The US have recently approached five European countries and proposed the idea of having a ‘pre-clearance’ agreement when embarking on flights to America. Out of the five countries that are in discussions, Britain is most likely to enter into such an agreement. The British government has expressed an interest in allowing Britons to face strict searches and interrogations by Homeland Security staff in UK airports.
The State has agreed to such a procedure because there are many advantages but from a security perspective, what exactly are these advantages and are there any issues we could face?
Looking at the reasons in support of the move, added security will help to reduce queue times at US borders and ease freedom of movement into America. The move will also mean less risk of people being turned away upon arrival into the US by filtering out travelers that Homeland Security deem unsuitable.
The idea of Homeland representatives having a presence within EU airports is not a completely new one. In the last three years, American security officials have prevented 1,300 people from leaving American-bound flights from the EU on an advisory basis.
This agreement has been in place in Shannon and Dublin airports since 2009 – with airports in Canada and the Caribbean also allowing preclearance of passengers boarding for America.
Reduced border control queue time is obviously a positive, however opponents of these plans argue that this would be a further infringement on the liberty of law-abiding citizens and that the plans are just another method of America controlling who is able to fly into the country.
Concerns have been expressed by a number of the other countries currently in talks. The Netherlands have been discussing the financial and logistical issues surrounding the proposal, whereas Sweden have displayed outright scepticism toward the idea and if it would be beneficial. Other countries involved in the plans are France, who are open to a deal with the US as long as financial support is offered, but Germany have been keeping their opinions on the plans closely guarded.
It is likely that the UK will be the first to agree a deal with Homeland security and the rest of the EU may then be encouraged to follow suit.
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