Another Democratic Crisis Approaching, warns Chris White

A top official at Dover Port has been warning that travellers will face long delays crossing the Channel next year. After the chaos of the past year the forecast is alarming. The inevitable cause is even more so. The European Union will be requiring non EU citizens to be fingerprinted and entered on a data base.

Dover Traffic

Something everyone should be concerned about is that the official is engaging in talks in Calais to try to reduce inevitable traffic delays. So what is the concern about this?

At this point it becomes an issue for the government and administration of the United Kingdom. This analysis is a message to responsible figures in government - assuming that such still exist in reality - and for their opponents. But be clear, those at the top of the Civil Service need to reintroduce something that is generally lacking in the UK - efficient and effective administration.

What is needed and has been basically ignored is the need for British identity cards and an agreement with the EU to accept such in the case of British visitors with British acceptance of identity cards issued by EU member states (which already happens).

The British electorate have previously opposed the introduction of identity cards as an intrusion into their liberty. There was an attempt to introduce ID cards under the Labour administration of Gordon Brown but it failed. In fairness to the British electorate the proposal would have introduced 49 items of information carried on cards. I recall being in a lift at the European Parliament in Strasbourg when the then Prime Minister stepped in and I overheard a senior civil servant saying: “ID cards should carry more than just the name, address and date of birth”.

Before picking up on a key point of that I should underscore that without a deal with the EU that can only be achieved at government level everyone who visits the EU will be held on a data base over which they will have no democratic control. As such, it makes a mockery of those who oppose British ID cards.

Politicians have been making wild statements about dealing with cross-Channel migrants who are put in hotels and then disappear. I lived in Belgium for 35 years and knew many people who, having been asked by police for their ID cards and were unable to produce them, were immediately arrested and held until their card could be produced. ID cards are key to controlling illegal immigration. Now why has the current shambolic administration not thought of that?

There is another major issue that successive British governments have totally ignored: namely the question of criminal records. Gordon Brown defended his administration’s view that police and employers were entitled to know that someone had a criminal record. Probably that was a major factor in defeating the introduction of ID cards. According to Home Office figure some 25 million people in England and Wales have criminal convictions.

The issue that politicians of all parties overlook is that employers can ask for criminal record checks. Also, once the police know someone’s name and date of birth they can find out about convictions in seconds. All they need is a driving licence or a utility bill such as are currently required by virtually everyone including banks and insurance companies.

What is important in this aspect of the ID card debate is that the UK is almost alone in maintaining criminal records for minor offences for 100 years from the individual concerned’s date of birth. Let me be clear: I am referring to MINOR OFFENCES. In the Netherlands nothing under a 200 euro fine is recorded as a criminal offence. In Germany minor offences are officially expunged after three years. In Belgium people convicted of offences can apply to a judge to have their record expunged and, where they can show good behaviour they normally are.

Minor criminal records in the UK most certainly dissuade people from offering their services to charitable organisations, social services et al. If by chance some bigwig in London should be reading this they should note that sexual, violent and serious convictions are kept on permanent record, although in Scotland serious offence can be expunged after 25 or 40 years.

So here is the key point: being fingerprinted and entered on a data base outside the control of the UK government must, surely, be a breach of human rights.

Much of course will depend on how those records are used. The morons that are running the UK should also pay attention because if British police find, for example, an unidentified fingerprint at a crime scene and can ask if the EU have the print on record all hell will break loose for the person concerned whether innocent or guilty.

So, is it right, or should I say just, to leave the issue to a port official whose only real interest is the movement of tourist traffic?

If this matter should, by a chance in a million, be already on the desk of anyone currently clinging on to power then I should say my proposition is a vote winner but, more importantly a question of civil and human rights that needs to be addressed on high.

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Chris White

Chris White

Chris White is a former UK national newspaper journalist and was the founder and editor of a magazine focussed on EU affairs.

Now writing for EUToday, Chris has his own column, 'Chris's Corner'.

Chris is a member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists, a professional association for journalists, the senior such body in the UK and the oldest in the world, having been founded in October 1884

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