According to Bloomberg News, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is interested in negotiating with the European Union (EU) to facilitate travel for UK citizens to the rest of Europe.
Since the U.K. departed from the E.U., British citizens have frequently experienced significant delays at airports and ports in countries such as France, Italy, Germany, and other European nations. The prime minister wants an agreement letting U.K. citizens use the E.U.’s e-gates for passport checks which would expedite border crossings. Delays are occurring due to the manual inspection of passports, which can involve stamping them.
The British government is concerned that plans by the E.U. to implement biometric data collection for visa waivers for U.K. citizens and other "third-country" nationals, which will be put into practice in 2024, will not address delays and are instead looking for complete access to the bloc's e-gates. In February, an agreement was reached between the U.K. and the E.U. on trading arrangements for Northern Ireland, which remains subject to E.U. regulations due to its open border with Ireland.
The U.K. already allows E.U. visitors to use e-gates in Britain. Still, the deal has yet to be reciprocated by other European countries excluding Spain and Portugal, which are allowing British citizens to use their e-gates at major airports last year. This led U.K. officials to believe a similar arrangement could be expanded across the bloc.
Mr. Sunak is facing significant challenges related to travel problems after his recent efforts to address the Northern Ireland Protocol issue and the crisis involving small boats. The ongoing travel problems add to his concerns, as British citizens have been facing extended wait times when traveling to European countries following the U.K.'s departure from the European Union. Although a formal deal has not been made yet, diplomats have reportedly raised the issue informally.
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