Thursday

24th May 2018

The reality behind the €7 'Brexit bombshell visa'

  • Eurostar train at Paris Nord station (Photo: Kai Hendry)

British tabloids roared in disapproval on Thursday (26 April), after EU diplomats advanced plans for new border checks and fees.

"EU must be joking!" the Daily Mail, the headline of one top-selling newspaper said. "BREXIT BOMBSHELL: Britons could be forced to pay €7 for European visa after EU split," the Daily Express, another anti-EU paper, said.

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  • Visitor applications to be cross-checked in crime databases of 26 Schengen countries (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

The reference to a "European visa" was misleading, but the new European Travel Information and Authorisation System (Etias), agreed on Wednesday, will impose "a travel authorisation fee of €7" on all "visa-exempt third country nationals" when it enters into life.

Etias, which is modelled on the US visa-waiver system, is designed to increase border security in times of mass migration and a heightened terrorist threat.

Visitors to the EU, including from the US, will have to file an online application, which will be cross-checked against EU states' crime databases and those of Interpol, the international police agency.

Most will get a travel permit "automatically and quickly" and the €7 fee will keep them covered for three years.

But if the databases score a "hit", or if there are "doubts" or "elements requiring further analysis" they will be told, within 96 hours, that they were denied entry into Europe's so-called Schengen travel zone, which includes 26 countries.

That was the deal agreed by EU member states' ambassadors in Brussels on Wednesday.

It is likely to enter into force by 2020 after MEPs and member states add final touches.

"We will be better able to stop those who may pose a threat to our citizens," Valentin Radev, the interior minister of Bulgaria, which holds the EU presidency, said on Wednesday.

"We need to know who is crossing our borders," the European Commission, which first proposed the scheme, said.

It said Etias was needed not just for security reasons, but also to reduce "migration risks of travellers benefiting from visa-free access to the Schengen area".

The British tabloids roared because the UK will become a "visa-exempt third country" when it exits the EU next year, falling under Etias, unless it negotiates an exemption.

Border problems already lie at the heart of Brexit talks, amid questions on how to keep free movement between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland when the UK leaves.

The Daily Mail promoted the idea of one British MP that the UK should impose a £10 (€11) on EU travellers in return for Etias to raise an extra £150m a year for the British treasury.

The British papers said the Schengen fee would raise money for the EU budget, but that was also partly misleading.

The Etias scheme is to cost €200m to launch and around €85m a year to maintain, the EU said.

There were 39 million visitors to the EU last year. If each one paid €7, it would generate €273m in revenues, helping to cover Etias costs, but the figure would diminish in subsequent years due to the three-year duration of the Etias permits.

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