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ETOA Statement: Ministerial response to European border delays is ‘self-mutilation’

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The new Schengen border controls, which were planned and announced before the Brexit vote last year, impose rigorous checks on those people entering the Schengen zone, which embraces 26 European countries. This has caused severe delays – the very kind of delays routinely experienced by visitors entering the UK from the USA or Japan. Having “hard” borders create a miserable experience for visitors. These new controls apply to all Europeans, irrespective of nationality, if they arrive from outside the Schengen zone.

What is illuminating is the reaction these new controls have caused in UK government circles. An unnamed UK minister, noting the disruption a “hard” border creates, has suggested that the UK should retaliate by imposing “British-only lanes in the UK if they want to behave like that”.

“There are many ironies here,” said Tom Jenkins CEO of ETOA. “What is proposed is not a retaliation but an escalation. It shows disregard for legal rules and international agreements. When British citizens are inconvenienced abroad, the minister feels free to attack foreigners with meaningless delays. It will serve them right for wanting to come here and for being foreign. That is about as close to a thought process as we can spot.”

Having ‘hard borders’ is economically catastrophic: failures in this area carry their own punishment. According to the UK Tourism Alliance, EU visitors spend over £10 billion per annum, supporting over 185,000 jobs. EU visitors alone count for more jobs than motor manufacturing.

Yet these people are now singled out for attack. Abusing customers out of a misplaced sense of grievance is a prelude to decline.

The countries of the Schengen area are behaving exactly the way the UK has been suggesting they do. An instant way of improving the situation would be for the UK to join more aspects of the Schengen agreement (the UK is already part of the Schengen Information System. They are, after all, now imposing stringent controls.

“This is a discussion of queues: a French word for what was perceived as being a French invention. When it was first witnessed in Paris, English correspondents in the mid nineteenth century hoped that no-one in Britain would have to resort to such a mechanism. We are now experiencing what we have long imposed on others: our subsequent sense of outrage prompts an urge for self-mutilation.”

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