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Kent councillors warn of traffic trouble ahead with introduction of EU’s Entry Exit System

Lorries should be kept out of Kent in order to minimise the "cataclysmic car crash" expected when new EU digital border controls are implemented later this year, county councillors decided.

The Entry Exit System (EES) is due to be brought in on October 6 when manual passport stamps at Kent ports are to be replaced by biometric facial imaging and fingerprinting.

Queues at the Port of Dover last summer
Queues at the Port of Dover last summer

These would be carried out by French border officials on site, causing anticipated 14-hour waits and the possibility of gridlock on Kent's highways with the Operation Brock contraflow system in place for years, officials have warned.

Members of the environment and transport cabinet committee voted yesterday (March 7) to seek ways to hold HGVs and non-domestic freight outside Kent and process them elsewhere.

They also agreed unaccompanied freight could be shipped out of other ports in Kent and Essex to minimise pressure on the roads. The recommendations were made by Cllr Harry Rayner.

Cabinet member for highways and transport, Neil Baker, echoed many calls in recent months for the government to act to ensure delays are kept to a minimum.

He added: “We are calling on government to act now to ensure our borders are free from delay and disruption, with improved infrastructure, information, and intelligence, to ensure that everyone travelling through Kent is kept safe, fully informed and that they are able to reach their destinations easily and without delay.

County Hall in Maidstone is one of the landmarks that will be lit up
County Hall in Maidstone is one of the landmarks that will be lit up

“The government must not drag its heels in doing everything it can to support Kent through the introduction of EES checks.

"It’s now less than nine months until the checks are likely to begin, and they need to be clear with local and national stakeholders, the EU and neighbouring countries, to educate, inform and encourage the sensible and sustainable introduction of these new controls at the right time.”

Romney Marsh member Cllr Tony Hills said the county was heading for a "cataclysmic car crash" in October and it would be unfair on the local people.

Independent councillor Mike Baldock said HGVs must held back from Kent on the M25 or beyond to minimise pressure on Kent.

He told members: "The government needs to increase funding, big time."

KCC Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport Neil Baker. Picture: KCC
KCC Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport Neil Baker. Picture: KCC

Margate councillor Barry Lewis said: "I am furious we have known about this for years. It's the government's fault. They have this ideology that Brexit would be the great saviour of the country but they have mucked up big time, so we now have to pick up the pieces."

EU border controls are placed at British ports as part of an "juxtaposed" agreement.

Deal and Walmer councillor Trevor Bond suggested the juxtaposed controls be taken away so the biometric checks are carried out on European soil.

Cllr Sean Holden suggested it was French President Emmanuel Macron's "punishment" for the UK leaving the European Union.

Councillors' recommendations will be passed to Cllr Baker.

Cllr Mike Baldock
Cllr Mike Baldock

The EU argues the new system will stop time-consuming manual passport checks and prevent people overstaying in EU countries.

A report put before the committee calls on the government to ramp up its planning, preparations, support, and investment ahead of October 6.

It warns: "The Port of Dover and Eurotunnel have juxtaposed borders, meaning that at these two portals all checks are carried out this side of the English Channel.

"Upon EES implementation, prior to a first crossing, all third-country nationals

must register on the system, and this includes providing biometric data suchas a facial photograph and fingerprint identification.

Queues at the Port of Dover
Queues at the Port of Dover

"Under current plans, this registration must happen at the portal and must be supervised by officers from Police aux Frontières (PaF).

"Whilst Eurotunnel is developing a location within their site to be able to carry out registration, the Port of Dover has very limited space in the buffer zone between the Eastern Docks roundabout and the French customs booths.

"Increased times to process tourist traffic entering the port is anticipated to impact both general port fluidity and also queuing outbound freight, 85% of which is from the Schengen areas.

"Such delays present a risk of congestion across both the national and local highway networks."

KCC Councillor Barry Lewis
KCC Councillor Barry Lewis

Apart of the lengthy delays at the Channel ports and gridlock on the M20 and A roads, KCC leaders are also concerned about the impact on Kent residents, businesses and public services.

Officials have previously warned there could be 14 delays for passengers at the Channel ports and the implementation of Operation Brock could last for three years.

KCC leader Roger Gough told an EU scrutiny committee in January he is enormously concerned the implementation of EES will result in serious delays for those travelling through the county and have a knock-on effect on Kent communities along the route to, and in, Dover.

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