As published in the Evening Standard:
After Paris it is clear we cannot have a Europe without borders
The Schengen Agreement is over. The concept of free movement throughout Europe was already collapsing as waves of people fleeing the Syrian civil war overwhelmed the European Union’s border controls. It was put on life support when a Syrian passport, used to enter the EU as one of many refugees through the Greek island of Leros, was found on the body of one of the murderers in Paris on Friday. Now France has delivered the coup-de-grace by demanding European nations impose border checks inside Europe’s free movement zone.
It is likely that Islamic State’s use of the refugee route to smuggle terrorists was deliberate. Its strategists despise the Syrians who have fled their country since the start of the war. They very probably despise the generosity and tolerance that many of the people of Europe have shown to the refugees; they view our decency as decadence.
Either way they have set out to create a new fear in the hearts of the people of Europe, a fear of the desperate people seeking our help. And they have succeeded.
Even before Friday’s atrocity Austria, the Netherlands and even Sweden were reinstating border controls, with Hungary and Slovenia enforcing them with razor wire fences. Donald Tusk, the European Council President, said “saving Schengen is a race against time and we are determined to win that race. Without effective control on our external borders, the Schengen rules will not survive.” That was before Paris.
Now even Germany and Italy are clamping down on border controls. France is calling for a suspension of Schengen. And it is becoming evident that controlling Europe’s external borders, especially the porous borders of southern Europe, is virtually impossible. There are too many physical, legal, political and moral problems inherent in policing that vast frontier effectively.
A borderless Europe, symbolised by Schengen, cannot survive. It was described by Margaret Thatcher as “magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la politique.” Now, just as predicted, the dream of a borderless Europe has crashed headlong into reality.
The people of Europe are looking to their national governments, not to the EU, to protect them from IS barbarism. They will expect governments to do everything possible to control borders to keep out would-be killers. The fact that much of the threat is already within the EU will not change that demand.
The European Commission will fight to keep the Agreement. It is central to the idea of free movement of peoples, which is central to the whole European project. As we have seen with the euro, the ratchet of the European project, geared towards ever closer union, is utterly incapable of reversing, of bowing to public pressure.
Nevertheless, Europe needs to consider a post-Schengen solution. Since the Commission will dig in its heels, it falls to Britain, France and Germany, the leading nations of Europe, to find a workable solution. We are far safer in the UK, as we are surrounded by water and have not suffered the plague of weapons that flooded the black market on the continent following Balkan conflicts.
We need a system of managed migration, one that will provide for a qualified freedom of movement while also providing for secure borders. IS has reached across the world to inflict horror on Paris. Securing our borders would go some way towards limiting that reach.