This article was first published on The Commentator.
The media are gleefully reporting the chaos at various European airports, where British passengers in particular are suffering lengthy delays due to additional EU-mandated checks.
Remoaners have been quick to blame Brexit, saying this is a natural consequence of ending free movement – and they suggest it will get worse.
This is totally wrong. Free movement for the UK has, of course, not yet ended. The changes are the product of a new EU rule requiring airports in the Schengen Area to check all EU citizens entering from outside Schengen against various security databases, and, bizarrely, on their departure as well.
EU citizens, including those from the UK, have traditionally been allowed through with just a passport check. Now, with more checks needing to be done, chaos has reigned at various EU airports, including Paris-Orly, Schiphol, Palma de Mallorca, Lisbon, Athens and Milan.
This means Britons would have had to endure the queues even if we were staying within the EU. Irish citizens are suffering too, as are citizens of other EU countries who are arriving from non-Schengen countries like China, Turkey and the United States. Remoaners are wrong to characterise this as an unforeseen consequence of Brexit.
The new regulations need not have meant such chaos either. The changes are being introduced over the course of a 6-month period running from April to October.
Clearly, however, some Member States, including France, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy, have failed to adequately prepare for the impact of the changes on increased summer traffic. With more people, especially Britons, pouring into various EU tourist destinations for the summer holidays, the airports simply cannot cope.
The new checking system is apparently taking approximately 10 minutes per person at check-in, and departure, so you can only imagine the chaos and lengthy queues this is creating at these airports.
Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary, hardly someone friendly to Brexit, has placed the blame firmly on lack of staffing at the affected airports. Denouncing the checks on departing passengers, which have led many people to miss their flights, as “ludicrous” and “pointless”, he said he did not expect the issue to be resolved quickly: “Ultimately they need to put more staffing in place at the border control agencies and that takes time.”
O’Leary has also accused French and German airlines of lobbying to harm Britain in Brexit negotiations by slowing down talks on aviation. With Brexit in March 2019, Britain will leave the EU’s Open Skies Agreement, and he says a new means of allowing British airlines to fly in the EU must be negotiated.
O’Leary also pointed out how airlines set their schedules 6 months in advance, and noted how – if there is no replacement for Open Skies by September 2018 – UK airlines will be unable to schedule flights for at least the first few months after Brexit. According to O’Leary, EU airlines are lobbying EU negotiator Michel Barnier to delay aviation talks in order to bring about this chaos for British airlines.
Being cynical, might I suggest perhaps dark forces within the EU are also responsible for this chaos at airports, which is disproportionately causing problems for Britons this summer.
The regulation which requires these extra checks – Regulation (EU) 2017/458 – just happened to be passed on March 15th, only 2 days after Parliament finally passed the Article 50 Bill.
Prime Minister, Theresa May set the ball rolling on our departure from the EU just 2 weeks after this Regulation was passed – it’s a hasty amendment to existing aviation regulations from 2016.
Is it too much of a stretch of the imagination to think the EU have introduced this – ostensibly to stop terrorists like the Paris and Brussels attackers entering the Schengen Area on EU passports –to orchestrate all this airport chaos as a deliberate effort to ‘punish’ the Great British Public?
Perhaps it was designed to create anti-Brexit headlines, alleging this is a ‘taste of what’s to come’.
If so, it’s been very effective, and anti-Brexit forces in the EU clearly know how the Remain media in Britain works. Eurosceptics would do well to take note, and be vigilant in countering these pro-EU myths.
The EU should get its act together and help the airports resolve this problem quickly, or they will lose all the tourist cash the British families will spend during their holidays.
Perhaps New York, Florida, Miami and further afield will be preferable for our holiday-makers in the future, if something is not done about this, and fast.
As we Get Britain Out of the EU, the Eurocrats must choose between trying to punish Britain, and working with us to create a mutually-beneficial Brexit deal.
This new Regulation must be ditched, or at least postponed until airports are well-staffed enough to cope, and negotiations towards an agreement on aviation must begin imminently. Enough silly games from the EU. It’s serious time now.
Jayne Adye is Director of cross-party, grassroots campaign Get Britain Out