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Explainer: How has Brexit changed UK passport checks at EU borders?

The French government has said that border control delays in Dover over the weekend are a consequence of post-Brexit passport checking requirements

We look at the extra checks on British passports which have been required since Brexit Pic: Lukassek / Shutterstock

Last weekend, long queues of holidaymakers heading across the Channel to Calais waited sometimes for hours to get through border control. 

Read more: Dover traffic backlog now cleared but warnings of future delays

Read more: Port of Dover queues: A one-off or a long-term problem?

The Port of Dover initially stated that preparation by the French passport authorities for the summer holiday rush had been “woefully inadequate”. 

This view was later picked up by the UK government, with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss calling on France to increase its border control capacity.

On the French side, prefect of the Hauts-de-France region, Georges-François Leclerc, admitted that authorities’ plans for Friday had been delayed due to a signalling incident in the Channel Tunnel and a traffic accident on the M20 motorway.

However, France’s Transport Minister Clément Beaune stated: “The French authorities are working to check our borders and facilitate [the passing] of traffic as much as possible.

“I have discussed this with my counterpart Grant Shapps. But France is not responsible for Brexit.”

Read more: French minister’s reaction to Dover: Don’t blame us for Brexit

Guy Verhofstadt, who served as prime minister of Belgium from 1999 to 2008 and who was the European Parliament’s Brexit Coordinator and Chair of the Brexit Steering Group, also commented: 

“Before the Tory Brexit, cars were waved through, now everyone's passport has to be stamped.

“Truss or Sunak can't even admit it, let alone do anything about it. Blaming France for a hard border is just cynical.

“Taking back control was a big lie!” 

Since the UK left the EU, British citizens have been subject to more detailed passport checks when travelling into the bloc, and at Dover this meant that each car must stay at the border control booths for about half a minute longer. 

When there are tens of thousands of people passing through the port each day, this can create congestion. 

We look at how British passport checks have changed since Brexit. 

Before Brexit

Before the UK left the EU, British citizens had an automatic right to move freely within the bloc. 

The UK was not in the Schengen zone, so there were still border checks, but they were minimal.

Therefore, they would often be waved through passport control at Dover after officers looked quickly at their passports. 

After Brexit

Now, French border control staff are responsible for carrying out several different checks on passports. 

When they are handed a passport, they should theoretically: 

  • Make sure that the person’s identity corresponds with the passport details

  • Check that they have not been in the EU for more than 90 days in the past 180

  • Check that their passport has at least three months’ validity left

  • Make sure that the passport was issued less than 10 years before the date of entry into the EU 

  • Ask the traveller whether they have a return ticket

  • Ask for proof of travel insurance

  • Check that the person has sufficient funds to support themselves during their stay in the EU

Border control officers may not always carry out all of these checks, but the process will nonetheless last longer. 

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