I have heard and read about the perceived weakness of our country’s borders. Some of it from people who have guarded our borders, some from politicos and some from well-meaning commentators.
Well I think I can add a little bit of reality to the debate based on my own, personal experiences.
In 2005 my wife and I decided to up sticks and go and live in France. As you all know France is part of the EU as is the UK. I have seen many arguments along the line of “we can’t do that, we’re all members of the EU”. The reality was that because we wanted to do things properly and become lawful residents of France we had to jump through a few hoops.
Firstly, and most important to the current discussions, we had to prove to the French Administration that we were not going to be a ‘burden on the State’. In other words we had to prove that we had sufficient income to support ourselves and would not be claiming benefits.
Around 2007 Sarkozy made it even more difficult to settle in France by placing draconian conditions on who could access their Health System and how. Many ex pat Brits undergoing treatment for serious illnesses such as cancer were forced to sell up and return to the UK. I don’t recall our government making a fuss about this and Sarko got his way.
We had to renounce our membership of the NHS in order to live in France and if we were taken ill on one of our return visits to the UK we were treated like any other foreign visitor and required to pay, or produce Insurance.
Despite the myth of unfettered travel across EU Borders, the reality was somewhat different. At various times we were stopped by French officials and questioned, had passports checked, and occasionally our vehicle was physically searched, despite being on EU plates. Even driving a French-registered vehicle provided no immunity once they realised we were not French.
On at least three occasions we had our vehicle (twice UK registered and once French registered) physically checked for traces of explosives! and this by Armed Officers, not exactly a polite chat, or ignoring Border crossings. The French are not renowned for their sense of humour, and ‘take no shit’.
So much for weak Border Controls.
I firmly believe that if our government was serious about maintaining the security of our Borders it can be achieved without violating any EU laws.