Now’s your chance, Dave!

In Uncategorized on December 8, 2011 by grahamharrowell

By some happy coincidence on the day following Tory backbenchers exhorting Cameron to give the Europeans what-for, the BBC makes the startling discovery of the “Lille Loophole”. This is the situation whereby passengers travelling on Eurostar services from Brussels to London can board using a ticket for Lille and avoid the UKBA checks at the start of the journey which have been so succesful in vastly reducing the numbers of irregular migrants reaching the UK (and generally then becoming unremovable). It should be known that in general the Belgians in Brussels and the French in Lille have been very supportive of UKBA to stop this traffic but there are a few who either can’t be bothered or who just enjoy paying out the Brits.

Anyone listening to Sarkozy’s hour long speech last week (just in time for the BBC 6 O’Clock News but unreported – unlike the similar speech made by Merkel the following morning containing much the same material and widely covered) will recall that as well as announcing this week’s meetings to sort out the European currency crisis with a possible Treaty change, he also said that there was a need to change the Schengen rules. This might be seen as a signal that the UK might bea ble to get a little something in return for supporting changes.

Whilst the UK is not involved in the Eurozone, it is a signatory to Schengen despite opting out of the parts relating to the removal of routine border controls. It can therefore come to that table. All that is really needed is a minor amendment to an Annexe to the agreement which relates to measures which allow high speed trains which cross an internal frontier on their way to and from countries outside Schengen to continue their journeys without stopping at the external frontier for checks to take place. This threatens to become an even greater problem with the advent of Deutsche Bahn and other services such as Channel Metro in the fixed link.

It should not be forgotten that a similar problem existed with Eurostar trains from Paris to London which stopped at Calais. The big difference was that these trains didn’t cross an internal Euro frontier. Our much maligned French friends passed a law which required everyone (yes even French people in their own country) to produce passports or identity cards to UKBA officials if they chose to board those trains. If they didin’t want to do so they could always travel by a different route and tant pis! This created the bizarre situation that some third country nationals were refused permission to travel to Calais by British officials because they had no visa for the UK. There are no longer any trains from Paris that stop at Calais as it was a commercially unviable service.

So, it seems Dave has the opportunity on Friday to pacify the baying backbenchers and achive something without bringing the European (including British) economy to its knees. Support the rescue package in return for British officials being allowed to examine passengers on through trains and if necessary refuse to let them travel. I wonder if Dave is aware of this negotiating ploy?


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