Election 2019: How manifestos compare and contrast

Tories announce plan to force EU citizens to apply for US-style visa waiver to enter UK

Experts quick to point out similar system will exist for Britons visiting Europe after Brexit

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Monday 02 December 2019 13:37

EU nationals will need to apply for a US-style visa waiver to enter the UK after Brexit, under new plans set out by home secretary Priti Patel.

The proposals mean European visitors, who currently only require an ID card to enter the UK, will be required to fill in an online form and go through additional security clearance at least three days before travelling, with an accompanying demand for payment.

Ms Patel said the move would improve border security in the UK, claiming EU law was currently “limiting [the UK’s] border capability”.

But critics branded her claims “groundless”, saying that by leaving the EU security and justice systems, Britain was losing real-time access to critical databases and the European Arrest Warrant.

Experts were also quick to point out that a similar system would exist for Britons wishing to visit Europe after the UK leaves the bloc, as it was already set to introduce a visa waiver scheme for all non-EU visitors currently able to enter visa-free.

This scheme, called ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System), is being developed by the EU to improve the security and border control, and means travellers between Britain and Europe will face additional scrutiny and costs.

Similarly, Ms Patel’s announcement of plans to introduce a visa waiver – known as Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) – would make biometric passports a requirement and see the introduction of an American-style visa waiver scheme.

Announcing the plans, Ms Patel said: “When people voted to leave in 2016, they were voting to take back control of our borders [...] I am committed to doing everything we can to secure the border and protect the UK.”

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott argued that it would be better to remain embedded in the EU’s security and justice system.

She said: “Tory claims to be strengthening the border through their sell out Brexit deal are groundless. By quitting the entire system of EU security and justice, we will no longer have real-time access to a host of critical databases or access to the European Arrest Warrant.

"This will undermine the ability of our police and border agencies to apprehend terrorists and organised criminals, and could even make us a safe haven for fugitives fleeing the justice systems in the EU."

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The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said Ms Patel’s immigration policy announcement “didn’t contain much that is new” and described it as “tough on immigration smoke and mirrors; void of any meaningful reform”.

The charity added: “The reform we need is a real rebuilding of the immigration system from the ground up, so that it's based on acceptance that you can't actually stop people moving, that we can create a system that treats migration as a good thing, and treats all those who move as human beings.”

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