Tuesday 12 December 2017

EU plan for border force risks row on sovereignty

British Prime Minister David Cameron. Photo: AP
British Prime Minister David Cameron. Photo: AP
Syrians trying to extinguish fire that was caused by Syrian government aerial bombardment on the Damascus suburb of Douma. Photo: Douma Revolution via AP

Matthew Holehouse in Brussels

The European Commission yesterday unveiled plans for a single border force and coastguard that could be deployed on a nation's soil without the consent of its government, sparking a furious row over sovereignty.

The plan, intended to save the Schengen zone from collapse due to a vast influx of refugees, has been called the biggest transfer of national autonomy to Brussels since the creation of the single currency.

More than a million migrants are expected to enter the EU this year. It has forced states to reintroduce border controls, putting the 30-year-old Schengen free travel zone in jeopardy.

The new force will comprise aircraft, unmanned drones and ships and have 1,500 officers ready to be deployed at three days' notice.

Countries in the Schengen zone will submit 2-3pc of their existing border force to the new body, which will have a headquartered staff of 1,000, and will carry out mandatory inspections of national borders to identify weak spots.

The budget for EU border operations will rise from €240m this year to €320m by 2020.

Britain is outside of Schengen, but the European Commission said UK officials could take part on an "ad hoc" basis, while Downing Street said that the UK was willing to volunteer more officials.

"It is in our interest that the EU has a strong external border and we want to look at ways we can continue to support countries on that," a spokesman said.

The plans will be discussed by national leaders at a summit in Brussels tomorrow night.

Meanwhile, British forces are poised to support a newly formed "ground army" from Muslim nations that may attack Isil in Syria within weeks.

The coalition of 34 nations last night said it would send special forces into Syria to defeat Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

British forces, alongside the United States and other Nato allies, are already bombing the extremist group in both Iraq and Syria, but military sources said they would have to provide command and control, intelligence and air support to troops from the new coalition.

Last night Downing Street welcomed the proposals from the Gulf-led nations but declined to comment on military support.

British military sources said that while Britain would not provide "boots on the ground", the UK armed forces were on standby to provide air support and "command and control".

But any Gulf or other forces would clearly bolster or take the place of the 70,000 "moderate rebels" whom British PM David Cameron wants to be the "boots on the ground" to displace Isil from Syria. (© Daily Telegraph, London)


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