Brexit row after delays of up to 14 hours at Dover ferry port

MPs and the Port of Dover have disagreed over how much the UK’s exit from the EU was to blame for the ‘critical incident’

Some passengers were stuck in delays of up to 14 hours
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A row has erupted over Brexit and major delays at the French-UK border in Dover this weekend after the MP for Dover and Deal appeared to blame French border control for the issues.

Natalie Elphicke MP tweeted that it was “incredibly disappointing to see French border control problems once again adding to traffic mayhem just as families are trying to getaway [sic] for the Easter holidays”.

She commented as the Port of Dover declared a “critical incident” over the weekend, beginning on Friday (March 31). Queues built up at the border crossing, with some coach passengers delayed for up to 14 hours.

The situation had improved by Monday (April 3) morning.

“The Port of Dover continued working round the clock with the ferry operators and border agencies to get coach passengers on their way, and the backlog is now cleared.

"We continue to offer our sincere apologies to all those affected by the prolonged delays that have occurred over this weekend."

The port is now set to conduct a “full review” ahead of the Easter weekend (this coming weekend, April 8 and 9).

Read also: Here is what we know about the UK’s new digital border scheme

Brexit battles

MPs in the UK have disagreed over whether Brexit has contributed to the delays, while the Port of Dover stated that it was a factor.

In response to Ms Elphicke’s tweet, Labour MP Chris Bryant wrote: “Did you not understand what Brexit meant?”

UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman told the BBC on Sunday (April 2): “I don't think that is fair to say that this is an adverse effect of Brexit. I think we have seen we have had many years now since leaving the European Union and there's been, on the whole, very good cooperation and processes.

"But at acute times, when there's a lot of pressure crossing the Channel whether the tunnel or the ferries, then I think there's always going to be a backup. And I just urge everyone to be a bit patient while the ferry companies work their way through the backlog."

However, former minister and Conservative MP Sir Robert Buckland said that Brexit was a factor. He said: “I think that there's no doubt that some of the increased checks that now are necessary since we left the EU will be a part of that.

He said that “authorities on both sides of the channel, both the French and the British authorities, have to work even harder” now during times of pressure.

Tobias Ellwood, Conservative MP for Bournemouth East, was firmer, and called for a “Brexit upgrade”.

He said: “Of course, it’s connected to Brexit. Our current Brexit model resulted in an end to travel freedoms. But as they weren't replaced with new ones - processing takes longer - hence the delays.

"To compound matters - in November fingerprint scans begin. Hence we need a Brexit upgrade."

For its part, the Port of Dover blamed the delays on “lengthy French border processes and sheer volume”, and hit back at Ms Braverman’s suggestion that Brexit was not a factor in the delays.

A spokesperson for the port said that Brexit was a factor in the delays, as processing times for each passenger had increased as a result of Britain no longer being in the EU.

Travel expert Simon Calder explained that each passport now has to be inspected and stamped, which contributes to processing times taking far longer than before.

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