A leading candidate to be the next British prime minister once helped smuggle a 17-year-old girl into France and then Belgium, FrumForum has learned. Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, who has proposed amnesty for illegal migrants to Britain, showed a similar disregard for enforcing immigration laws by helping a British teenager hide in a bus lavatory and evade authorities during a 2003 cross-border trip to the European Parliament in Brussels.
Naomi Bullivant, a British citizen who was accompanying her friend on a Liberal Democrat-organized trip, had left behind her passport and could not legally enter France. But instead of being sent home, the 17-year-old was told to hide in the lavatory as their coach arrived at the immigration checkpoint. The immigration official in Britain did not spot Ms. Bullivant, and she was able to travel through France to Brussels.
Although the instruction to hide in the lavatory was given by an aide of Mr. Clegg’s, FrumForum has learned that Mr. Clegg, who was then a member of the European Parliament representing East Midlands, was aware of it and did not object. In fact, Mr. Clegg was so cavalier about the incident that, according to Ms. Bullivant, now 25, he even participated in a joke about it over dinner one evening in Brussels.
At the very least, Mr. Clegg acquiesced in an action that was in breach of procedures he, as a member of the European Parliament, was being paid to uphold and had sworn to defend. British citizens have the right to travel visa-free to France. However, since the United Kingdom is not a party to the Schengen agreement, which maintains common border controls for travelers to the European Union, it is mandatory for its citizens to carry a valid passport in order to enter Schengen states.
A French immigration official FrumForum spoke to was not pleased by this revelation. “France is in the Schengen area and British nationals who enter this territory must carry valid documentation,” said the official, who declined to be named. “It is illegal otherwise,” he added.
More significantly, this breach strikes at the heart of the security and immigration debates that are central to the ongoing general election in Britain. The principal reason for the French authorities’ frustration, the official explained, is the possibility of illegal immigrants entering France through Britain. The failure to thoroughly scrutinize the documentation of people exiting Britain means that illegal immigrants can very easily slip into France.
This story is not the sort of revelation on which elections turn. Yet it does draw attention to the chasm between Nick Clegg’s tough official stand that all immigrants in Britain be counted and his personal attitude to the issue, which one French immigration official described as being “risky.”
In an election season in which the British people seem more than usually fed up with politicians who think rules don’t apply to them, it seems one such politician is leading the Liberal Democrat party.