New biometric checks at EU border in Dover, Kent, will cause 'miles of traffic jams'
ITV News Business and Economics Editor Joel Hills reports on the expected delays due to be caused when new biometric checks at the EU border in Kent are introduced
On the A20 outside Dover, lorries wait to board the ferry.
Brexit has not caused gridlock there but it has slowed things down at the border and queuing is more commonplace.
The town’s Traffic Access Protocol (TAP) - which involves using the A20 as an overflow facility for port-bound traffic - has been used on 10 of the last 21 days.
And the delays may soon get worse.
At the end of September, the European Union’s new Entry/Exit System (EES) comes into effect.
Passengers from non-EU countries will have to carry out biometric checks at the border.
“I’m worried about EES,” says Doug Bannister, the chief executive of the Port of Dover.
“It works great at airports, where you have single passengers presenting themselves one at a time in an orderly fashion in a nice well-lit hall.
"Where it doesn’t work here, is there is no process, no technology, no design for a car-load of passengers transiting a busy ferry terminal on a dark stormy night. It just doesn’t not exist.”
Chief executive of the Port of Dover, Doug Bannister, says the new biometric checks might work at airports, but not at the EU border on the road
Port of Dover and GetLink, the group which operates the Channel Tunnel, believe that passengers will have to leave their vehicles to do facial recognition and fingerprint scans at the border and the resulting delays will cause mayhem.
Between them, the Channel Tunnel and Port of Dover carry more than 30 million passengers a year.
They also account for more than £260 billion of trade. 59% of all trade in goods between the UK and the EU passes across the short strait.
“All the dire predictions of what would happen in a hard Brexit scenario didn’t happen,” says Mr Bannister.
“Now what’s at stake though is a repeat of that. EES could create the same challenges."
How the EES checks - which include facial recognition and fingerprint scans - will work:
With nine months to go, MPs on the Transport Select Committee are worried there’s no solution in sight.
Port of Dover calculates that the changes to the immigration rules since Brexit mean it takes an extra one-and-a-half minutes for an individual traveller to clear the border.
It estimates that biometric checks will increase waiting times by at least two minutes.
“Even a two minute (increase in) time to process a driver or a passenger on a coach through the immigration system adds miles of traffic jams, backing up through Kent,” says Ruth Cadbury MP.
“I’m concerned the government isn’t on top of this,” she added.
Huw Merriman, a Conservative MP for Bexhill and Battle and the chair of the Transport Select Committee, said: “We have to get the French to assist us here. This will cause as much damage in Calais as it will here.
“It’s also important that we work with the French. We’ve had far too many issues where we’ve been finding reasons to fall out with (them)”.
Huw Merriman MP is concerned that extra checks for the port of Dover could lead to a "17-mile tailback"
The European Union says that individual member states will decide how biometric checks are implemented.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the government told ITV News: “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.”
Almost two years after the UK officially left the EU, another consequence of Brexit is heading towards us.
Holidaymakers and companies on both sides of the Channel will be hoping that issues can be addressed.