Anyone making the evening journey from Paris’ sprawling Aéroport Charles de Gaulle back to the rather more humble Liverpool Airport – as around 140 punters did yesterday, courtesy of EasyJet – will have noticed the one thing that makes travel to and from the UK so different to that around EU member states and other countries that have signed up to the Schengen agreement. It’s called queuing.
There in CDG Terminal 2D, passengers joining EasyJet inter-Schengen flights went from security to boarding. We UK-bound people had to also submit our passports to a bored-looking French border guard. Because we’re not signing up to Schengen, as we want to remain in glorious isolation and keep out all these rotten foreigners. And immigrants. And security hazards. To keep control of our borders, dammit.
Then, on arrival at Liverpool, the flight takes around 25 minutes to clear the UK Border. OK, it only took me 20 minutes of my life that I won’t be getting back, but the sheer pointlessness should be screamingly obvious to anyone with a hole in their backside. Every passport fed through the scanner. As if the security agencies that we now know are snooping on us might have missed something.
And if the likes of Nigel “Thirsty” Farage get their hands on the levers of power, this farce is set to get a whole lot worse. Not for nothing do folks return from the USA with tales of it taking three hours or more to get from landing to exiting the terminal building. With the inter-connectedness of the EU, Schengen makes sense, and not just for individuals, but businesses too.
Talking of businesses, one that suffers from the Great British Obsession with border controls – and will continue so to do – is rail travel, with airline-level check-in times at St Pancras, Paris Nord and Brussel Zuid, combined with yet more sodding passport checks and intrusive personal searches, none of which would prevent a serious terrorist attack – like one aimed at the line the train travels on.
Over at Paris Est, the trains departing for destinations in Germany do not leave from securely fenced-off platforms, and nor do those from Paris Nord to Belgium and the Netherlands. Even before Schengen, border controls were being done more and more on the move. Eurostar could do this. The UK obsession will not permit it. Two and a quarter hours London to Paris becomes well over three hours.
That hurts competitiveness. It drives visitors away. It deters businesses from locating here. After all, who wants to set up in a country that might walk away from the European club, just to appease the party of an ale-swilling Grade A spiv? Next time you fly EasyJet, look at the flag painted next to the plane’s registration mark. It used to be the Union Flag. It’s now the EU one. They’ve made their choice already.
Somebody is trying to tell the politicians something. But they aren’t listening.