Welcome to Monday’s Early Edition from i.
“No water, no food, no toilets… it’s disgusting.” That’s the description from one teacher stuck on a coach full of school children in seemingly endless queues for Dover at the weekend. Parents detailed their, and their kids’, anguish over severely delayed or cancelled school trips after coaches were stuck for up to 20 hours at the port. For many taking to social media to vent, there was just one thing to blame: “After 14hrs stuck in coach at Dover My son just had his school ski trip cancelled. Gutted for him. Absolutely livid and upset,” one wrote, adding: “I’m still waiting to hear a good thing about Brexit”. But asked about that very topic on Sunday, Home Secretary Suella Braverman said: “No, I don’t think that’s fair to say that this has been an adverse effect of Brexit. We’ve had many years now since leaving the European Union and there’s been, on the whole, very good operations and processes at the border.” So what’s to blame? We’ll take a look at the issues behind it, and what it might mean for the future, after the headlines.
Today’s news, and why it matters
The UK’s largest-ever investigation into mental health services is expected to be upgraded to a statutory public inquiry after an intervention by senior Tories. The Essex Mental Health Independent Inquiry is investigating the deaths of 2,000 people at Essex NHS mental health units over a 20-year period, but has been undermined by thousands of current and former staff refusing to give evidence.
You don’t think ‘healthy river‘ when you see the murky water of Wealdstone Brook in north west London. “You can see layers of fat on top of the water, and you can make out the solids in the water and toilet paper. Yes, human faeces,” one local resident tells i. “If the river was a patient, it would be in intensive care. It’s sick… and it needs treating.”
Patients face 10 days of “distress and disruption” from next week when a 96-hour strike by tens of thousands of junior doctors begins across England, senior health figures are warning. Up to 60,000 doctors will be eligible to join four days of industrial action, which begins at 7am next Tuesday. Hospitals will begin contacting patients from today to reschedule procedures, with more than 200,000 appointments and operations expected to be cancelled and areas such as A&E, intensive care and cancer treatment will be affected.
Former minister John Penrose has said people should be able to add more storeys to their homes to tackle housing shortages and warned that the failure to build enough houses in the UK has led to “increased poverty”. In an essay the former Northern Ireland minister warned that the country’s housing crisis had been “brewing for ages” and that large-scale changes are needed to “upend four or more decades of failure”.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman has defended her stance that migrants crossing the Channel are “breaking the law” by claiming there is “no good reason” for them to be making the “treacherous” crossing. She also defended the Government’s delay in getting many of its migration measures off the ground, saying she would not give a deadline as to when flights to Rwanda would begin taking off.
Key factors behind the long delays at Dover:
Bad weather: A “perfect storm” of bad weather, traffic, and higher-than-anticipated coach loads all contributed to the huge wait times, ferry companies and the port of Dover said. Ferry companies cited bad weather – including strong winds – in the Channel as responsible for delays or cancellations of some sailing. Travel numbers returning to pre-pandemic highs also caused havoc. The port also received 15% more coach bookings for the Easter period than it had initially anticipated when planning for the break – which it started doing “three or four months ago,” according to Doug Bannister, head of the port. Suella Braverman said: “What I would say is at acute times when there is a lot of pressure crossing the Channel, whether that’s on the tunnel or ferries, then I think that there’s always going to be a back-up and I just urge everybody to be a bit patient while the ferry companies work their way through the backlog.”
Brexit: Beyond the weather, and the traffic, the issue that appeared to be taking up vast amounts of time was the checks in place at Dover. “It was just taking longer than we anticipated,” Doug Bannister explained on Sky. “Because it was taking longer to process each coach load, because of the checks that they had to do.” So is this the fault of Brexit? Last year, Mr Bannister conceded that new customs checks that came into force due to leaving the EU would mean lengthier processing times. “That is indeed as a result of Brexit, that additional time to process is indeed as a result of Brexit,” he said in July last year. Travel expert Simon Calder was more emphatic. “Since Brexit, we have asked to have our passports minutely examined and stamped, as a result of that checks take longer,” he said at the weekend. Just whose fault this is might depends on whose politics you follow. Blaming the French for a lack of staffing is a theme that has emerged on one side of the political divide. Last year, Liz Truss, when she was foreign secretary, did just that, prompting the French Transport Minister to retaliate with: “France is not responsible for Brexit.” But there are two problems here – one is that the government rejected a £33m proposal to double the capacity for French passport checks at the port. The other, is that according to Doug Bannister, French Police aux Frontières, “really resourced appropriately yesterday. Today, they turned up with even more officers to try and help us out and get us moving as quickly as possible.” Shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy said the problem was the government had not planned for what was going to happen post-Brexit. She said ministers had “known for a very long time that they needed to make sure that there were resources in place to deal with additional paperwork checks”.
