He again called upon the British and Irish Governments to sign up to the European Schengen Agreement to enable the continuation of free movement of people between the UK and the Republic of Ireland. His call comes following proposals from the UK Borders Agency for the introduction of identity checks for travellers between jurisdictions, and the undermining of the Common Travel Area. Last year, Alliance proposed a motion in the Assembly calling for the UK and Ireland to sign up to Schengen.
Dr Stephen Farry MLA stated: “At a time when the rest of Europe is enjoying greater freedom of movement, greater barriers are to be created with the British Isles.
“The Common Travel Area, which has served the people of these islands well since 1922, is under threat. There has always been a close and special relationship between the peoples of the two islands.
“By contrast, the Schengen Agreement delivers freedom of movement for European citizens. It effectively removes internal border controls within Europe, but also strengthens common external borders. Security and anti-terrorist information is shared across participating states. So, it provides both easier internal movement and enhanced public protection.
“Schengen is a fundamental part of the architecture of a modern Europe. It covers all members of the European Union, bar the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, and even extends to four non-EU countries, including Switzerland, Norway and Iceland.
“The UK and the Republic of Ireland remain the odd ones out in Europe. Euro-sceptic sentiment has prevented the UK from participating fully, against its own interests. Ireland has followed suit in order to preserve the Common Travel Area. The argument about two islands separate from continental Europe does not stand up, bearing in mind the participation of Iceland.
“Rather than creating barriers, the British Government should be seeking to break them down. The time is now right for a major rethink and appreciation of the benefits of signing up to Schengen. Given the particular geographic circumstances facing Northern Ireland, it is imperative that both governments do so.”