The reason I am writing this post is that I am fed up of images like this which “prove” there will be no border between Scotland and England. (Roseanna Cunningham MSP even had it on her Twitter feed a good number of months ago but I couldn’t find it in a search).
Now this photo is essentially true. This is Austria/Liechtenstein border and Liechtenstein is indeed not a part of the EU. But this picture only shows you cows. It doesn’t show the rest of the story.
In Europe, there are two free travel areas. The first one is the Schengen Agreement. Now Schengen has a rather boring history, but suffice to say that, as part of the Treaty of Amsterdam, Schengen became part of European Union Law in 1997 and came into effect in 1999.
22 EU countries out of 28 are Schengen signatories. Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Cyprus are legally obliged to join Schengen. Four countries that are not part of the EU but are part of the European Free Trade Agreement (Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Switzerland) are also signatories to Schengen. Three microstates, Vatican City, San Marino and Monaco are not members but have no border controls between themselves and the countries that surround them.
There are no border controls between these states but there are border controls for anyone entering and exiting the zone. Thus if you travel from Ghana to France, you will have to show your passport and any visa required for your country to get into France but once there, you can travel freely to Liechtenstein, Germany, Spain, Iceland or any other Schengen country. This is why we as citizens of the UK must show our passports to travel to these countries. It’s also why those cows don’t have to show their passports either. But those cows can’t just swim the channel and wander into the UK at will. Here’s why.
The Republic of Ireland (ROI) and the United Kingdom, many moons ago got an opt-out from Schengen and we created out own Common Travel Agreement (CTA) along with the Isle of Man (IoM) and the Channel islands. That’s why there is not border control between Northern Ireland and the ROI (another pic often used to prove there will be no borders between Scotland and England post-Indy). The 4 territories in the CTA have an agreed immigration policy and thus, like Schengen, travel is free between the 4 states. A few years ago, Ireland wanted to loosen their immigration policy but the UK refused. Of course, Ireland could have gone ahead since they are a different state but there would be no CTA. Because of the movement of goods between the UK and ROI, I guess ROI decided they were better off in the CTA.
We must show our passports to enter the Schengen zone and anyone from the Schengen zone must show their passports to visit the CTA zone.
So here is where it gets complicated. Nowadays, even the Scottish Government agrees that we’ll have to apply to join Europe. Their argument about joining via Article 48 or 49 is less relevant (although the European Commission has said time and again that we will apply via article 49) than the argument about what terms we will get. Will we get the opt out from Schengen that the UK and Ireland currently have? To be honest, it’s doubtful. All new member states must sign up to Schengen. The argument that we are part of a small island won’t hold water. Iceland and Cyprus are islands.
Of course the SNP don’t see it that way. As with everything else, they believe they have the EU dangling on a string, ready to dance to our tune
Firstly, the EU have no reason to not make us join Schengen. In fact, they would probably have a lot of opposition to us being given that opt out. Once again, this is the SNP making assertions on behalf of other bodies that have absolutely no grounding in reality. Countries that have just joined the EU must join Schengen. It’s as simple as that. And just because Mr Salmond wishes the case to be otherwise, does not make it so. Neither does it make it so that Ireland have a different immigration policy to the UK. They don’t.
If we are in Schengen, then the EU will insist on a proper border between Scotland and England. because those cows are not allowed to travel from a Schengen zone to a CTA zone (and vice versa) without passing through border control.
But hey, a week is a long time in politics and politicians a fickle creatures. So, for the sake of argument, let’s just imagine that we do somehow manage to wriggle out of Schengen. What does the White Paper say about our immigration policy in the event of a yes vote?
Now, you don’t need to be able to do a lot of joined up thinking to realise this suggests that Scotland will have a substantially different immigration policy to the rest of the UK. If we have a substantially different immigration policy to rUK, then of course there will be border posts and we will not be part of the CTA that currently exists between UK. ROI, IoM and Channel Islands.
Now this is the point in the post where I’ll be called racist or xenophobic. I’m not saying that a less strict immigration policy is a bad thing. It may not be. But a less strict immigration policy is completely incompatible with a Common Travel Agreement. I’ve tried to think of an analogy for why they are incompatible, but, to be honest, it’s compete common sense. You can’t have two countries with widely different policies and an open border. If person A from country B requires a visa to enter the rUK but not one come to Scotland, then they’ll take a flight to Glasgow then a Megabus down to London and they are then in rUk without the required visa.
Now (assuming we wriggle out of Schengen) we could align our immigration policy to those of the CTA but then we would basically have to accept rUK’s immigration policy which would put paid to Alex Salmond’s grand plans to invite a large number of immigrants into the country to make up for our deficit with regards to the number of people paying into our pensions pot. So it partly defeats the purpose of the independence in the first place.
So, whichever way you intend to vote on September 18th do it with this knowledge: In all likelihood there will be a border between England and Scotland and that will cost money. How much? Well since the Scottish Government are in denial about there being border posts, I’ll assume they have not calculated the cost of them. As with most other things, we may just have to suck it and see.