Come on, Better Together – your mini-Schengen scaremongering isn’t working, writes DREW MCGOWAN.
The Financial Times revealed this week that the governments of London and Dublin plan to implement a “mini-Schengen” area. They plan to implement a visa-free common travel area for the two islands in order to boost their economies, extending the common travel area which has existed between both islands since the 1920s.
“The objective is to create the equivalent of a mini-Schengen zone between Ireland and the UK which will enable all visitors to travel freely between both North and South and the two islands,” an Irish government spokesman told the Financial Times.
Border controls have featured, not surprisingly, in the constitutional debate here in Scotland. The Pro-union campaigners have argued that Scots will lose their UK passports and border posts will be erected at Berwick if they vote for independence in 2014. Conservative Home Secretary Theresa May said “If there was a separate Scotland there could very well be some sort of border check”. Meanwhile, Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore, describes border controls as “something that my constituents certainly think about a lot.”
Like Mr Moore, I too come from the Scottish Borders. I hail from the coastal town of Eyemouth and, like many, crossed the border on a near daily basis. I can vouch for Mr Moore when he claims it’s something his constituents think about; however, the news of the UK and Ireland moving towards a visa-free common travel area will certainly not help him perpetuate his border control argument in the Borders.
People from my neck of the woods work, shop and have family across the border whilst living in Scotland. So, of course, the apparent risk of border patrols being erected in a post-independent Scotland will concern them. The Yes side, if they capitalise on this recent news of Anglo-Irish visa-free travel, will comfortably ease these concerns. Mr Moore, on the other hand, will have a tougher job pushing his previous claims.
It’s safe to say that Britain and Ireland have not always seen ‘eye to eye’ over the course of history. Ireland gained its independence from the UK after decades of bloodshed, yet these recent moves by both governments convey the modern relationship that they have with one another: friendly, independent neighbours who co-operate on issues in their common interest.
In stark contrast to Ireland, Scotland would gain its independence through a democratically mandated referendum. Scots who are expected to be concerned of border patrols at Berwick and Gretna will unsurprisingly start wondering why the UK and Ireland can have a healthy, co-operative relationship as independent nations, despite a bloody history, whereas Scotland apparently cannot.
The ‘mini-Schengen’ plan has been a stormer of an own goal by the UK Government against their allies in the No camp. The ‘mini-Schengen’ joins the list of Pro-union rhetoric and empty threats that have been exposed. Another argument of ‘Project Fear’ bites the dust.