More UK-EU border cooperation please!

More UK-EU border cooperation please!

B J Smith, living in the EU (Belgium), reflects on the bureaucracy and bother of travelling between the EU and the UK, and how greater co-operation might be beneficial.

I need to visit my father regularly these days because he is elderly, disabled, and only just able to look after himself. I have to travel between the UK and Belgium. At the moment, this is classed as ‘essential travel’ both in the UK and Belgium. Hooray – this is mutual recognition!

However, from 9 February onwards, when I return to the UK, travelling from Belgium, I would need to do the following (in addition to the normal border formalities of security screening, passports, tickets, etc):

  • Complete a passenger locator form
  • Get tested for COVID 72 hours before I leave
  • Get tested the day I arrive
  • Get tested after 8 days
  • Self-isolate all that time

When I return to Belgium, even after a short visit, I am subject to the following:

  • Passenger locator form
  • Honour declaration that I travelled for valid reasons
  • Show my Belgian residence card
  • Test within 24 hours of return
  • Test again 7 days later
  • Quarantine until second test and only come out of quarantine if I test negative

Otherwise there are further consequences.

So no mutual trust or recognition there then … and what a waste of time and money! This is yet another case of how Brexit and the pandemic combine to add bureaucracy for little obvious benefit.

With Brexit, the UK supposedly took back control of its own borders. Yet until only recently the borders, at UK airports in particular, have proven porous, notably letting COVID-19 variants from South Africa and elsewhere enter freely into the UK without proper controls.

In contrast. there is no common EU approach, although the European Commission has tried. Schengen on the surface seems to have fallen by the wayside. The apparent suspension of Schengen provisions shows that Member States can ‘take back control’ of their borders in exceptional circumstances when they wish to do so. Therefore, Member States have not lost their sovereignty. But the UK, by allowing still-porous borders, among other things, has chosen not to exercise the sovereignty it supposedly has just regained.

It may be the UK is ‘winning’ on numbers of vaccinations, but compared to many EU Member States, it has been slow to respond in a number of ways to combat the pandemic.

B J Smith

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