“Are we nearly there yet?” I can’t even begin to think how the staff chaperoning school coach trips to France kept their cool over the weekend.
A friend’s son was one of many people stuck at Dover for hours. Once they did make it over the Channel, 10 hours later than planned, teachers were tasked with finding an unscheduled hotel for the night, for 100 children and staff.
And there’s more to come. Since Brexit we have become a “third country” in the eyes of the EU – and that will soon mean that we will need to subscribe to Europe’s new Entry and Exit System (EES) and visa-waiver programme, Etias.
The first phase, EES, will require biometric data to be taken at borders. It has already been delayed until at least the end of this year after many EU states voiced concerns about implementation of the new technology.
There are some stickier pinch-points, such as at the space-constrained ports of Dover, Folkestone and Eurostar’s London St Pancras terminus. At each of these departure points to Europe, travellers must pass through French border control before crossing the Channel.
Once EES and Etias are functioning, drivers will have to get out of their vehicles at ports to complete the new EU checks – a process that might take as long as 10 minutes for four car passengers but exceed 90 minutes for a coach-load of holidaymakers.
The chief executive of the Port of Dover, Doug Bannister, blamed last summer’s gridlock on post-Brexit passport checks and has warned of severe and ongoing disruption when EES and Etias come into operation. The freight trade association, Logistics UK, warns that the new border measures could lead to 17-mile tailbacks at Dover.
Tory MP John Redwood helpfully suggests that we holiday in the UK to avoid border delays. The holiday of last resort is hardly how our tourist board would want to be promoted, but the prospect of sitting in gridlock for hours waiting to head into Europe isn’t exactly the stuff of dreams, either.