Warning of fresh move on passport controls

 

THE BRITISH Home Office is to make a renewed effort to impose passport controls on travel into Great Britain from the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

The effort was criticised by a succession of TDs and representatives from the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands at a meeting in Swansea yesterday of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly.

A Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords, Baroness Angela Harris, surprised colleagues by revealing that the British government intended to revive the effort – defeated this year – in the House of Lords tonight.

The latest effort will not attempt to require travellers from Northern Ireland airports and ports to Britain to show passports following fury from the Democratic Unionist Party and the Ulster Unionists.

However, air and sea travellers from the Republic and the Crown dependencies of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands will be required to produce a passport at immigration before being allowed to land in Britain.

“This is going to go through by default,” Baroness Harris warned the assembly, which includes TDs and MPs and members of the various UK assemblies.

Fine Gael TD Jim O’Keeffe said Ireland and the UK should agree common visa rules, but SDLP leader Mark Durkan warned that “this could mean that the Home Office would decide Irish visa rules”.

“There is obviously a determination by the Home Office to do this,” said Mr Durkan.

Mr O’Keeffe said members of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly would meet next month with representatives from the UK Borders Agency.

Conservative MP Andrew MacKinlay said Ireland and the UK should “agree robust common external rules”.

“The answer is not to put in place internal passport rules. That’s the old Soviet Union answer.”

Isle of Man deputy Stephen Rodan was deeply critical of the British government’s repeated efforts. “One doesn’t require a passport to travel from London to Edinburgh, and it shouldn’t be needed from the Isle of Man.”

Conservative MP Robert Walter said the Republic’s immigration authorities were already ignoring the 80-year-old Common Travel Area by demanding passports from passengers arriving from the UK.

The travel agreement between Ireland and the UK has effectively already been ended by airports who demand official documents, usually passports, before they will allow passengers to board.