All that the Isle of Man newspaper has done is to parrot out a government press release that spins the situation through 180 degrees. I have sent the following letter to the paper:
The Government public consultation on the UK e-Borders scheme indicates that e-Borders will only apply to journeys between the Isle of Man and Eire and international journeys. Apparently, we can forget about having to go through passport control to get to the UK.
However, the consultation asks for approval for a UK Statutory Instrument that proposes legislation to create the legal power for all journeys off island to be monitored. What we are being sold is no more than an agreement that the UK Home Office will only impose e-Borders on travel to Southern Ireland. The actual legislation means the UK can change it's mind later on and start asking for passports before we leave the Island.
The Chief Minister has already said to the UK Constitution Committee that:
“History has shown that where a power exists in legislation, sooner or later it is always used—whatever the policy intention”.
I am sure he will be proved right!
These proposals have already gone before Westminster where they were rejected as being unconstitutional and excessive. The Home Affairs Committee stated that the e-Borders scheme is illegal under the EU Treaty as it interferes with the principle of free movement across the EU. They also stated that refusing someone travel under e-Borders should only be done for exceptional reasons.
However, the proposed powers are very wide indeed.
The Home Affairs Committee were also concerned about the cost of e-Borders to airline and ferry passengers. The Steam Packet, in a letter to the Tynwald Standing Committee on Constitutional Matters, has already indicated that e-Borders may make the Dublin route uneconomical.
Amazingly the EU Commission states that, as e-Borders is illegal, it can only ever be a voluntary scheme. I.e. you can decide, individually, not to let the UK Home Office have all your personal data and there is nothing they can do about it!
This Government public consultation comes when Ministers are busy with their new departments and our friends in Westminster are preoccupied with the General Election. Like the Reciprocal Health Agreement, preventing the break up of the Common Travel Area through e-Borders is something that can be won through argument if someone is prepared to articulate the case.
If the proposed UK Government regulations are endorsed by Tynwald it will, undoubtedly, mean that British Isle of man residents will be treated to more scrutiny when traveling across than other residents in Britain.
Just last week the Justice Committee commented that the UK Government does indeed influence Island legislation at the policy level and noted that, alone among the Islands, the Isle of Man passes it's draft legislation to the Ministry of Justice before it is passed by the Manx legislature.
This is a public consultation and, given that it is clearly stated that e-Borders is illegal, the public have every justification for rejecting the e-Borders proposal.
The Tynwald Standing Committee will publish it's report 20 - 22 April and it is expected to highly critical of the Isle of Man adopting e-Borders. It's essential that these plans are blocked as it's the first step towards 'passports in country'.