Talking point

Is Brexit to blame for Dover chaos?

UK and French officials in war of words as holidaymakers hit by long delays

UK officials have blamed French authorities for long delays at Dover that have left holidaymakers and hauliers stuck in six-hour queues to board ferries over to mainland Europe.

“In the early hours of the first day of the summer holidays, French border guards opened as few as four out of ten booths, leading to accusations that the disruption was deliberate,” The Telegraph reported. Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg told the paper that “British holidays are being sabotaged by France’s incompetence” and failure to provide enough staff for French passport checks, which have been conducted in Dover since 2004 under the Le Touquet Treaty.

The resulting chaos on what was expected to be the busiest weekend for traffic crossing in more than two years “will hit the French economy and British families alike”, Rees-Mogg added.

‘Fake news’

 French authorities “have hit back at claims they are to blame”, said the i news site. Calais MP Pierre-Henri Dumont described the accusations as “fake news” and said the delays were caused by Brexit and the requirement to stamp every passport. Dumont also pointed to a lack of investment in Dover’s port, which he said was three times smaller than its counterpart in Calais.

Port of Dover boss Doug Bannister initially sided with British politicians in blaming a lack of French border guards for the chaos, but  later admitted to LBC that it was “absolutely true” that Brexit was ultimately to blame. In “a post-Brexit environment”, he said, the “transaction times through the borders are going to take longer”.

The Independent reported that “observations of cars at the border checks” indicated a typical time of 90 seconds for a family of four to have their documents checked, “probably three times longer than before the post-Brexit rules took effect”.

Kent Online reported that one of the vehicles in the queues this weekend was a truck driven by activists from anti-Brexit campaign group Led by Donkeys that was displaying a massive screen featuring footage of Boris Johnson, Rees-Mogg and David Davis promising free-flowing traffic at Dover.

In 2020, the Financial Times reported that the UK Cabinet Office had rejected a £33m proposal to double the capacity for French government passport checks at Dover, “raising the prospect of long delays for passengers after the end of the Brexit transition period”.

“Until a fully automated border system is operational,” said The Guardian, “passport stamps are now required at most entry and exit points, significantly increasing processing times.”

And the disruption at Dover “may get worse when new biometric checks are brought in as part of the new European Union entry/exit system (EES) for third party requirements”, the paper added. These checks, being introduced next year, may require people to leave their vehicles for biometric checks similar to those at airports.

The current delays are expected to ease in the coming weeks, “but the basic problem remains the road network in east Kent and the port infrastructure – which was specified and built with no thought that it would become a frontier as hard as those the EU has with Russia and Turkey”, said The Independent.

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