Home   Dover   News   Article

Brexit: Biometric checks mean UK and EU ‘have nine months to stop tourist traffic grinding to a halt’ in Dover


More news, no ads

LEARN MORE

The UK has just months to avoid huge disruption to holidaymakers when new EU rules come into force – despite knowing about the problem for two years, a port boss has warned.

British tourists headed for the continent in September could be hit by new biometric checks set to be required at the border.

A seize-up of traffic on Dover in another port delay, when the French shut their borders in December2020. Picture: Sam Lennon KMG
A seize-up of traffic on Dover in another port delay, when the French shut their borders in December2020. Picture: Sam Lennon KMG

The new rules enforced without a solution could see tourist traffic at Dover grind to a halt, port chief executive Doug Bannister says.

Mr Bannister told the PA news agency that the problem has been known for two years but so far no fix appears to have been agreed by the UK and French governments

Travellers would have to get out of their vehicles to undergo biometric checks at the border – something that could cause massive delays in the port.

He said: “As it stands right now, nobody has got a process for a car load of people on a dark stormy night going through a ferry terminal.

“So if we had to follow the airport process in the ferry port, that would entail people exiting their vehicle in the middle of busy traffic lanes.

Doug Bannister. Picture courtesy of the Port of Dover
Doug Bannister. Picture courtesy of the Port of Dover

"That would be unsafe and we just couldn’t allow that to happen.”

He says the issue can only be solved by governments striking a deal, perhaps involving a new piece of technology to allow people to pass through the port promptly.

Mr Bannister said if no deal was reached by the deadline and the checks were implemented traffic would have to stop.

It would be unsafe to do anything otherwise, he said, adding that it would be different for freight traffic.

Mr Bannister said he does not believe that will happen, but emphasised the need for a solution.

Lorries queue on the A20 into Dover Picture: Barry Goodwin
Lorries queue on the A20 into Dover Picture: Barry Goodwin

Miles-long queues of lorries have been forming outside the port of Dover this month as another post-Brexit effect.

Since New Year's Day there have been stricter customs checks for good being shipped to the EU, which were not there before Britain left the organisation in 2020.

There have been other contributory factors such as too few ferries available, as some are being refitted,and highway works affecting port capacity.

These have added up to cause the traffic control system Dover TAP to be used 14 times from January 8 to yesterday (Thursday).

Dover Traffic Access Protocol is meant to control the flow of lorries into the port when traffic is heavy, to stop snarl-ups in the centre of Dover.

Just on Tuesday the port authority put out a statement warning drivers: "The Port of Dover is expecting another busy week and we should anticipate that A20 Dover TAP will continue to be deployed in order to help manage traffic flows into the Port of Dover and protect local roads from congestion by freight traffic.

"This week may see further increases in freight volumes, so customers are asked to prepare accordingly and allow plenty of time for their journey during a period when several ferries being away on refit and external highway works have impacted operational capacity alongside more burdensome border control processes."

Mr Bannister also said: “I think that the arrangements now are clunkier than they were when we were part of the single market.

“But you can’t go back. You’ve got to play with the cards that you’ve been dealt, and so people will adapt and business will find its way.”

Dover over the years had regularly had tailbacks for port-bound traffic for a number of reasons such as stormy weather delaying ferries or French port workers or fishermen on strike in Calais.

Traffic chaos has happened around the port for years for different reasons. Black Saturday, 2016. Picture: Sam Lennon KMG
Traffic chaos has happened around the port for years for different reasons. Black Saturday, 2016. Picture: Sam Lennon KMG

One of the most notorious incidents was Black Saturday (July 23, 2016), when some holidaymakers were stuck in their cars for as long as eight hours.

This was because of stricter security checks by French border officials but with too few staff to do them.

Traffic spilled out into the centre of Dover town as also happened when the French closed their borders for days in December 2020 to keep out the newly-arrived Delta variant of coronavirus.

Again there were long queues at Dover when the French ordered another travel ban last December to help fend off the faster-spreading Omicron variant

A UK Government spokesman said following Mr Bannister's latest comments: “The UK is continuing to engage with our European partners at an operational level and, in particular, where we operate juxtaposed controls, to ensure our respective border arrangements work and interact as well as possible."

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More