Biometrics and beyond: The very bad news, for hopeful travellers out there, is that things may get much worse before they (or if they) improve. The really big change to border control checks – those involving biometrics – are still set to come. The EU’s new Entry/Exit System is expected to be implemented this November, and will mean biometric checks for passengers from non-EU countries – that means being fingerprinted and having a facial image taken. The system is likely to be “challenging” for Dover and the Eurotunnel terminal in Folkestone. Last year, Mr Bannister said he was worried about it at ports, where “there is no process, no technology, no design for a car-load of passengers transiting a busy ferry terminal on a dark stormy night.” MPs have previously warned that the new system could cause major traffic jams, with Transport Select Committee chair Huw Merriman saying last year that the scheme could cause “17-mile tailbacks”.
Around the world
One of Russia’s most popular military bloggers and correspondents has been killed by an explosion at a cafe in St Petersburg. Maxim Fomin, better known by his alias Vladlen Tatarsky, was delivering a talk when a blast tore through the venue. Police said the explosive device was hidden in a statue.
Rupert Murdoch’s children are understood to be delighted at their father’s engagement to Ann Lesley Smith, largely because she won’t “deliver any new siblings”, i has been told. Elisabeth, Llachlan and James Murdoch are also believed to have been reassured that their father, 92, will have a tight pre-nuptial agreement with Ms Smith, 66, protecting their interests in the family’s media empire.
The US plans to open an embassy in Vanuatu, in a move designed to boost diplomatic presence in the Pacific amid China’s growing influence. “Establishing US embassy Port Vila would facilitate areas of potential bilateral cooperation and development assistance, including efforts to tackle the climate crisis,” the state department said.
Finland’s right-wing opposition National Coalition Party has claimed victory over the Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s Social Democrats in a tightly fought general election. Ms Marin conceded defeat, saying: “It’s a really good achievement, even though I didn’t finish first today.”
A 106-year-old Filipino tribal tattoo artist has become the oldest person to grace the cover of Vogue. Apo Whang-Od, also known as Maria Oggay, symbolises “the strength and beauty of the Filipino spirit,” the magazine said.
Watch out for…
More civil service worker strikes – as Passport Office workers begin a five-week walkout over jobs, pay, pensions and conditions. More than 1,000 members of the PCS union are taking action.
Thoughts for the day
Why we should ditch school holidays and allow kids to book ‘annual leave’ instead. We get, on average, 28 days of annual leave, but our children get 91, says Allegra Chapman.
It’s not middle-class drug users who are to blame for increased violence, it’s our leaders. Prohibition lies behind the surge in organised crime, the obscene wealth of many gangsters and these tragic explosions of violence, argues Ian Birrell.
Kinks have become so popular that ‘vanilla sex’ no longer seems so dull. There’s a weird new consensus that if you’re having generic sex, you’re having bad sex. And that’s just not true, writes Rebecca Reid.
Anne Reid: ‘Being on stage at 87? Sometimes I’d rather stay in bed’. The actor talks to Alice Saville about ‘keeping herself busy’ in her eighties, from Last Tango in Halifax to a new play at London’s Menier theatre
The Big Read
‘I was a heroin addict. Ibogaine wiped me clean’. Proponents of the traditional African remedy it is a potential game-changer in treating opioid addiction – now there are calls for it to be on the NHS.
Newcastle revel in the chaos after making a ‘mess’ of Man Utd. After the bitter Carabao Cup defeat and some unnecessary gripes from Erik ten Hag, Newcastle sealed sweet revenge in what could be the high water-mark of Eddie Howe’s tenure so far, writes Mark Douglas.
Something to brighten your day
With NHS dental charges rising, here are 20 tips from dentists on how to look after your teeth. Poor oral hygiene not only ruins teeth but can contribute to health conditions such as to cardiovascular disease, stroke and pneumonia.