EU Referendum

Borders ‘to shut in migrant crisis’: As EU panics, PM is urged to ramp up demands for Brussels reform

  • Europe’s border-free travel zone could be suspended for up to two years
  • France’s prime minister warned that mass immigration could kill the EU
  • Officials to meet on Monday to discuss suspending Schengen Agreement
  • Eurosceptics say UK should have the right to impose free movement limits
  • See news on the migrant crisis at  
Pressure is building on David Cameron from Tory MPs to seize the moment and increase his demands in Britain's EU referendum negotiations with Brussels
Pressure is building on David Cameron from Tory MPs to seize the moment and increase his demands in Britain’s EU referendum negotiations with Brussels

Officials will meet on Monday to discuss suspending the Schengen Agreement – ripping up one of the EU’s most sacred rules.

The tumult triggered demands from Tory MPs for David Cameron to seize the moment and increase his own demands in Britain’s EU referendum negotiations with Brussels.

Eurosceptics said that, with borders being re-imposed across the continent, now was the time to demand Britain should be able to impose its own limits on free movement.

On a day of drama in capitals across Europe:

  • Mr Cameron admitted he could drop his demand for a four-year ban on migrant benefits if Europe offers an alternative;
  • The Czech PM said Britain could be offered a so-called emergency brake instead, allowing temporary limits on EU workers;
  • A poll showed the UK’s referendum race remains neck and neck – with ‘stay’ on 52 per cent and ‘leave’ on 48 per cent;
  • EU figures showed a staggering 1.25million migrants arrived in Europe last year;
  • Turkey promised German chancellor Angela Merkel it would do ‘everything it could’ to stem the tide of migrants;
  • The Slovenian PM warned there would be ‘conflicts’ between EU member states unless the crisis was brought under control within weeks.

Some 26 countries removed border controls between each other under Schengen, but this unravelled as the migrant crisis took hold.

 Yesterday, French PM Manuel Valls told the BBC: ‘It’s Europe that could die, not the Schengen area. If Europe can’t protect its own borders, it’s the very idea of Europe that could be thrown into doubt.

‘It could disappear, of course – the European project, not Europe itself, not our values, but the concept we have of Europe, that the founding fathers had of Europe.

‘Yes, that is in very grave danger. That’s why you need border guards, border controls on the external borders of the European Union.’


  • The agreement was signed in the town of Schengen, Luxembourg, on June 14 1985 by five out of the 10 member states of the European Economic Community – Belgium, France, Holland, West Germany and Luxembourg.
  • The Schengen Agreement allows people from member states to travel freely across the continent without a passport, as all 26 participating countries agreed not to impose border controls.
  • The countries signed up to the agreement are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland. Britain and Ireland chose not to join the agreement, while Croatia and Cyprus are also not members. Bulgaria and Romania are in the process of joining up.
  • Many refugees and migrants are exploiting the Schengen zone by moving freely through Europe to find countries that are more likely to grant them asylum.
  •  In response to the spiralling migrant crisis some countries have been bringing back temporary check points between each other to stem the flow of people and get back control of who crosses their borders.
  • In November an emergency meeting of EU justice and interior ministers discussed the possibility of re-drawing the Schengen zone with leaders posing whether it could become smaller.

He appeared blame Angela Merkel for declaring Germany would welcome 1million migrants, adding: ‘If you say anything in Europe today, a few seconds later it is on the smartphones of people in refugee camps near Libya.’

Nine nations have already requested temporary border controls, and yesterday it was revealed ministers are considering suspending the border-free zone for up to two years.

In Amsterdam on Monday, interior ministers will for the first time look at invoking an emergency clause to bring back checks for a prolonged period – if leaders agree that there are ‘systemic deficiencies’ in the control of the borders.

Macedonian borders reopen for migrants heading to Germany

Influx: Migrants and refugees enter a registration camp after crossing the Greek-Macedonian border

 Migrants and refugees arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey

 ‘In no hurry for EU deal’: Cameron addresses Davos audience


 Tory MP Peter Bone said it was now clear people around Europe ‘wanted control’, adding: ‘We should have complete control of our borders and be able to let in exactly who we want. I hope that David Cameron is hammering this argument home in Brussels.’

Tory MEP David Campbell Bannerman said Mr Cameron was now in a ‘very strong position to demand fundamental change’.

But, on a visit to Prague yesterday, the PM gave no indication he will be more ambitious as he seeks changes ahead of Britain’s in/out referendum.

Kept out: A migrant is lowered down from a border fence by a Spanish Civil Guard at the border between Morocco and Spain's north African enclave of Melilla

 Czech prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka played down the prospect of the UK securing a four-year ban on migrants claiming benefits from their arrival in the UK.

Instead, Mr Cameron may have to rely on EU legislation which allows a temporary brake on migration if it is ‘destabilising’ public services.

Eastern European states with large numbers of citizens in the West are adamant they will not accept curbs on in-work benefits that are ‘discriminatory’ against their nationals.

Mr Cameron insisted the four-year proposal was ‘still on the table’, but said he would welcome alternatives.

 Czech PM: Considering emergency brake for social benefits


Upset: Turkey has promised German chancellor Angela Merkel (pictured) it would do ‘everything it could’ to stem the tide of migrants

Upset: Turkey has promised German chancellor Angela Merkel (pictured) it would do ‘everything it could’ to stem the tide of migrants

 It is the first time an EU leader has publicly suggested an emergency brake is on the table – though it has been discussed behind closed doors for months.

But Steve Baker, the Tory MP who chairs Conservatives for Britain, said: ‘The British people want their government to be able to control numbers, not shut the gate when the horse has already bolted.’

Former prime minister Tony Blair yesterday warned the EU would face ‘a huge political problem’ if terrorists were found to be entering Europe among the refugees.

The latest survey for the Independent newspaper by ORB last night revealed 52 per cent believe Britain should stay in Europe – a figure unchanged from last month.

On Thursday, German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere said he could ‘not foresee a moment’ when the emergency measures to suspend Schengen would be lifted. And Swedish and Dutch PMs warned the EU had just weeks to avoid its demise.

 Europe without borders – 1995 Schengen Agreement explained

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