UK backs plan to charge non-European travelers to enter Europe | European Union

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The UK government was one of the “biggest supporters” of the EU’s plans to force third-country nationals to obtain permits and pay a fee to enter the bloc’s passport-free travel zone, has learned the Guardian.

David Cameron’s government backed the idea when it was launched by the European Commission in April 2016, three months before the EU referendum, when few predicted that the fee of € 7 (5.95 £) would one day hit UK travelers.

Brexit supporters reacted with fury this week when the committee said plans for a European Travel Information and Authorization System (Etias) were set to come into force for travelers at the end of 2022.

Despite claims of a ‘Brexit punishment’, the idea, which aims to increase border security, predates Britain’s divorce from the EU and applies to citizens of around 60 countries.

On the model of the American Esta program, non-European citizens who do not need a visa will have to fill out a form and pay € 7 before entering the European Schengen area without a passport. In 95% of cases, approval will be given within minutes. If travel is authorized, the € 7 charge – which applies to adults between 18 and 70 – covers multiple visits over three years.

Former Labor MEP Claude Moraes said the government was in favor of the idea. “The British government was one of its biggest supporters, obviously before the referendum, and [Etias] was seen as part of the digital border security that the UK wanted to carry out in the EU. “

Moraes chaired the European Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee, which was responsible for negotiating the Etias settlement with EU interior ministers.

Home Secretary at the time, Theresa May, reportedly supported the concept even though she had never expected to join it, as the UK was outside the Schengen zone. Had the UK remained an EU member state, UK nationals would be exempt from filling out the form and paying – a special status non-Schengen Ireland has today.

Former UK Ambassador to the EU Sir Ivan Rogers said the UK would have been in favor, but added he did not have a detailed recollection of it. “As it was a Schengen construction measure, we would not have joined it. This applied to several Schengen construction proposals which we said we were in favor of, in good [Home Office] Securocratic motives.

Former Europe Minister David Lidington said: “I can’t remember exactly what our position was on Etias at the time – we were very focused on the referendum campaign at the time. Having said that, our general approach was to encourage and support EU measures to strengthen aviation security in order to mitigate the risk of successful terrorist attacks. ”

When May was at the Home Office, the UK was at the forefront of pushing the EU to pass a law requiring law enforcement authorities to collect data on passengers on planes. The Passenger Name Record Directive (PNR) was co-authored by British Conservative MEP Timothy Kirkhope, spawning data sharing agreements with Australia and the United States.

In April 2016, May said that staying in the EU “means we will be more secure from crime and terrorism”, while praising the European arrest warrant and the PNR law.

The government viewed the Etias program as part of a package of security measures including PNR and EU databases, Moraes recalled. “This is also how they saw Etias, as a modernization of borders. Interoperability was Etias’ main dividend in the perspective of [the government] – that it would work with other EU-wide databases.

When a traveler completes the Etias form, their data is automatically cross-checked with other EU databases, including the Schengen Information System, Europol and the Eurodac fingerprint data store for applicants. asylum.

The idea of ​​a European travel authorization system was launched at least in 2011 and gained momentum after the terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015 and in Brussels in 2016.

Despite Cameron’s difficult relationship with the rest of the EU, his government voted in favor of most EU laws.

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