The EU’s entry-exit system, to monitor all non-EU travellers entering the Schengen Area, is due to come into force next April. It will require non-EU citizens to register a digital identification profile at checkpoints and undergo a biometric check.
The Port of Dover, Getlink and the Logistics UK group have called on the Government to open talks with Brussels and Paris on how to avoid huge queues and smooth out the problems.
The impact of new post-Brexit regulations posed “an imminent and serious threat” to the “well-established frictionless and free flow operations” at Dover, they said, adding: “All effort must be devoted to maintaining these in the national economic interest.”
Dover is responsible for one third of all UK trade with the EU, which rises to 59 per cent if other routes in the region, such as the Channel Tunnel, are taken into account. The port processes £144 billion of freight every year.
Disruption to supply chains would hit the motor industry, which is dependent on the most seamless supply chains possible, Dover, Getlink and Logistics UK told MPs on Monday. Prolonged disruption could damage the image of “Global Britain” and jeopardise the economic recovery from the Covid pandemic, they warned.
Delays at Dover, which runs ferries to Calais and Dunkirk roughly every 20 minutes, would also have a knock-on effect on EU imports into the UK because it would soak up freight capacity.
The Department of Transport responded to the MPs letter by saying the Government would “work constructively” to “minimise checks” at the border. How the border checks will be implemented in practice will be up to the French authorities, although they will have to take EU law into account.
Relations between the UK and France are strained after disputes over the Aukus security deal and post-Brexit fishing licences. British and EU officials held talks over the fishing permits in Brussels on Monday.
Clement Beaune, France’s Europe minister, urged the EU to back Paris more strongly in the dispute. France had threatened a series of measures, including go-slow customs checks on UK goods at ports, unless the row was resolved. Its deadlines have passed without action from Paris, and negotiations continue.
“We are not there yet but there is still hope,” Mr Beaune told an evenmt hosted by the Politico website. “We are not naive. We still have all options on the table including these measures. We would prefer to have it at the EU level. If nothing happens at the EU level, we will take French measures.”