British travellers will be exempt from tough new EU frontier rules, says top Tory MP

Kwasi Kwarteng insisted the ETIAS scheme, starting in 2020, will not apply to UK passport holders

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Saturday 23 December 2017 20:42
MP for Spelthorne Kwai Kwarteng: 'Swiss businessmen can travel around Europe just as easily as British businessmen, frankly'

Even Andorra, the tiny principality landlocked between France and Spain, is likely to be subject to tough new frontier rules imposed by the European Union. But a leading Conservative has insisted that British travellers will be exempt – even after Brexit.

As The Independent has revealed, the EU is working energetically to impose the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) by 2020.

The system is aimed at reducing the “migration, security or public-health risk” from nationals of visa-exempt third countries, which is what the UK will become after Brexit. It is similar to the US “ESTA” scheme.

Prospective visitors to the EU will be required to complete a form online, including questions on health, employment and criminal convictions.

The fee of €5 ($4.50) for a permit valid for three years. On arrival at an EU border, “Travellers would have their data verified, their picture or fingerprint taken and a set of questions asked,” says a recent EU briefing paper.

But Kwasi Kwarteng, MP for Spelthorne, has rejected the prospect that British travellers will need to register online to travel to EU countries after Brexit.

On BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions? Mr Kwarteng said: “I don’t actually think travel within Europe will be any more difficult.”

The question, from Sally Baldwin, was: “Does the panel consider that the new blue passport will compensate us for the loss of the right to travel, live and work freely in 27 European countries?

The MP, who campaigned for Leave, said: “I don’t actually think it is a price that we’re going to have to pay.

“In a previous life, I used to do a lot of work in Switzerland. As you will know, Switzerland is not a member of the EU. Swiss businessmen can travel around Europe just as easily as British businessmen, frankly.

“And if you are observant you will see that there is an EEA/EU line, there are lots of ways we can be accommodated in this process.”

Switzerland is part of the Schengen Area, and is treated as an EU nation for the purposes of immigration.

The Independent has sought clarification from Mr Kwarteng on his confidence that British travellers will not be affected by the ETIAS scheme.

Another leading Brexit campaigner, Nigel Farage, has showed a puzzling grasp of history by telling the BBC: “When they abolished the British Passport, they didn’t just change the colour of it.”

What they did, he said, was “put two words on top of it, ‘European Union’.”

But the burgundy passport was introduced in 1988, five years before the European Union was established. Initially, passports were embossed “European Community”.

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