UK must join EU visa policy to boost Irish tourism

A controversial proposal to help the flagging tourist industry north and south has been aired this week by Leinster MEP Nessa Childers.

A controversial proposal to help the flagging tourist industry north and south has been aired this week by Leinster MEP Nessa Childers.

In a letter to leaders of the North's main political parties, the Labour MEP called on the Northern Executive to break with UK policy and consider joining Europe's Schengen zone.

The Schengen zone, which encompasses 22 EU countries and three non-EU nations (Norway, Iceland and Switzerland), allows visitors from outside Europe to cross borders without passport checks.

This simplifies the visa process and encourages tourism from emerging markets including China and India. However as the UK has chosen to remain outside the Schengen agreement, Ireland is also unable to join because of our common land border.

Ms Childers claims that if the Republic and the North achieve an all-Ireland entry into the Schengen visa zone, it would make it easier for tourists to enjoy the attractions of entire island.

"If the new and rapidly expanding Chinese middle class wish to tour Europe, they only need one visa to visit Paris, Berlin and Rome. If they travel to Dublin or Belfast however, they need a separate visa which involves a huge amount of extra red tape and visa-application hassle. This means that potential tourists are turned off the prospect of visiting Ireland," said Ms Childers.