Brexit blamed as holidaymakers face Channel port congestion – EURACTIV.com

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Unions, port officials and French authorities blamed Brexit on Saturday July 23 as thousands of holidaymakers faced long delays trying to reach Europe via the Channel port of Dover.

But British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss blamed Paris squarely, telling her French counterpart Catherine Colonna that “the French authorities have not put enough people at the border”.

The situation has added to bad blood between London and Paris in the wake of Brexit, dashing hopes of a reset after Boris Johnson said earlier this month he was stepping down as prime minister.

“We need to see them (the French) act to resolve the terrible situation that travellers, including families, are facing,” said Truss, who is currently battling to succeed Johnson as prime minister.

But Paris dismissed claims that the standoff was caused by a staff shortage and Colonna in his tweet took a more optimistic view of their conversation, describing the talks as “good” and hailing the “cooperation” to reduce the delays. .

Colonna also highlighted the “need to improve the facilities at the Port of Dover”.

Tweeting the front page of Britain’s right-wing Daily Telegraph which had the headline ‘Truss tells France to fix holiday chaos’, French Transport Minister Clément Beaune said French authorities were ‘mobilised’ to facilitate displacements.

But in a punch in London, the former minister for Europe added: “France is not responsible for Brexit”.

“More controls than before”

Border checks and extra paperwork for moving goods were reintroduced when Britain left the European Union last year, ending the free movement of people and goods in the bloc.

Truck bottlenecks in Dover have been seen since then, but this summer is the first with unrestricted travel for the public since all Covid restrictions were lifted.

French lawmaker Pierre-Henri Dumont, whose constituency includes the Channel port of Calais, has called the travel chaos a “Brexit sequel”.

“We need to carry out more checks than before,” he told BBC television, predicting it would happen again.

Port of Dover chief executive Doug Bannister initially blamed the understaffing of the French border agency as being responsible for the traffic jam which saw some holidaymakers wait six hours or more to catch their ferries.

But he acknowledged there were now “increased transaction times” after Brexit. The port was confident it could handle demand at peak times, he added.

Brexit figurehead Johnson made “taking back control” of Britain’s borders a call to his “leave” campaign during the 2016 vote on EU membership.

Since becoming prime minister he has found it more difficult, with record numbers of migrants crossing northern France in small boats.

Lucy Moreton, from the ISU union which represents border, immigration and customs staff, said the traffic jams were a “reasonably foreseeable” result of Brexit.

“It’s the moment when it’s chosen to bite,” she told the BBC.

Third country

Passengers must pass UK and French border controls at Dover before boarding ferries to northern France.

At 12:45 p.m. (1145 GMT), the Port of Dover said more than 17,000 passengers had already passed through.

Bannister said some 8,500 vehicles left the port on Friday, with around 10,000 expected on Saturday.

Queues for the port snaked through Dover and surrounding roads, stretching for miles (kilometers), with trucks backed by the M20 motorway leading into the city.

A traffic management system has been deployed on the M20 to manage the high volume of lorries being turned back to Dover.

This included closing parts of the motorway to non-freight traffic and diverting cars to the port and the Eurotunnel via other routes.

Hauts-de-France region prefect Georges-Francois Leclerc said France had “done its job” of increasing its border staff at Dover from 120 to 200.

He blamed the traffic jams on an accident on the M20 on Friday for the late arrival of French border agency staff at their posts in Dover.

All French staff were on duty at 9:45 a.m. (0845 GMT) instead of 8:30 a.m., the prefect told reporters in Lille.

“Who would have thought that because the French reinforcements were an hour late, it would derail the whole system?” he added.

“Last year, there was the Covid. We are learning about Brexit” and its impact on peak periods.

“The world has changed. The UK is now a third country of the EU”, which means much longer checks.

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