The Port of Dover chief has said it is “absolutely true” that Brexit is the main cause of the chaos at the border this weekend.
Thousands of holidaymakers and lorry drivers were forced to queue for hours on Friday as they tried to board their ferry to France. There were also long queues on the roads approaching Eurotunnel’s Folkestone terminal at the weekend.
The port was forced to declare a ‘critical incident’ after heavy traffic clogged up most of Kent’s main roads.
Both Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss blamed French officials for the delays, saying Britain’s decision to leave the EU is not the reason for the gigantic queues.
However, when asked if Brexit was to blame for the delays, Port of Dover boss Doug Bannister told LBC: ‘It’s absolutely true, and it was indeed a planning assumption. that we all worked on to come up with the summer plan.
“We knew what the checks would be like, we’ve operated that way since we left the European Union.”
Read more: Bumper-to-bumper traffic in Dover as the UK and France argue over who is to blame for the disruptions
He said they had planned for months for an event like this and one of the main reasons for the delays is the extra time it takes to process people through the port now that the UK is not sharing no freedom of movement with France.
When the UK was in the EU, the only check required to enter France via ferry was a quick passport inspection. Often this rule was relaxed by officials if the queues built up.
After Brexit, the UK is now treated by EU states as a “third country”, which means border officials are obliged to take passports and stamp them.
This means that each vehicle passing through border control takes longer to pass border inspection – travel expert Simon Calder saying this can mean up to three times longer.
Other checks that can take longer include checking that travelers have enough money for their visit; accommodation to stay; and a ticket to leave the EU.
Watch: British Ports Association denies Liz Truss’ claim Brexit isn’t causing chaos in Dover
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Calder added that it was “absolutely not the case” that French officials were deliberately taking too long, although it appeared there was an initial understaffing at checkpoints.
The government has insisted on changing border control measures after Brexit did not play a ‘significant role’ in the disruption at Dover, reiterating its position that problems have arisen because French authorities have not not providing enough border agents on Friday during what was a peak period of travel. .
Foreign Secretary and Conservative leadership hopeful Liz Truss said over the weekend that the problem was that French authorities had not put enough people at the border.
Sunak said: “The situation must be addressed urgently by the French. They must stop blaming Brexit and start recruiting the necessary personnel to meet the demand.”
Last weekend was the busiest period of the summer school holidays, but this coming weekend is often the second busiest, so there is concern that delays will be repeated.
Toby Howe, senior highways manager at Kent County Council and tactical manager for the Kent Resilience Forum, told the BBC the rest of this summer could be affected by queues, adding “basically it’s a very vulnerable, it takes very little to cause further problems. “
By Monday, queues at the port had dropped from about six hours to one hour. Ferry operator DFDS has asked people to arrive two hours before their departure time to ensure they board their boat.