The government's controversial e-Borders programme has been dealt a blow by the European Commission (EC), which has warned that passengers entering the UK from other EU countries will not be bound by the scheme if it breaks their own data protection laws.
The £1.2bn e-Borders scheme was originally conceived as a way to control illegal immigration and terrorism by gathering information electronically on all travellers entering or leaving the UK.
However, it has been criticised in the past for various technical and logistical problems, as well as raising privacy fears surrounding the intrusive monitoring of EU citizens.
A new report by the influential Home Affairs Select Committee has now branded the project "impossible to achieve" in its current timeline, revealing that the EC sent a letter to the UK Border Authority outlining its concerns.
The EC stated in the letter that it will be happy with the programme only if "passengers who are EU citizens or their family members will not be refused entry/exit or incur sanctions in any way on the basis that their passenger data is unavailable to the UK authorities for whatever reason".
The letter went on to say that "carriers could not collect such data from passengers bound for the UK unless the local data protection authorities had confirmed this was compatible with national law".
The Home Affairs Select Committee believes that much work still needs to be done by the UK Border Authority to engage with carriers and the EC to iron out the various technical, logistical and legal issues.
"We remain of the view that the current timetable will be impossible to achieve, and it is still not clear whether all or some intra-EU travel will have to be omitted from the programme, either on freedom of movement or on national data protection grounds," the report said.
"The fact that so many major difficulties with the programme remain to be resolved causes us serious concern. We recommend our successors to keep a close watching brief on this programme."
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