French police have told The Connexion they will respond today to accusations by the Port of Dover that their lack of preparedness is behind queues of up to six hours at the port this morning (July 22).
The Port of Dover has declared a “critical incident” and released a statement calling French border controls “woefully inadequate.”
“We are deeply frustrated that the resource at the French border overnight and early this morning has been woefully inadequate to meet our predicted demand and even more deeply regret the consequences that will now be felt by so many,” a statement issued by the Port reads.
A spokesperson for the Port of Dover said that she could not state how many people were directly impacted by the delays today as that information is kept confidential by the ferry operators.
She also could not state how long the delays were likely to go on for.
The delays come on one of the busiest weekends of the year as the English school summer holidays begin today, meaning thousands of holidaymakers are heading abroad, with France being one of the main destinations.
Due to Brexit, British travellers’ passports must be checked more carefully and stamped before they can travel across the Channel, meaning that delays at the Port of Dover are more of a risk – a point that the Port has made previously.
Travel between France and the UK has been limited since Brexit came fully into effect in January 2021 due to restrictions linked to the Covid pandemic.
But those restrictions have almost all been dropped now.
A contact for France’s Police nationale said they will respond to the accusations today.
Resource at the French border overnight and early this morning has been woefully inadequate to meet our predicted demand as the summer getaway period commences. Our full statement: https://t.co/tnoCLNU9Ut pic.twitter.com/ZdUmYh1geF— Port of Dover (@Port_of_Dover) July 22, 2022
Natalie Elphicke, the Conservative MP for Dover & Deal, also blamed French border agents.
“There have been weeks of preparation by the Port of Dover, Kent Resilience Forum and the Department for Transport for this summer getaway peak weekend. There was much work with French counterparts too,” she tweeted.
“Despite all this, French Border Officers didn’t turn up for work at the passport controls as needed. This has caused massive delays.
“More French officers are reported to be arriving. It’s vital that the French passport controls are fully staffed during this peak holiday period.”
It's vital that anyone travelling to Dover is fully prepared. Take water with you, stop at service stations, have particular care for vulnerable passengers - old or young. pic.twitter.com/07qgsIkRdo— Natalie Elphicke MP (@NatalieElphicke) July 22, 2022
P&O Ferries, which operates between Dover and Calais, has warned of queues of four to five hours at Dover today.
“Please be aware that there is heavy traffic at border control,” the company stated.
“If you're booked to travel today, please allow at least five hours to clear the approach roads and security checks.
“Rest assured, if you miss your sailing, you'll be on the first available [ferry] once at check-in.”
Brexit to blame?
Others have criticised the Port of Dover for placing the blame on French border police (police aux frontières), calling the delays a consequence of Brexit.
Sarah Ludford, a Liberal Democrat politician and member of the House of Lords in the UK, said of the queues, “those fabulous Brexit benefits just keep flowing”.
Utterly outrageous that #Brexit was sold by the Leave campaign as 'liberation from red tape' when in fact it was the complete opposite, and that even now, #Brexiters including Truss & Sunak refuse to fess up to what they've inflicted on our economy and citizens https://t.co/dpIrRBz4a3— Sarah Ludford (@SarahLudford) July 22, 2022
Andrew Adonis, another member of the House of Lords and active anti-Brexit campaigner, stated: “The Dover chaos is directly linked to Brexit because passport controls now take so much longer with the need to stamp every passport.”
Travellers caught in the traffic also tweeted their frustration.
We have sat for 2 hours in traffic in the centre of Dover. Can't even get to the port. Why are the police not out in force managing this mess??— Louise Keiller (@keiller_louise) July 22, 2022