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EU travel visas would stop tourists not terrorists

by Luke Lythgoe | 25.04.2016

The Leave camp has floated the idea of requiring visas from EU citizens after Brexit as a way of tightening up security. Such a move would hurt our economy and almost certainly lead to visa requirements being imposed on Brits travelling to Europe, while adding little protection against terrorists coming from the EU.

Dominic Raab, the eurosceptic justice minister, told the BBC on Sunday: “We should at least have the power and the control” to look at new visa requirements for EU countries to “make sure we keep Britain safe” (watch from 09:10).

Raab admitted there would be retaliatory restrictions on Brits going to Europe, either visas or “some other kind of checks”. That, on its own, would be a big blow: UK travellers could lose visa-free access to the entire Schengen Area – currently 26 countries, including non-EU countries such as Switzerland and Norway – and maybe to other EU countries too. As well as the extra hassle involved, foreign holidays would become more expensive. Schengen visas normally cost €60.

Visa restrictions would also harm trade, as they would discourage business travel. An London School of Economics study suggests bilateral trade drops by up to a quarter when visa restrictions are in place between countries, with foreign direct investment taking a similar hit. Such a fall would cause a loss of £130 billion in trade, based on 2014 data.

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Visas would also put off visitors. Academics estimate such restrictions can cut travel by 20%-60%. In the year up to February 2016, there were 24 million visits by EU citizens to Britain. If that fell by 20%, there would be 5 million fewer visits to Britain each year, damaging hotels, shops, restaurants, airlines and other industries.

Meanwhile, if we require visas for EU citizens in order to stop terrorists entering the UK, it is hard to see how we could avoid imposing controls on the Irish border. Otherwise, any savvy jihadi would jump on a plane to Dublin, cross into Northern Ireland and then enter Britain. In other words, if Raab is right that visas may be needed to safeguard security, the promise not to close the Irish border made by Theresa Villiers, the eurosceptic Northern Ireland secretary, may bite the dust.

Mind you, Raab probably isn’t right. The UK already has control of its borders and can stop EU citizens entering on “public security” grounds. The key is knowing who to stop. This requires efficient information sharing between member states, something the EU is currently strengthening. Britain will probably be able to continue sharing intelligence with EU members after Brexit, but we would lose the influence which allows us to shape future European security policy to meet our interests.

Dominic Raab did not immediately respond to InFacts queries into his visa suggestions.

5 Responses to “EU travel visas would stop tourists not terrorists”

  • ‘Raab admitted there would be retaliatory restrictions on Brits going to Europe, either visas or “some other kind of checks”. That, on its own, would be a big blow: UK travellers could lose visa-free access to the entire Schengen Area – currently 26 countries, including non-EU countries such as Switzerland and Norway – and maybe to other EU countries too. As well as the extra hassle involved, foreign holidays would become more expensive. Schengen visas normally cost €60.’

    The important words is “could”. Considering that countries like the US and Australia don’t require a Schengen visa it’d be surprising if the UK didn’t negotiate a similar deal as part of the Brexit negotiations.

  • Please see and share the extremely revealing, positive and also prone to reflection posters from the artist Wolfgand Tillmans. To be shared to as many people in EU as possible, perhaps even to be used as cover images campaign for the In Camp

  • Dene Bebbington: I agrre with you abou the US and Australia, but as the quitters (because brexiters are not patriots or democratic, they are just quitters) have the rethoric to be as though as possible against EU citizens, obviously this will be going against UK citizens by the same weight. This is the danger. If the quitters will start to restrict for example a Polish tourist like they do with a non EU poor country citizen, this will be seen as the same treatment across the entire EU, to which naturally and (I would say) dutyfully the EU will respond accordingly to defend one of its member States (even if UK would not be as strict for example with a French turist). This will be because EU countries are a bloc of duties but also of rights that obviously will be in the whole EU interest to try to defend.

  • Mario Donadio: None of the major political parties are officially in the Brexit camp AFAIK, and it would be the government (Conservative, unless an election is called and lost by them) who negotiate with the EU if the referendum is in favour of leaving. I don’t see why they would start implementing visa policies with charges which might invite tit-for-tat responses from the EU.

  • @ Dene Bebbington
    The important words is “could”.

    If after the Brexit the UK puts restrictions on say Poles to enter the country, the EU will act in unison.
    EurActiv reported a similar case with the USA not so long ago. http://www.euractiv.com/section/transport/news/us-mulls-visa-restrictions-on-eu-travellers-after-paris-attacks/

    The EU will act and the Brits will need a visa, no ‘could’ or ‘if’ there…. If they do it to the USA, I am sure they will not be less gentle to the UK.