What would a change of government mean to how the E-Borders scheme is implemented?


I’ve been wondering if there will be any changes in the plan to make the E-Borders programme compulsory for sailors and motorboaters if – or should we say when – the government changes next year.

E-Borders requires commercial carriers and eventually independent individuals leaving or entering the UK to send electronically passport and other details to the UK Border Agency within 24 hours of departure or arrival. It was rolled out by airlines last month, ferry companies are next and then it will be on to the likes of you and me in our boats with the aim of fully implementing the scheme by 2014.

The Royal Yachting Association has being trying to make bureaucrats realise that sailing plans change and entering details about voyages online 24 hours beforehand is none too practical. But whether that objection is sinking in, who knows.

Gus Lewis, the legal manager of the RYA tells me that it’s still all rather foggy. He admits: “Our ongoing work is to establish exactly what they have in mind. It is still incredibly vague; the government haven’t published any details about how it will apply to recreational boaters.”

But he agrees that part of the motivation of E-Borders is, as you might imagine, political as it was a Labour manifesto pledge in 2005. One slight glimmer of hope is that while Lewis believes a new government will soldier on with E Borders “they have said they will do it smaller and cheaper”.

Which means that the RYA have a year or two to convince officials to save money and hassle by being a little more flexible or even excluding the minuscule number of border movements on private boats.

Sometimes I do wonder how much clout the RYA really has with government, and if big issues such as this, that matter enormously to most boaters, are getting as much devotion and application as Olympic sailing.

In this case, I hope so, because I have a doomy feeling that E-Borders could be the back door through which compulsory registration eventually arrives.