FECL 10 (November 1992):


A compromise agreement between the UK government and the European Commission over the abolition of internal border controls on the territory of the Community is within sight. The British government had long opposed any relaxation of controls at its frontiers (see FECL No.7, p.7 and No.6, p.7).

A compromise discussed by the British Home Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, and the commission's vice-president, Martin Bangemann, could mean the end of systematic passport controls for EC citizens arriving in Britain from other community countries.

There is agreement that as much as possible should be done to segregate handling of visitors from the community and from non-EC countries at British ports and airports.

It is still possible that Britain will require even EC citizens to carry passports or other ID documents, but spot checks would be made only in cases where the British authorities had reasons for suspicion. However, neither the British government nor the commission intend to formally abandon their diametrically opposed interpretations of whether the Single European Act requires the abolition of internal EC border checks.

One possibility being looked at by London and Brussels is a system under which EC citizens would merely have to display a passport or identity card or some other insignia on arriving at a British port or airport. This would not 'normally' be subject to any detailed examination unless authorities had reason to suspect law-breaking.

Mr. Bangemann however made it clear that any compromise might be acceptable only for a transitional period until the 12 EC member states had approved an external frontier convention establishing common rules on visas and other controls on third country visitors.

"We do not see a black and white difference before and after the adoption of an external borders convention", a British government official said. "But the government has undertaken to improve the arrangements for EC citizens arriving in Britain. We are looking at technical ways to put this into effect.'


Source: Condensed from The Guardian, 3.9.92.: EC's border controls set to end soon, by John Palmer.




Both the Schengen Agreement and the EC convention on external border controls stipulate the abolition of internal controls for all persons travelling within the territory of the community, irrespective of their being EC citizens or not. The 'compromise' agreed upon by the European Commission and the British government, while meeting half-way the commission's ambition to strengthen feelings of European Unity by the very symbolical and visible measure of abolishing passport controls for EC citizens travelling within the Community, will results in additional discrimination of non-EC citizens (and probably particularly non-whites) who will continue to be systematically submitted to examination at British borders, even when arriving from an EC country.