By a Newsnet reporter
The anti-independence campaign suffered a fresh blow today after one of its key arguments against independence – the introduction of border controls – was undermined when it emerged Ireland and the UK were seeking to relax travel restrictions for foreign visitors.
It has emerged that Dublin and London plan to extend the Common Travel Area, which currently allows unhindered travel for the citizens of both countries, and create a ‘mini-Schengen’ area that would also allow tourists and business travellers freedom to move between the Irish Republic and the UK.
The new Irish/UK agreement is part of an economic strategy that will also ensure closer trade ties in areas including agriculture and food, research and innovation, and energy. Currently trade between the two countries is worth fifty billion euros and it is thought the agreement could enhance this and also result in joint Irish/UK trade missions.
The move is thought to be an attempt at tapping into the growing Asian business traveller and tourism market. The global tourist industry is set to grow by 50 per cent between now and 2030, with half of that coming from China alone.
“The objective is to create the equivalent of a mini-Schengen zone between Ireland and the UK which will enable all visitors to travel freely between both North and South and the two islands,” an Irish government spokesman told the Financial Times.
“We see it very much in our national economic interest to pursue these activities with Ireland,” a senior British government official added.
“Of course, we hope that it will have a political benefit as well by consolidating the much better relations we have these days.”
A joint statement is expected from UK PM David Cameron and Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
Key recommended areas of collaboration include:
* Joint Irish/UK trade missions
* Increased electrical interconnection capacity
* Developing a common travel area visa, allowing for a single visa for travel to both countries
* Closer co-operation in banking and financial services
The news is a blow to the anti-independence campaign which has consistently said that independence could lead to trade and movement barriers being erected between Scotland and England.
Speaking in March 2012, Conservative Home Secretary Theresa May claimed that independence could see border checks introduced.
“If there was a separate Scotland there could very well be some sort of border check,” she said.
Another to claim that independence would harm trade and travel between Scotland and England was Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie, who speaking last year said: “Passport controls between England and Scotland would have a significant impact on the ease of travel between our two nations. This would have an impact on business and personal relations.”
Last month, Secretary of State Michael Moore repeated the claims, insisting that immigration controls would be required.
“…if you have a different set of immigration policies in Scotland from the rest of the UK somebody, somewhere is going to have check how those migrants, immigrants are moving around these islands.
“So [the SNP] haven’t answered the question, but there’s a pretty basic question that they need to grapple with – will there be border controls?
“If you have a different immigration policy, it’s hard to see how you’d avoid them.”
Commenting on the UK and Irish governments plans, Clare Adamson MSP, a member of the European and External Affairs Committee, said:
“Another day, and another Project Fear scare story bites the dust. The No campaigners have consistently argued that there would be border controls between Scotland and England if we vote Yes, when the reality is that the UK Government are working with Ireland to broaden and deepen the Common Travel Area which has existed between the two countries since the 1920s.
“A pilot project for mutual recognition of UK and Irish visas is to begin in the autumn, and the next step is for common visas to be issued and joint visa application centres set up abroad.
“That is the reality of two friendly, neighbouring, independent countries co-operating in their common interest – and it is a world away from the tripe that is trotted out on a daily basis by Project Fear.
“One by one, the No campaign’s claims are being exposed and discredited – on mobile phone charges, triple-A credit rating, inward investment and Europe. Only this week, they were trying to argue the ridiculous case that having oil is somehow bad for Scotland – when the reality is that even without a drop of oil Scotland’s economic output per head is 99% of the UK figure, and oil tax revenues would be a far smaller share of Scotland’s revenue than is the case for Norway.
“If anyone from the No campaign ever again tries to argue the ‘customs posts at the border’ bogey, they will simply be laughed at in light of the UK Government working to broaden and deepen the existing Common Travel Area with Ireland.
“The basic problem for Project Fear is that it has got nothing good to say about Scotland – which is why it is reduced to tripe and dishonesty.”