Speaking ahead of the debate, Party Justice Spokesperson, Dr Stephen Farry MLA, stated:
“The Schengen Agreement 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.
“Schengen effectively removes internal border controls within Europe, but strengthens common external borders. Security and anti-terrorist information is shared across participating states. So, it both provides for freer internal movement and enhanced public protection.
“Euro-sceptic sentiment has prevented the United Kingdom from participating fully, against its own interests. The Republic of Ireland has followed suit in order to preserve the Common Travel Area.
“But with this Common Travel Area under threat from the potential e-border down the Irish Sea, requiring travellers to produce identity cards, the time is now right for a major rethink and appreciation of the benefits for signing up to Schengen.
“Given the particular geographic circumstances facing Northern Ireland, it is imperative that both governments do so.”
Notes to Editors:
The Alliance Motion reads:
That this Assembly recognises that the Schengen Agreement contains advantages for all parts of the United Kingdom, and for the Republic of Ireland, particularly in relation to policing, security and opportunities for the free movement of people; calls upon the Governments of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland to sign up to, and implement, the Agreement; and considers that this will be critical to maintaining a common travel area between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.
The Schengen Agreement provides for:
The abolition of border checks at common internal European borders;
The balancing of this with stringent checks on external borders;
The separation within terminals and ports of Schengen and non-Schengen traffic;
The harmonisation of entry terms and short-term visas between Schengen countries;
Cross-border rights of surveillance;
Hot-pursuit protocols to allow law enforcement from one jurisdiction to cross over into another within prescribed limits in pursuit of suspects;