers 18 April

[Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter)]  At present persons granted an Irish visa are not permitted to use that visa to travel to the UK. This is primarily due to the UK requirement that all visa applicants supply fingerprint (biometrics) data electronically as an essential element of applying for a UK visa. Quite obviously Ireland does not have the capacity to capture such data for all visa applications worldwide; currently for UK visas this is done in over 150 countries.

However, I can inform the Deputy that in December 2011, together with the UK’s Immigration Minister, I signed an agreement which, among other things, commits both countries to developing a Common Travel Area visa. Such a visa would allow tourists and business visitors to travel to the Common Travel Area and to travel freely between Ireland and the UK. It is anticipated that such a visa will prove an attractive option for tourists and business visitors and it is intended to conduct a trial scheme which will be used to gauge likely demand and to resolve the substantial practical issues around its introduction. [added emphasis throughout]

The Irish Government could always ask the UK to capture that necessary data for them…  Just a thought.

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  • Comrade Stalin

    The Irish Government could always ask the UK to capture that necessary data for them… Just a thought.

    I think the Irish government are quite right to opt out of this ridiculous security theatre. Biometric fingerprints wouldn’t have prevented any kind of terrorism in the past and they still won’t in the future. If the UK wants to treat its visitors as terrorist suspects I see no reason why Ireland should participate.

  • Pete Baker

    Comrade

    The problem is one of capacity, not a lack of willingness. As Alan Shatter, quoted above, said

    Quite obviously Ireland does not have the capacity to capture such data for all visa applications worldwide; currently for UK visas this is done in over 150 countries.

  • andnowwhat

    Ah Pete, the only attacks the southerners are coming under are emanating from Pembroke Road

  • Pete Baker

    Guys

    You seem to be missing the point somewhat.

    There is, already, before Leo Varadkar announced “his idea” at the meeting of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly, “backed by co-chairman Joe McHugh [TD]”, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two governments.

    A MoU that Alan Shatter has expanded upon within the Dáil.

  • andnowwhat

    Pete

    Anyone who folows the southern media/politics or goes on southern forums knows this boxollogy comes and goes on a weekly basis, usually pushed by the Indy or the Times.

    It’s as without heft as a Myers OpEd

  • Pete Baker

    Still missing the point…

    Try addressing the original post.

  • weidm7

    How about instead of joining mini-Schengen, we just join Schengen? And make sincere efforts to establish an all-Ireland travel area and let Britain do what it wants. You know, as if it was a seperate country(the south I mean), one can dream.

  • Reader

    weidm7: How about instead of joining mini-Schengen, we just join Schengen?
    Are you sure they will let you in while you still have an open border with the UK?

  • When was the last time anyone was stopped questioned and deported from Northern Ireland for not having a travel visa? Just wondering. Different perhaps flying into Heathrow, but even there the Dublin flights are pretty much domestic. It is only when you try to fly out of Heathrow or wherever and present your passport that the issue arises. There have been some examples of some visitors being caught out, but cannot recall the circumstances – or the circumstances were not adquately explained in news reports.

  • Mick Fealty

    Boys, boys, for all the psychic flight here, this is a fete accompli… Go look at Pete’s reference to the Irish government’s MOU…

    This is a prospective move… We did try to have a conversation (from about 2007) about joining SCHENGEN which NEVER happened…

    Why not? The British wanted nothing to do with it. And Ireland would have had to erect proper border if it wanted to plough on without them.

    Now, again to avoid that problem, it will have to accept British standards in order to keep the border clear…

    Clear?

  • thedissenter,

    Don’t know of anyone being deported from NI, although I do remember being stopped in Connolly station by RoI Immigration on more than one occasion after travelling down from Belfast while looking like a student. And just because a power hasn’t been used in a while does not mean it won’t in the future, for example if they can’t make the original charge stick.

    And of course, if you try to get a ferry you’re taking a serious chance.

  • anne warren

    Have travelled between Schengen countries – no passport check
    Travelled from Dublin to London last Sunday – no passport check
    Fait accompli!!