Dover Border Travel Chaos

© Gary Perkins

There have been major delays at Dover in recent days, raising concerns that congestion will continue at the UK border in the long term

The problems were significant, with traffic at a standstill, with many waiting for more than five hours in their cars and trucks.

Although there appears to have been an improvement in Dover, concerns remain about the flow of traffic. Two sides appear to emerge in the ensuing debate over responsibility, with Immigration Services Union general secretary Lucy Moreton saying Brexit is to blame and others suggesting French mismanagement at the border.

The effect of Brexit on border mismanagement and control

There were a lot of political promises and rhetoric during the Brexit referendum campaign. A few of these statements have been regularly reposted on social media and referenced in recent policy debates, such as the promise to fund the NHS and other essential social services with the weekly EU ‘membership fee’ . Funding that did not materialize. Recently, statements made by prominent Vote Leave politicians regarding the Channel Tunnel and the Port of Dover have also started to reappear.

One of the issues raised during the Brexit referendum campaign was what Boris Johnson called our ‘legislative swamp’. It has been speculated that leaving the EU would have no direct effect on required border controls, with concerns viewed with disdain as part of a wider fear campaign. Leaving the EU has offered the UK the chance to tear up unworkable regulations and make our own rules, potentially improving trade and travel. Phrases such as “cutting red tape” were regularly used by leading proponents of deregulation. Jacob Rees-Mogg, the current Minister for Brexit Opportunities, for example, said in an interview with LBC that if any delays were to occur it would be in France, not Dover, stating “There will be no need for controls at Dover”.

“There will be no need for controls at Dover”.

France plans to introduce new security checks such as the collection of fingerprints and other biometric data from passengers at Dover and the Eurotunnel. Data collection will also potentially involve photographs and videos, which would be collected on a tablet by French border agents. The French authorities are currently discussing these new measures which, if put in place, will be an additional concern for congestion and travel. The French proposals respond to UK border authorities’ previous problems with France wanting passengers to get out of their cars for these checks to take place, a procedure the UK has described as unworkable.

project fear

Part of how the discussion was interrupted before was by suggesting that the fear was manufactured. Accusing your political opponents of engaging in “fear of the projectwas a well-rehearsed strategy that was used in an attempt to undermine legitimate concerns. The strategy is used by a wide range of ideological tendencies, from right-wing populism to separatist campaigns for independence. It’s an easy way to dismiss an argument, suggesting that the person conveying the point might have a larger ulterior motive, namely, to unfairly discredit or obscure based on fear. It seems, however, that these trade and travel concerns were well-founded and that the same fluidity of traffic that we saw when we joined the EU was not guaranteed and that additional security measures and controls would be necessary after Brexit.

Chris Grayling on Question Time in 2018 said we would maintain a smooth border at Dover, with no controls at the port. The former transport cultist made the comments to reassure that restrictions and delays would not be imposed. It appears, however, that these assertive statements were made without adequate legislative foresight or proof. Indeed, France has blamed the recent border turmoil on Brexit and it seems that this argumentative skeleton will persist for a long time. The UK blamed France, saying there was a shortage of French border agents. The blame and responsibility for the matter is not forthcoming.

Natalie Elphicke, MP for Dover, tweeted on July 28, “Now that we’ve left the EU, it’s time to reduce the red tape and bureaucracy that is holding us back.” The use of bureaucracy and bureaucracy being mentioned again. In an interview with ITV, she further clarified her position by saying

“What we need to move forward is not just to rely on the French to do the right thing and speed up the processes, we need to make sure that we ourselves have the infrastructure to manage all these difficult situations that we have with the French and that means investing in borders, investing in roads, reducing the bureaucracy that prevents the delivery of national infrastructure and continuing to make our roads and our ports resilient for the future ”

Delays are thus positioned as a problem with the French not doing the right thing, which would be an accelerated border process for travelers and goods, something similar to what we had when we integrated into the EU. The infrastructure and investments that we currently need at our own border are seen as a mitigation strategy to manage difficult situations with the French authorities, rather than an admission that we need more targeted investments that do not were not provided adequately post-Brexit, alongside effective diplomatic collaboration.

The impacts of poor border management on the tourism sector

These issues will impact the tourism sector as more travelers will potentially miss cross-Channel ferries, but the potential delays will even prevent many from making the journey in the first place. Those travelers who decide not to go on holiday any longer will be a hidden cost for organizations across the EU, especially hospitality businesses that depend on a high volume of tourists. Other external factors such as the cost of living crisis are expected to negatively impact disposable income, meaning the tourism and hospitality industries will have a tough year ahead.

The delays at Dover come on top of growing problems at UK airports meeting normal traveler demand, with staff shortages a residue of the pandemic cuts being blamed on flight delays and cancellations. UK residents who were trying to avoid taking flights due to airport mismanagement and uncertainty will be disappointed to find that the alternatives won’t necessarily offer a cure. The tourism industry faces a real challenge to be able to meaningfully respond to the uncertainty regarding delays and restrictions. Part of the solution, however, begins with national transparency and clarity instead of an anti-EU political pointing.

This piece was provided by Dr Michael Palkowski, Institute of Hospitality and Tourism, University of East London

from the editor Recommended Articles