It’s at this time of year many of us like to cast our minds back to that magical moment all those years ago when a very special little baby was born in a little town in Luxembourg.

The baby in question was actually an agreement, born primarily for the unfortunate residents of Schengen. Until that moment each inhabitant of the little town were required to carry their passports whenever they left home, as being on the immediate border with France and Germany meant that the likelihood they were going to cross a border that day was going to be pretty high, if not unavoidable.

  • CUSTOMS OFFICIAL
    Could you tell me the nature of your visit to Germany today please sir?
  • SCHENGEN RESIDENT
    I’m going to buy some potatoes for supper officer
  • CUSTOMS OFFICIAL
    Are you aware that under Luxembourg law 1706/142 it is illegal to import starch-based foodstuffs from the German Reich?
  • SCHENGEN RESIDENT
    Absolutely which is why I’ll be importing them into France, and then bringing them home across the France-Luxembourg border. Later I’ll have to head out again, because I want to buy some French ham, which I’ll need to import into Germany on my way home.

It was rightly pointed out that this situation was totally ridiculous, and seeing as we were ‘all friends now’ wouldn’t it be a good idea to focus our efforts on keeping things such as illegal potatoes out of the EU, rather than worry about whether the spuds in question had the correct paperwork when they traveled the few hundred yards across an internal border.

So, the Schengen Agreement soon saw the complete removal of border controls across much of Europe, and today has expanded such that it is now possible to travel right across the continent without being stopped by the potato police… with one exception.

It seems the British and Irish Governments either do not believe in the ‘we’re all friends now’ philosophy, are utterly paranoid about the sudden influx of Europeans coming over and taking our jobs and our women, or or …. I can’t think of a third reason.

Which is why many of us Brits abroad, who begrudgingly make the journey over to the UK at Christmas time, pray that one day baby Schengen will be embraced both sides of the channel. You only have to visit the Eurostar terminal at Gare du Nord in Paris, to realise how ridiculous today’s situation is, where every passenger entering has to have their passport checked – TWICE! Resulting in massive angry queues all the way down the station concourse, and turning what should be a quick effortless journey into a lengthy bureaucratic nightmare. Then, at London St Pancras, the Customs and Excise crew give everyone a good hard stare as they enter the country (something they don’t bother doing at Ebbsfleet incidentally) under the signs that say ‘Welcome to the United Kingdom’.

If worries over immigration are the reason for maintaining this frankly pointless, and no doubt expensive, bit of bureaucracy then perhaps the British Government should consider this: that if you make it easier for people to enter the country, then the easier it will also be for them to leave.

(See – you can travel all around the blue bit without being asked to show your spuds)