The Government have decided to opt in to the aspect of the draft regulation that establishes the conditions for the access of the European travel information authorisation system (ETIAS) to the European criminal records information system (ECRIS-TCN), and has decided not to opt out of the aspect of the draft regulation that establishes the conditions for the access of ETIAS to the second Schengen information system (SIS II).
ETIAS is the EU’s travel authorisation system that visa-exempt visitors (third country nationals and stateless persons) will have to apply to prior to their entry in the Schengen area. The UK does not participate in ETIAS as it forms part of Schengen border legislation that the UK cannot participate in, but the UK fully supports the EU’s efforts to strengthen its external borders of which this forms part.
Under this proposal, an ETIAS central unit will access EU information technology systems to support their considerations, specifically ECRIS-TCN and SIS II. Once implemented, the regulation will allow the EU to revoke a grant of admission to a third country national if a relevant alert is identified from data the UK has uploaded to the ECRIS-TCN or SIS II databases. The European Commission has been working towards 2021 as the date from which ETIAS would become operational, but the date might be extended to 2023.
Whilst there are advantages to the EU from ETIAS having access to UK’s data, there are no obvious operational or public protection benefits for the UK given it involves the provision of data to a scheme that the UK does not participate in. However, a significant argument in favour of participating is to prevent the UK’s non-participation from giving rise to issues around UK access to SIS II or ECRIS-TCN in future.
Until the UK leaves the EU we remain a full member, and the Government will continue to consider the application of the UK’s opt-in to EU legislation on a case by case basis, with a view to maximising the UK’s efforts to collaborate with the EU on a security partnership once the UK leaves the EU, including on SIS II and ECRIS-TCN.