Every so often, press pundits wake up and smell the coffee. And today, to his eternal credit, the Maily Telegraph’s Benedict Brogan has had a severe attack of observational common sense and told readers at the bear pit that is Telegraph blogs something that should be obvious: border controls between the UK and other EU member states are a severe inconvenience, and about to get worse.
This point was made here on Zelo Street last June, after the mild frustration of getting from Paris CDG to Liverpool in just an hour, only to then have almost half that amount added on by the lame attempt to tell all those rotten foreigners how jolly tough we are on border controls, and that Nigel “Thirsty” Farage is winning his war on the issue by forcing the Coalition to “act tough”.
Brogan appears to have first-hand experience of what happens during holiday periods when things get busy at the Channel Tunnel, and this is one operation that is more user-friendly than most: both countries’ Customs are cleared before boarding, so drivers can go straight from the Shuttle onto Motorway or Autoroute. But even here, the demand to scan every passport can lead to severe delays.
What Brogan has not mentioned are the over-the-top controls imposed on our only international rail link, with airport-length check-in times at St Pancras International, Paris Nord and Brussel Zuid. Paris allows an instructive comparison between our Very Wonderful and Really Tough regime (queues and delays) against Schengen area checks on trains to Belguim, the Netherlands and Germany (neither).
And, as Brogan reports, there is now a move to impose similarly “tough” controls on those departing the UK by whatever means, which will just add time, procedure, queuing and frustration. Is there any point to this? None whatsoever, other than to appear to be “taking back control of our borders”. The Coalition is being frightened into the change by the press’ why-oh-why brigade and UKIP.
Leaving aside the inconvenient fact that the why-oh-why brigade includes Brogan’s own paper, the point is well made: many of those suffering holiday-time horror queues are the better-off and often inherently conservative Brits who the Farage fringe want to get on board. And many of them have previously believed all the guff about our borders somehow not being secure.
Well, now they are about to get what they wished for, while, as Brogan points out, the Schengen countries depend on intelligence-led policing. Farage must wonder what he has to do to put a foot wrong: many of his candidates are bigots and racists, his flat tax policy would kill the NHS stone dead, and his border control ideas would harm his target demographic the most.
And, what’s worse, we aren’t being kept any more secure as a result.